Technical Authors what we are and what we are not

Unveiling the True Potential of Technical Authors: More Than Just Writers

Don’t let the title of Technical Author fool you. Regardless of your opinion, do not underestimate us. We have the potential to offer unexpected help in more ways than one. Allow me to dispel the myth regarding our identity.

Misconceptions About Technical Authors

Not Just Software Developers

If I had proficiency in BASIC, C/C++, Java, etc., I would earn significantly more as a developer. While I receive calls for API documentation, a skill requiring familiarity with code, my primary focus remains on creating clear and concise technical documents.

Not Project Managers

I am not a project manager certified through Prince2, Agile Scrum, or similar programs. My project management skills are specific to technical documentation, where I manage schedules and meetings with subject matter experts (SMEs) and other stakeholders. My role does not include:

  • Detailed project planning, progress evaluation, risk management, or issue resolution. For these tasks, a full-time project manager is essential.
  • Secretarial duties such as organising colleagues’ schedules or taking minutes. I record my meetings and extract the relevant information for documentation purposes.

Not Departmental Experts

While familiar with the terminology, I am not an expert in every department. I learn on the job, facilitating communication and collaboration through practical verbal and written skills. My goal is to support and encourage achieving organisational goals without making the process daunting.

The True Role of a Technical Author

An External Consultant with a Plan

As an external consultant, I often use the MoSCoW method to categorise initiatives into must-haves, should-haves, could-haves, and will-not-haves (or wishful thinking). This approach ensures a structured and prioritised documentation process.

Documentation Management

Upon joining, I sift through all available documentation to identify gaps and areas for improvement. I manage documents and content using tools like SharePoint and Confluence, ensuring efficient information management for your teams.

Project Management Skills in Context

My project management skills, while not as extensive as those of a certified project manager, include:

  • Designing new templates and improving the structure of existing documents.
  • Documenting processes across several categories and arranging meetings with SMEs.
  • Planning, writing, reviewing, publishing, and maintaining content using tried and tested methods.

Extensive Experience and Resourcefulness

With over 23 years of experience, I possess an extensive library of generic documentation and various templates. This resourcefulness lets me tweak documents to meet your business profile, saving time and money.

ITIL and ITSM Expertise

I have experience producing IT Service Management (ITSM) documents based on ITIL best practices, including:

  • Service Design, Service Transition, Service Operation, and Continual Service Improvement.
  • Delivery and Service Support, Availability, Capacity, and IT Service Continuity Management.
  • Incident, Problem, Change, Release, Configuration Management, and Service Desk documentation.
  • Policy, Process & Standards documentation for ISO27001/9001 compliance, GDPR, PCI/DSS, and security projects.
  • Disaster recovery scenario documentation.
  • Infrastructure documentation to support large-scale networks and recently migrated infrastructures.

Editing and Enhancing Existing Content

I can enhance existing content by adding VISIO drawings, new screenshots, rewording policies, adding narratives, and creating new templates. I am also skilled at ensuring consistency and structure in Word documents.

Tools and Techniques

I keep projects on track using spreadsheets, MS Word, PowerPoint, and VISIO. I also suggest ways to maintain up-to-date and current documentation, treating information as an invaluable asset.

SharePoint and Confluence Management

The cost of Technical and Process documentation
The cost of Technical and Process documentation

If you lack a documentation strategy, I can create a plan tailored to your needs. Proper management includes ensuring documentation is available to all staff, appropriately updated, rewritten, and archived. Ownership, version control, and historical control are critical aspects of effective

documentation management.

Key Benefits of Effective Technical Documentation

Implementing adequate technical documentation can lead to the following:

  • Reduced costs.
  • A more responsive help desk/support system.
  • Better-informed staff and confidence in performing procedures.

By recognising the true potential of Technical Authors, organisations can leverage their skills to achieve greater efficiency, clarity, and overall

success.

Technical Writing | Hiring a Technical Writer

Budgets for the job

When you start the process of Hiring a Technical Writer, my advice is thisdo not cut corners when sourcing a budget:

  • Check the daily rates/hourly rates. Do not expect an experienced technical writer if the daily rate is derisory.
  • If your rate is low, you will attract Technical Writers with less experience whereby the result could be a disjointed document with no formatting and poor English
  • A good TW who charges a higher rate may save you money by taking less time to do the job.

Your Technical Writer in the flesh

hiring a technical writer
Hiring a technical writer for your project

Many TWs will have worked in a variety of environments. In due course, we gain knowledge that could provide a solution to other long-running problems. Hence why managers should never underestimate TWs.

What will you need?

Before you actively engage the TW on your site, do you have all equipment ready:

  • One of the most common problems is no laptop on the day they start
  • That their profiles to log in to the network are set up
  • If they are reviewing existing documentation make sure it is available

When you start explaining the work to a TW in company-specific jargon, do not assume they understand you. There is a good chance that the TW during an interview may mention that what one company knows as “XYZ” may not be the same as yours.

What should you do?

  • Be certain the SMEs or others with whom the TW will engage are aware of the appointment and know the goals of the project
  • If you are the primary contact do not disappear without the TW knowing where you are or who is second in command
  • Do not assume the TW is less than proactive if you cannot see them writing down a list of questions and talking to the appropriate people. If they are reviewing existing documentation, they may need a few days to understand the content before they start acting pro-actively
Techwriting Hiring a Technical Writer
Hiring a Technical Writer

If after settling on a start date

If a problem arises let the TW know in advance because:

  • You may need to change the start date or find another job for the TW to assess.
  • Delays will only diminish your budget if the TW is on-site with nothing to do.
  • If the problems are likely to be ongoing be honest and let the TW know – do not consistently change the start dates because it is not very professional and TWs do talk to fellow TWs.
  • Be consistent with the project, its objectives, and deadlines
  • Do not change the parameters of the project by allowing project scope creep.
  • Communicate with the TW as S/he may not have the time to stay beyond the current time allotted for the project.
  • Make contingencies if you need to extend the contract

What will the Technical Writer do for you?

Supply a project plan. Do not expect one within a matter days. if they own a generic copy, they can adapt it for the project; else create one from scratch.

The project plan should include a documentation schedule, including milestones and how progress can be measured.

On longer projects, TWs will complete a weekly project management report, which will outline problems, issues, bottlenecks, etc.

If the contract states that travel abroad or within the UK is necessary, make sure they are available to go.

Foreign travel as part of the contract

Some companies expect contractors to pay their expenses up front on foreign trips.

Might I suggest that they:

  • Can afford to do so without getting into debt.
  • Know the procedure to claim their expenses
  • Be clear on when the payment will be paid
    • I once submitted expenses, which, due to a misunderstanding took three months to process.