To be or not to be?

Structured Documentation: Prevarication, Motivation and Persuasion

by Robin Shobbrook; May 2015

As with many things in life, it’s more comfortable to carry on doing what we have always done. After all, it works doesn’t it? And we know how to do it – there’s no point in having to learn new techniques and changing just for the sake of it?

Trouble is, in technical communications, the world is changing around us. Customer and user requirements change. New rules, regulations and standards become mandatory. Expectations increase. There is a demand to work faster and smarter. Publishing formats have to cater for reading on mobile devices – instant up-to-date information on demand in easy to assimilate chunks.

We can’t just become dinosaurs - we have to change!

But making it actually happen is the big challenge. We have to convince all the key actors within the organisation that there are real benefits to be accrued through taking a fresh look at our technical communications – how they are structured, how they are created, maintained, managed and distributed. And we have to make a start by determining that there really are benefits in our particular case!

Why not make the assimilation of structured information and documentation into your organisation/department a planned and managed project? Appoint a project manager (maybe you?) and a small project board if appropriate. You need to collate all the relevant information to make a valid assessment of the scale of the project, costs, benefits and opportunities, so you can build a strong business case.

Your business case should include cost and payback analyses, project plans, management structures, risk analysis, safety implications and more.

The case has to be strong because:

You have to be able to convince and win over senior management and get funding approval. But equally, you need to get backing from middle management and everyone else involved: subject matter experts, authors, administrators, editors and document distributors. Everyone has to be reassured that there is something in it for them and it’s worth the effort of tackling new methods, technologies and new mindsets. If you don't do this, it just won't work!

It’s always a good idea to take some independent advice. At Koala, these are challenges we see our customers facing on a regular basis. So we can help out, as consultants, with the analyses, planning and business cases, based on long experience. We even run a series of 'MasterClass' training modules to explain the whole process in more detail.

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Robin Shobbrook is Test and Quality Manager at Koala