Have a question? Get in touch.

To speak to a member of our team about how we can support you, click here.

Quality from Collaboration: Getting more from your documentation

Relationships are the key to creating quality, usable content.

As technical writers, we need to address our users’ complex needs by supporting the myriad of variables in their deployment environments and administration. So, we must rely on our network of subject matter experts to develop these solutions. Technical writers are experts in many things – writing, instructional design, audience analysis, feature testing and research – but it is our professional relationships, and our collaboration through them, that become the key to creating quality, usable content.

Our primary collaborators are our customers.

We reach out to them during research phases to find out how they use the product and what their needs are. We correct defects in the documentation that they find while testing our instructions in real environments. We work with them during early field trials to gauge what is working for them and what isn’t. It’s a collaborative, iterative process and, although demanding, ensures that we have our finger on the pulse to deliver what they need.

The documentation building blocks come from the engineers on the product technical team. They give us the specific details that become the guts of our work, such as steps on how to configure a feature. Our collaboration with them is frequent and iterative. They rely on us to ensure the features they create are made visible to our customers, and we rely on them to provide us with all of the nitty gritty details that we shape into customer-facing documentation.

The Product Owners provide insight into the business need for a feature, what gap it fills in the industry, or what problem it solves. If the engineers tell us the “how”, then the Product Owners tell us the “why”. With that information, we can provide contextual overviews or reference information to our customers. It helps to shape what focus and level of detail we provide in the documentation when we know what goal our customer must accomplish using our software.

Technical support teams are a very useful internal customer.

They manage customers who are struggling with our product. They often turn to documentation to look for solutions or ensure installation and configuration were done properly. We need to use their experiences to improve structural, accuracy, and usability issues. Addressing the pain points of the technical support team in our documentation can save a company serious time and money by making the solutions easier and quicker to find, or even eliminate a call to support altogether. Investing time to pick their brains for insights into our customers’ needs yields highly valuable feedback.

In your collaboration with SMEs, everyone brings something different to the table that is essential to documentation quality. All that’s left to do is the writing!


Shona O’Flaherty is a senior lead writer at Innovatia with ten years’ experience, with an educational background in translation and technical writing. Her experience as the team lead for a multi-platform, complex product have shaped her passion to create sustainable, effective, and user-friendly content. She is based in Galway, Ireland.

1 Comment

  1. Ruchi

    Well said!!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Investigate to Innovate

Research. Its value is unquestioned, yet its place in our business lives is often pushed to the bottom of our to-do list. How do we defend taking time for research? The simple answer is that research and investigation are critical to innovation.
Read More

Gone in (less than) 60 Seconds

You've got less than 59 seconds to capture a users attention online. How can you ensure that your users find what they need - quickly and efficiently?
Read More

The Demise of the Manual

Customers want more than the traditional manual. So what's next? From the transition to digital, to the internet influence, how we use content is changing. Along with it it how we expect content to act.
Read More

Motivating Through Gamification: Welcome to the New Age

How can we leverage that fun, or that desire to play, into our everyday tasks? It’s a fine dividing line. While we want to capture the enthusiasm in our daily lives, we must also be adults and be serious to get the task done.
Read More

Quality from Collaboration: Getting more from your documentation

Technical writers are experts in many things – writing, instructional design, audience analysis, feature testing and research – but it is our professional relationships, and our collaboration through them, that become the key to creating quality, usable content.
Read More

In Agile, Haste Makes Waste

DITA XML offers a perfect solution for the Agile team. But the short development times and constant delivery takes its toll on writers and content, creating waste along the way.
Read More

Human Editors vs. Tools: Finding common ground

If you are relying completely on automated editing tools, you could be compromising content quality. Consider the positive impact on your content when you combine the power of both automated tools and human editors.
Read More

Unitasking in a multitasking encouraged world

We live in societies that encourage the multitasker. The mentality invades our digital lives, too; productivity apps declare that we can get more done than ever. But are we truly getting more done? Whatever happened to the now quaint notion of focusing on one task (unitasking)?
Read More

Leveraging Analytics: Putting big data to good use

If senior innovation experts can see the value in analyzing big data, then perhaps you should too. According to GE Global Innovation Barometer 2016, 73% of senior innovation experts that participated in the survey have increased their ability to analyze big data. This is up from 43% reported in 2014. This is a dramatic and noteworthy increase.
Read More
Share This