Technical documentation has become an outstanding resource in the IT industry and the last decades have witnessed a boom of high-performance technical authoring tools. Despite the multitude of innovative technical writing tools, it has been observed that the dominant output format remains the PDF file, invented in the 1990s. In the sight of this sluggishness as far as innovative end-user technical documentation is concerned, questions arise: Why has the PDF output survived for so long and what justifies its supremacy over other formats? Another question is, can disruptive innovations be implemented on end-user technical documentation so as to bring about more sophisticated or user-centered output formats? By discussing with subject matter experts, we are seeking answers to these questions. We are also seeking to explore to what extent modern technologies like virtual reality, artificial intelligence devices among other alternative formats are applicable to end-user technical documentation.
The term ‘user-centric approach’ steadily gained momentum over the last two decades, to become a popular professional standard in the digitized industries.
The simplest way to define user-centric is in contrast with a product-centric approach: the focus of the technical content is shifted from the product and what it can do, to the user and what they want to do.
The end goal is to make technical content more digestible for users, making them feel that the content is tailored to their individual needs.
Upon closer investigation, it becomes clear that user-centric technical content and the definition given to this approach to content creation varies greatly due to several environmental and individual factors.
What seems to have become an industry standard, is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of practices that are sometimes difficult to pinpoint with precision and accuracy.
What does this approach actually mean to professionals? What are the facilitating and the challenging factors that come with this new way of thinking technical content creation?
Structuring content is the cornerstone of great documentation. Structuration ensures not only coherence across content, but also better user experience. How does structuration occur? We conducted a survey searching for internal and external factors influencing structuration. The investigation revealed that internal factors including tools, languages, standards, and guidelines are the basis of well-structured documentation. External factors, such as user- feedback, and a UX team within the company, also prove to be equally important. Structuration also improves with updates from the right people and for the right reasons. In this research article, we discuss content structuration, restructuration, and how it is heavily influenced by various factors independent from content.
Is technical communication a creative job? Technical communication remains a domain that is often unknown or misunderstood. People tend to think that technical communicators only write procedures and follow guidelines. As technical communicators, we wanted to combine our experience and vision of our work to discuss the vast subject of creativity.
This matter came to us after several discussions about our respective jobs, and tasks. We realized that even though we study the same principles of technical communication, the work we do in our companies can be very different from one another. All of us are confronted to norms and standards that we need to follow, but does it really mean that we cannot be creative?
In recent years, knowledge has become a factor of production in the same way as traditional land, labor and capital. For some, it is even the main factor of production of today’s companies, which tend to create a knowledge management service or to outsource it. The purpose of this research is to understand the importance of Knowledge Management (KM) in companies nowadays, and how it can serve the business strategy. Thus, this article will explain the definition and evolution of KM, then depict the challenges associated with KM and business strategies, and finally explore the way a management system is implemented. Thanks to all these elements, we will be able to understand how the KM system becomes essential in business strategy, and when.
To stick close to reality, we conducted interviews in two companies: one that has implemented a KM system a few years ago, and another without, which allowed us to show two opposite ways of dealing with knowledge in companies, and therefore show the link between KM and business strategies.
ANDRIAMANANTSOA Ornella, BENZAAMA Loubna, LEONARD Lucie, RESPLENDINO Emmanuelle
Université Paris Diderot – Paris 7, July 2018
Digitalization and technological innovations are exerting considerable impact today on technical documentation. In addition, we are seeing more and more collaboration between technical writers and software developers, which naturally is leading to a synchronous code and documentation production evolution.
The research offered herein is based on literature, key articles, survey reports, interviews with documentation and product managers from medium to large French software companies, and analysis of various documentation production process. The results highlight the importance given to documentation and its scope towards users.
To meet the needs of the industry, historical formats such as wikis and PDFs are changing to web-based and embedded formats, which are more accessible, visual, and user-centric. This change not only affects outputs, but also production processes through the merging the product code and documentation delivery. Nonetheless, such innovation is costly and bears limits. Are such technological exploits as smart assistants and virtual reality going to perform well enough to meet users’ demands and needs in terms of documentation?
Patricia Minacori, Marie Girard
Research Laboratory Clillac- Arp, EILA Department, at Paris Diderot University
Technical Writers Without Borders
5th International Conference on Technical Communication
Friday 3 February 2017, 10.00-17.00
Paris Diderot University Lecture Theater Buffon
15 rue Hélène Brion, 75013 Paris, FRANCE.
This year’s theme was about collaboration between technical documentation teams and their partners in engineering, training, support, user experience, marketing, translation, change management, and so on. Collaboration beyond silos implies tools and methodologies that support new ways of working, innovation, as well as changes in the role of technical communicators.
Knowledge Management (KM) is a discipline that has existed since the beginning of the nineties yet it still sometimes feels like, and is treated like, a new idea. This article explores the reasons for this current state of affairs and tries to identify the underlying cause, or causes, for its lack of support. It seems that many companies are slow to adopt systems of KM and view them with skepticism. Others dismiss them outright before even attempting them. But why are companies skeptical about KM in the first place? There must be a common reason for its failure in so many situations. These are the questions this article seeks to answer. In addition to readings from experts in the field, information for this article was drawn from the personal experiences of the authors as well as from interviews with an expert and the results of a general survey. Since there are many articles and studies on KM, we chose to focus on a few relevant articles that provided valuable and comprehensive information. Moreover, if we had had more time and resources, we could have conducted a survey on a wider panel of companies.
This paper focuses on the relationship between subject matter experts and technical writers, in the context of two software companies and an optical systems manufacturer. More specifically, this paper intends to highlight the added value of an efficient collaboration for the technical writer, the SME, and beyond, for the companies they work for as well as for the end-user of the documentation. First, we will analyze the respective education, skills, competences and work goals of SMEs and technical writers. Secondly, we will show how technical writers and SMEs work together on a daily basis and can become partners to create high quality documentation by mutualizing SMEs’ technical knowledge and technical writers’ content design skills. Finally, we will identify the benefits of a win-win relationship between SMEs and technical writers for the end-user of the documentation.
Fanny Bellaïche, Juliette Massardier and Marielle Morizot
Traditionally, technical communication leverages both technical writing and translation expertise. As both professions share some common skills and objectives, the activities of technical writers and translators are sometimes mixed up. However, they remain two clearly separated occupations and thus complement each other. Based on our working and academic experience as technical writers and translators, we are particularly aware of the importance of a balanced collaboration to align the documentation process with the requirements of today’s industry practice. Current research on the relationship between technical writers and translators mainly focuses on the study of their competences . This paper intends to go beyond the mere analysis of competences and to explore some best practices in order to bridge the gap between both professions: more specifically, to which extent can we consider the translator as a useful resource to improve the writing process? Firstly, we examine why technical writers and translators often collaborate to deliver efficient documentation in their respective fields of expertise. Secondly, we try to understand how technical writers and translators develop shared tools, such as style guides, in order to take advantage of each other’s work. Finally, we show that enhancing this relationship is not the only way to deliver professional documentation.
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.
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.
Sara Chaoui, Margaux Chatelain, Julie Dezalay and Justine Gaillard
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.
Patricia Minacori, le laboratoire de recherche CLILLAC-ARP, de l’Université Paris Diderot, en association avec STC France et CRT sont heureux de vous accueillir, à l’amphi Buffon, 15 rue Hélène Brion, 75013 Paris, entrée libre.
samedi 26 janvier 2013
3rd International Conference on Technical Communication
Modèles d’information et mutualisation des bases de connaissances
DITA or not DITA (les débats sont lancés !), les recherches sur les modèles d’information pour améliorer les pratiques et les outils.
Mutualiser les bases de connaissances pour répondre à des situations de complexité, créer des ontologies pour représenter les connaissances et aussi mettre en place des outils d’aide à la rédaction.
9h30 – 10h
Accueil des intervenants et des participants
Ouverture du colloque : la communication technique à l’épreuve de la complexité [PDF]
Patricia Minacori, Directrice du Département professionnalisation, Paris Diderot
Quelle stratégie adopter pour garantir l’adéquation entre contenu et modèle documentaire ?