Advice and best practices for writing SOPs, training for product launch, outsourcing technical documentation, and more.

Technical Documentation and Training Alignment: Ensuring Consistency in Materials

For manufacturers in regulated industries, inconsistencies among product documentation or training materials can leave users confused and conflicted, not knowing which information is correct. On the contrary, alignment between documentation and training can positively impact process efficiency and user experiences, contributing to a successful product launch.

When technical documentation slips in priority, manufacturers often resort to reusing materials from related products that appear applicable. While this seems to be the simplest and quickest solution, this approach can ultimately be more costly for the organization in the long run. Internally, contradictory material hinders documentation_training_alignment.jpgproduction for employees who have to work through misleading procedural instruction, which could be damaging to employee retention. Externally, it causes confusion for customers trying to learn how to use the product and this poor experience can impact customer loyalty.

Designing consistent reference and learning materials that are reliable and applicable across multiple scenarios, reduces frustration for customers and mitigates employee risk. Whether it is operator training for customers, a troubleshooting guide for customer service personnel, or standard operating procedures for production workers, an organization's technical documentation and training should deliver dependable information that is aligned to the user's needs.

So how does an organization ensure alignment among documentation and training for all audiences? With 27 years of experience managing these scenarios for manufacturers, Novatek's technical writers and instructional designers have found the most effective approaches work to create alignment.

3 Ways to Achieve Consistent Documentation and Training

1. Develop documentation & training plans

Without constructing a well-designed and well-executed plan, an organization's documentation and training will remain unaligned. Effective technical documentation and training cannot be done on short notice or with minimal effort. Constructing a documentation plan ensures all user needs are considered and eliminates the possibility of multiple conflicting documents. The chosen approach should benefit the organization and provide an effective solution to documentation and training alignment.

2. Use an experienced professional

It's not uncommon for companies, especially ones of smaller size, to establish separate "teams" for documentation and training development, which often ends up being various engineers responsible for creating these materials.  While engineers have the product and process knowledge, they don't necessarily have the background required to write to specific audience needs.

Utilizing a professional team of technical communicators who are trained in usability and experienced with a variety of manuals and training methods to meet customer needs, will assure consistency and quality across documentation and training. Establishing the right team is not about size or large investment - it may include outsourcing to a company that can provide the right talent on an as needed basis, hiring a professional, or developing the technical communication skills of an individual within the company.

3. Adopt single source publishing

To eliminate the possibility of conflicting information across technical documentation and training, create a structure that allows the same content to be used multiple times and leveraged across different forms of media. Individual paragraphs, graphics, or procedures can be stored and used as the foundation for other document creation, which helps promote consistency among all product or process materials. Once the foundation content is established, it can be reused and customized to fit specific processes and products.

To learn more about managing useful documentation…

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Topics: training solutions, Process documentation, documentation