What else can your "documentation" do?

Too many times I see the look of disappointment cross the faces of people I meet when they find out I run a technical writing company. They normally start to look mighty uncomfortable thinking I am employed in the world’s most boring and useless profession, especially when they hear how excited I am by my job.

Yes, technical writers are responsible for making those instruction pamphlets that come with your toaster oven, and those tree killing papers that were translated into 72 languages that came with your cellphone that you threw out with the box when you grabbed the charger. I know, Dilbert jokes abound about our uselessness and sometimes, if you follow me on Facebook, we even joke about ourselves.

We are tree killers. We spend our days fighting over commas and periods and grammar and formatting, right? Don’t technical writers exist to waste the world’s tree supply and make PDFs no one reads and help files that aren’t useful enough to most users to avoid most support calls?

Well, actually, I can proudly say that that is NOT what we do here at Tech-Tav.

Our writers are engineers and programmers and system analysts. Because they previously worked in the fields they now document, they know the way to gather, display and deploy information so that their target users not only have access, but enjoy the fruits of their work.

Getting to work on some of the most cutting edge product, software and hardware documentation is a daily challenge, not a lesson in futility.

We were early adopters (or creators) of most of the paradigm shifts within our profession during the last 20 years. We were the first team to deploy XML authoring within Cisco worldwide, we were early adopters of DITA and helped format and submit part of the DITA standards in OASIS. We were single-sourcing and varianting and versioning large doc sets, cutting writing staffs on every contract by 40-60% when others were claiming we would be putting ourselves out of business by giving more to our clients and charging them less to do it. We were user advocates before it was cool and dreamed of social media integration and analytics before they existed commercially. We rigged makeshift metrics readers for our help files before you could add a few lines of Google code and make it easy, so we would know what our users needed and why. We were fighting for format and delivery methods and user interaction while others were still waging the authoring tool debates.

Real-time automated web-based change log created by user request

We spend our days as user advocates, searching out information, trying to determine at every stage the best, fastest and cheapest way to deliver meaningful and useful content around the globe. Our jobs entail discovery, design, implementation, writing, creativity, teamwork, ingenuity and development.

Not to make you jealous, as I am sure you have a great job, but the team here at Tech-Tav have some of the coolest jobs on the planet! They write for the world’s leading developers and engineers who are in turn building and securing the networks, national security, healthcare and infrastructure of tomorrow around the globe.

So the next time we meet and I’m gushing about the amazing doc project we programmed from scratch to meet a specific need, or great new tool we are supporting or reselling (let’s talk WalkMe, and soon!), realize that while there may be writers writing toaster oven manuals...that isn’t us.

We are bringing user content and product interaction into the future, in real time. Helping our customers make and deliver better products, reduce support costs and increase their customer satisfaction – and yeah, we love what we do. If your documentation is not doing that for your users –realize that you can be, and most likely within the budget you already have.

It is time to expect and demand more from your “documentation”. Documentation should increase and support sales and reduce your customer support load. It should enable your super users to use every feature and workflow with ease. It should eliminate the need for customer support engineers to fly around the globe and hold hands through tricky HW install or upgrade procedures. It should be another communications channel between your company and your users and it should encourage customer loyalty and support.

What can we do for you and your products or technology? Call me and let’s figure it out. Together.

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