Lisa LOPES and Loïc GODEFROY
Paris Diderot University, July 2017
In spite of many attempts to enhance the value of technical communication, it remains hidden in the background. There is a wide gap between how people perceive technical communication and what it is exactly. Which tools or methods could be used to raise technical communication awareness, when technical communicators work in various professional contexts? We investigated how technical communication is perceived within a company. Then we set up a strategy to define tools that could be relevant to our work context, some of them being metrics or internal communication, for example. In the
end, these tools proved to be efficient but may not give the same results in other contexts.
If any case, the best lesson we take from this research is use what we know best: to
communicate. Just like cobblers do not make good shoes for themselves, technical communicators have a great skill they often misuse. In order to change the way we are perceived and break silos in whatever company we may be working for, it is up to us to reach out to others, using our experience. This paves the way for an emerging type of communication: Information 4.0.
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.