Tablet, 3D, video: the impact of these new information technologies on teaching and customer education

Meriem Ben Zaiedaied, Cécile Luft, Miriam Richki

July 2013


Lately, we witnessed the rise of new information technologies such as the tablet, the 3D and the video. These technologies quickly popularised, and today they can be found in the teaching and customer education sectors. They are used at different levels: some use them massively, whereas others are only starting to implement them.
This article deals with the changes caused by the implementation of the tablet, the 3D and the video in the teaching and learning processes as well as the training materials design. In this prospect, we will focus on this phenomenon and its extent in the last decade by establishing a State of Art.
We will then study the impact of the tablet, the 3D and the video through 3 case studies: new teaching practices using videos in controversy and debate at Sciences Po, the implementation of the tablet in the Customer Education Service of a company, and the integration of 3D models in digital textbooks at Dassault Systèmes.

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The stakes of collaborative writing

Simon Saint-Georges, Chloé Jaouen

July 2013


The arrival of Web 2.0 has changed the ways of working, especially for writers. A wide range of tools now exists, enabling different people to participate in the writing of one single document and introducing new methods of work within teams. These new work methods rely on tools that are constantly evolving. While some companies remain skeptical, others are already embracing these new practices.
Either way, our position of apprentice makes us ideal observers concerning the choices made by our companies and the difficulties that the adoption of these new work methods raises. Such a change can be a real challenge, and selecting the right options to fit one particular situation can be a difficult task.
We will first present the results of our research on the current state of the art in collaborative writing and how and why companies tend to use more and more collaborative writing methods.
We will then explain the situation in the two companies that we work for, Atlas Copco (industrial tooling and equipment) and CNES (Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, the French space agency), two companies which are heading in opposite directions in terms of collaborative writing. We will observe the practices, tools, processes and work dynamics involved in writing for both companies.
Finally, based on what we found and observed in the first two parts, we will compare theory and reality concerning collaborative writing in companies.

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Improving documentation tools and processes for internal users

Dana – Maria Robu, Elise Roscillo

July 2013


Both companies, SFR (Second French Telecom Operator) and SNCF (French  National Railway Company), create documentation for internal users (Business Customer Services for SFR, SNCF agents). There are various types of documentation, such as procedures, handling notes, pedagogical sheets at SFR, and guidelines and procedures for corporate use at SNCF. All this documentation is created using templates, but not structured content.
Our work consists in proofreading, correcting the documentation, and publishing it on an internal online repository. Through analyzing the content stored on this repository, we noticed that users who write it are not technical writers. They do not master writing tools or they do not follow any rules set out in the guideline standards. This leads to a lack of coherence and efficiency in writing, difficulty in finding quickly the useful information and in overall a lack of consistency.
In the first part, we will focus on how to improve the existing documentation base through the creation of aid directories, such as user guides, beginner’s guide, webhelp, etc., to ensure the adoption of proposed tools and guidelines, and to get editorial feedback on these practices.
In the second part, as content designers, we will identify directions to enhance the role and importance of the technical writer in both companies. In order to highlight his added value and expertise, we will give highlight to streamline and simplify the writing process.

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How User Experience helps reshape technical documentation

Célia Goiset, Océane Franc

July 2013


This article explains how the User eXperience (UX) reshapes technical documentation. The fundamental purpose of this research is to show how users’ expectations have an impact on technical documentation. Indeed, technical writing is not only the presentation of information but also how it is designed to meet users’ needs. The goal of the technical writer is to communicate the information in a clear and effective way so that the documentation audience understands it well and quickly. In this article, we will first explain the importance of user experience practices in the technical writing field to then analyze the methods used to satisfy users’ needs in our companies while highlighting the UX impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the documentation. Finally, we will identify some of the UX best practices and tools to create better documentation and ensure the product and company sustainability.

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Moving to structured documentation: migration stakes

Sara Chaoui, Margaux Chatelain, Julie Dezalay and Justine Gaillard

July 2013


Technical documentation can be written and delivered in two ways: it can be  structured and will follow an XML information model; or it can be unstructured and cannot be validated against a model. Nowadays, companies tend to migrate their documentation from unstructured to structured content.
This article focuses on the stakes of moving from unstructured to structured content and explains the key aspects of this process. First, we will identify the reasons of the migration by studying different approaches in several companies. Secondly, the results and/or expected benefits of the migration will be discussed. Interviews of technical writers, documentation managers, and information architects will help us define what the advantages of structured documentation are. We will focus on the added value for the technical writer and for the documentation reader. Moreover, we will try to understand what the company gains from the migration. To conclude, we will draw five guidelines for a successful migration. Moving from unstructured to structured content is a challenging process and the best based on experience and know-how.

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Implementation and benefits of minimalism in technical writing

Aurélien Delattre, Yann-Olivier Grohan

July 2013


This article explains how minimalism can improve the quality and effectiveness of technical documentation. In the first part, we will define minimalism and its main principles, such as action-oriented approach and topic-based authoring. In the second part, we will conduct a comparative analysis based on the technical documentation of two working environments: Societe Générale Corporate Investment Banking and HR Access. We will analyse how  minimalism impacts the effectiveness and searchability of the documentation. These different minimalism approaches depend on quality criteria adopted for documentation. As a consequence, the decision to apply minimalism or not depends on the context (targeted-audience, access to users feedback). To conclude, we will identify some of the best practices to implement minimalism in any  documentation department.

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Following the Sun: Facing the challenges of distance collaboration

Christopher Dolloff, Anouck Le Lijour

September 2013


In the recent years, globalization and virtualization have led companies to embrace multiculturalism and long-distance collaboration. Whether it is for greater customer proximity, reliable business continuity, or purely economic reasons, more and more firms now hire staff abroad, and thus face new challenges induced by the collaboration of dispersed teams.

This study focuses on long-distance collaboration in the field of technical writing, and aims at determining which methods are the most effective to work at a distance. To begin with, it explores the factors behind the evolution of working conditions for technical writers, leading to the development of distance teamwork in the profession. Through case studies, it then analyzes and criticizes the various processes, methodologies, communication techniques and tools implemented by four companies to support long-distance collaboration between technical writers and their peers, or technical writers and developers.

The main purpose of this article is to identify best practices that help build  community and therefore increase productivity, and to suggest methods for  improving distance collaboration.

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Challenges of harmonizing technical writing styles

Amélie Allard, Tyffanie Boniou, Camille Hubert, and Nicolas Philippe

July 2013


Harmonizing technical documentation content is one of the main goals of technical writers. However, harmonizing technical writing styles is one of the most difficult tasks to implement in companies. In most cases, information models, style guides and editorial styles are used to structure and guide the editorial writing process. But these editorial best practices are not sufficient to provide optimal and long-lasting editorial consistency. Indeed, in a company, it is common to find inconsistencies within a document and across several documents making up a document set. This article deals with both cases.

First, we will present the current state of the art in this domain. Then, we will focus on the writing tools and guidelines used by four software editors: Dassault Systèmes (3D Software), HR Access (Human Resources), KXEN (Knowledge Extraction Engine) and SAP (Systems, Application and Products for data processing). In the third part of the article, we will analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the tools and guidelines previously presented. Finally, we will propose solutions to improve the job of technical writers and editors in their challenge to implement a unified writing style.

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