If you work as a technical writer or in the techcomm industry, you're probably aware of the struggles that come with the job.
Strict hierarchical structures are often in place within companies, with departments working more or less isolated from one another, resulting in information silos. Obviously, this isn't ideal, especially if you are a tech writer relying on your co-workers' knowledge and feedback.
Well-established editing tools used in most companies don't seem to help with these issues either. Microsoft Word-based authoring environments, or component-based XML authoring systems offer great features, but team collaboration is not one of them. Over time, we learn the ins and outs and the inner logic of these systems, but I'm sure everyone reading this post knows how hard it can be to work within the mentality of traditional editorial offices, right?
We're Not a Department, We're a Team
One of the major changes we've seen throughout the last couple of years, is the way we understand each other as a team. A modern team is no longer limited to a department or immediate co-workers. Instead, it's all the people you collaborate with inside the company, whose input and feedback you use when creating documentation. This way, content becomes a team effort: it's community-based and the result of comments and feedback from subject-matter-experts and everyone else whose thoughts are valuable to the content.
Those of you already working in such an environment will agree that communicating and collaborating with all colleagues in flat hierarchies is the way to go and how all teams will likely be working in the future.
Where We Work
Where we work has changed in two ways. First of all, the device: With web-based authoring systems, all you really need is an internet connection and you're good to go. No extra installations needed, so you're not bound to a certain computer and can work from any device.
This goes hand in hand with the actual place you work. We're seeing more and more distributed teams with people working remotely from one place or the other. But for collaboration to work, the team must be able to communicate effortlessly and receive notifications when content changes or a teammate requests feedback.
Social functions such as commenting, page sharing, or liking are familiar to us from other apps and they're very effective for collaborating on content, too. This might include things like requesting feedback for technical documentation with @-mentions in comments.
It's All About That Feedback
Features like inline or page comments foster an environment of quick feedback and short editing rounds as opposed to the linear feedback process in place in many companies and tech writing offices. Not the most efficient when creating documentation, don't you agree? This new approach allows for continuous improvement of the content and supports the information flow.
Where Does This Leave Us?
The way technical writers work has changed and will continue to change enormously. Of course this is true for almost every other profession, but tech writers face especially unique challenges in regard to collaboration and teamwork. After all, tech writers are the connection between product developers and the end-users. Collaboration and understanding between these groups should be easy, right?
Maybe you're already working in a collaborative and unrestricted way, or maybe you're just dreaming about it. We believe a collaborative approach is the future of tech comm. It supports working creatively and interactively with everyone who is involved to create the best content possible.
Image Credit: 'If you could just email me' [Digital image]. Retrieved from https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/cartoons-93500458