In the first session of the fourth workshop organized by Advanced Technical Writing Group, in association with Metapercept and Oxygen XML, Mridula Menon shared her experience as a technical writer. Her insights throw light on different aspects of a technical writing career. The key idea behind the workshop was to ensure that the attendees become effective technical writers by leaving minimum room for hiccups during the documentation process.
The process of technical writing has come a long way from being considered as an overhead to becoming a part of the scrum process. Previously, the developers were given the task of documenting the products or features. However, it didn’t take long to understand that the effectiveness of a project depends on how well it is documented for its users. Therefore, technical writing became a more structured career opportunity.
However, the role of a technical writer might still hold some ambiguity when the documentation process begins. It is for this reason that the technical writers must consider the following insights from the first day of kickstarting the project:
Define a project
First of all, priority should be given to understanding and outlining the project. While doing so, the following needs to be considered:
- Are you working alone or with a team of writers?
- Is the documentation required for a mature product or a new one?
- Is the documentation for third-party users or another team in the organization?
It will help technical writers in understanding their key responsibilities. Furthermore, technical writers can also go through the tickets raised by the development team about the features to be released in a said period of time. The timeline and requirements for these features will also help to build a clear understanding of the project.
Meeting deadlines is not an alien concept in the business world. However, the impact of delaying deliverables by technical writers might cost a huge fraction of profits to the organization. When a technical document is delayed, the product either can’t be pushed to the market or has to be pushed without guidance to users.
When a product is released without technical documents, the burden falls on the support team. It will lead to a rise in tickets being raised, also impacting the resources being allocated to solving these tickets.
Furthermore, when the product is in the development phase, technical writers get much time to work on it till it reaches the testing phase. Once the product is in the testing phase, writers might find that things are being very rushed. To manage things effectively, they should not slack off during the development phase. They should:
- Try getting demos and training
- Build rapport with colleagues who can help them during the documentation
- Understand the project as mentioned above, and so on.
Once the product is in the staging environment, the first draft needs to be created. And, once the doc freeze date is reached, there should be only reviews and edits after that.
Based on the timelines and project requirements, strategies should be carved to meet the goals of the documentation. The purpose of the documentation is to help users understand and use the product easily. Therefore, the strategies should support the goals and timelines of the projects as required by the organization.
For these strategies to work, it is also necessary for the technical writers to avail maximum support from colleagues and other stakeholders. Hence, the focus should be on building rapport during the development phase.
Understand agile framework
The role of a technical writer in the agile scrum process is still vague but is being recognized by organizations nowadays. The spot of technical writers in the whole process is not defined, yet they work as a silent support system throughout.
Technical writers add value to the product by supporting the adoption of the product. Therefore, there is a need to identify the spot for them in the process. However, this ambiguity should not hold them back from working efficiently.
Technical writers are responsible for user interface, defining labels and warnings, microcontent, and so on. The role of a technical writer has not only expanded but also has become more structured. Therefore, they need to understand timelines, requirements, etc., and define strategies to adhere to the goals set. For queries related to technical writing, contact us!
Author: Ruchi Rai, Technical Writer at Metapercept Technology Services LLP