What one thing isn’t Tech Comm doing?

Hand holding a penOn this third day of the third month, I have three questions for you about the Technical Communication profession:

  1. What one thing isn’t Tech Comm doing, that it should be doing?
  2. What needs to happen to get us started doing that one thing?
  3. What are you personally doing about it?

So much has been written and said about how technology is evolving, how marketplaces are changing, how all of us need to learn new skills just to keep up. It can feel overwhelming.

So let’s boil it down. Pick one thing, and use the Comments section to tell me how you, and we, can make it happen.

(Part of the inspiration for this post is a fantastic article by Sara Wachter-Boettcher, Content Amid Chaos, in which Sara advises — among other things — approaching a big problem by starting with just one thing.)

12 thoughts on “What one thing isn’t Tech Comm doing?

  1. Pingback: What one thing isn't Tech Comm doing? | M-learn...

  2. Pingback: What one thing isn’t Tech Comm doing? | TechCommGeekMom

  3. TechCommGeekMom

    I don’t know where to begin with any of these! I guess I can answer these all at once. The thing that I notice is that many technical communicators aren’t keeping up with the technological changes. They are happening faster than we can keep up with them, granted, but there are some basics like understanding how to manuever around social media, understanding how content strategy works, understanding the basics of UX/UI, and how to write for web and mobile. While I admit that I am not as experience as a tech writer, I do know that these are basics now to understand what’s coming up in technology, and having these basics have helped me learn more and do better at keeping up with technology. So, it’s more than one thing. For me, if I find that I’m REALLY out of sync with something that I think will help me going forward, even if it’s just conceptual at this point, then I find a webinar, a course, something to help me learn more. For example, the big buzz in content strategy for the past year has been content marketing. So, right now, with the possibility of having to look for a new job/contract in the next few months, I’m taking a digital marketing course so I have a better understanding of all that entails.

    1. Colum McAndrew

      Let me add that from conversations with others at various companies, it is not only Technical Writers failing to keep up, It is their companies too! Whether it is due to resources, lack of vision or whatever I see it all too often. It should not be the sole responsibility of the Technical Writers to show how things could be done, but they should if there is an opportunity.

      1. TechCommGeekMom

        Yes, Colum, yes! That’s a huge part of it. And I can say that in my personal position, I really have no say because I’m at the bottom of the “totem pole” so to speak, so while I can make recommendations and such, the change has to be embraced from the top down, not from the bottom up. This is often a huge frustration I have professionally. I can be proactive and help be the cause of change, but ultimately, I cannot usually be the one responsible for making the change happen.

  4. dianalogan

    Hi Larry – thanks for link to Sara W-B’s article – super. Also agree with TechGeekMom’s comments. Here’s my three:
    1. Practise what we preach – e.g. make our own industry sites and publications shine
    2. Get involved. You don’t have fix it all immediately, start with one small part, and keep evolving
    3. I volunteer with both the ISTC in the UK and the Information Architecture institute. A few hours a month – or whatever you can manage, and I can honestly say I easily get back as much as I put in.

  5. Karen Mulholland

    The one thing we technical communicators can start doing to make a huge difference in our organizations and our own careers: Step back and understand how we help our employers to meet their business goals.
    It’s more complex than “We’re the ones who translate engineer-speak,” so don’t even go there. Make the business case. Each tech comm position represents an investment that the organization makes. We need to be able to deliver a hefty ROI year after year, and we need to be able to explain our value without talking about how writing works. Because the decision-makers understand dollars, and nobody cares (or should need to care) about how writing works, except us writers.
    If you don’t know what “ROI” is, or how to outline a business case, go find out. TODAY.
    Then make sure you deliver, day after day. Be worth the investment.

    1. Larry Kunz Post author

      Hear, hear! If step 1 is “step back and understand how we help our employers to meet their business goals,” then surely step 0 must be “find out what your employer’s business goals are.”

      Then steps 2 through infinity are, as you said, get out there and deliver value every day.

  6. Ronnie Duncan

    We commonly meet tech comm personnel who get caught up in showcasing their “art” instead of delivering an accurate, clear document that meets the stakeholders’ needs. This urge to impress often backfires – leading to a project that costs more and takes longer than the business sought. Instead of being impressed, the stakeholder is often frustrated and loses respect for the tech comm team. Don’t get us wrong. We aren’t advocating that writers deliver subpar documents. Instead, it’s important that writers see the big picture, understand how the document fits into the business’ need and deliver a clear and accurate document. We counsel our TimelyText technical writers to ask very specific questions upfront in order to understand the business objectives and create “right fit” documents.

    1. Larry Kunz Post author

      I agree, Ronnie. You use the term business needs, and I see those needs as an expression of what Karen calls business goals in her comment. While there’s an artistic aspect to what we do, we have to recognize that meeting the requirements – including schedule and budget – is paramount. Thanks for contributing.


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