There's a growing appreciation for the function of the professional TECHNICAL WRITER, within the commercial and industrial environments, although a potential that’s still far from being fully realised. Part of the reason for the delay in this realisation, is that many operations are operating in staid formats that sufficed in the yesteryear, but have not evolved to keep pace with rapid change demanded by an evolving marketplace. Many changes within the commercial and manufacturing environs are instigated, and endorsed, by legislation and regulation, giving them the power of legal status. Legal requirement, while playing a powerful part, is not the entire situation as, along with aspects such as: W.H.& S regulations, strongly endorsed by the hugely powerful insurance companies, and food safety programmes, we also have GMP, product user manuals, label design, and many other aspects. These have also introduced much more pressure in regard to compliance and other market requirements. An associated need for precise specification, product standards, and recording of operating processes has developed to define and specify all this, and so a professionally implemented, and continually monitored, technical documentation programme is essential in maintaining the status of such processes. An efficient records procedure, constantly maintained, is required to attest to such legal aspects as due diligence, along with all the other requirements of comprehensively efficient, modern day business practice.
The other main reason for slow adoption would appear to be the predominant perception that, because there doesn’t appear to be an obvious, direct profit emanating from the efforts of a technical writer, the whole programme should be relegated to that considered as ‘production downtime’. This theory is the intellectual equivalent of: because the contents of the bucket do not fill the tank after one trip to the well, twenty trips are needed, instead of fixing that large hole in the bottom of the bucket. In reality, the money saved through a professional writer’s efforts has the potential to exceed the earnings of any other company department, not excluding that of sales.With a set operational format in force, specified by way of such avenues as standard operational procedures, policies, etc., written down, endorsed by management, and adhered to by an adequately educated and supervised, production workforce: all the gaps in the fiscal floorboards are closed, all the holes in the leaking, monetary ceiling are caulked, all the gaps in the walls are plugged and all the money stays in-house. Somewhere along the way, you will discover that hole in the bucket has been fixed also. To the conventional, managerial viewpoint, the gains from the aspect of technical writing are not immediately obvious and, consequently, tend to be placed into the pending tray. The product of a good technical writer, however, is a game winner. And many businesses going to the wall, in an increasingly aggressive commercial environment, are doing so more from omission, than incorporation, of what is an essential ingredient of business infrastructure.
The process begins with an in depth initial assessment of requirement. This initial assessment, which should involve consultation with all stakeholders, including the ground level, production worker and, depending on document type, end-user, is key to tailoring efficient channelling of information, and the retention of it. Not an indulgence in a distraction of flash and gimmickry, based on a total lack of research. How many have watched a supposedly informative Powerpoint presentation and failed to take in what was written on the screen, because your attention was diverted by the way in which the slide change ‘wiped’ its way up or across the display, wiping your mind clean as it did so? That may not have been the only reason you missed out on the information, as the presentation could well have been delivered by a Talking Head, and just badly assembled and presented. Most of these presentations seem to be presentations of everything a presentation shouldn’t be. All of these negative aspects are invariably found together, and the result is a distinct lack of knowledge retention. This is one of the major reasons why a lot of training programmes engender so little return, beyond the fact that they are a business expense which is tax deductible. Presentation of information has to facilitate the absorption and retention of that information. Often, even usually, the opposite seems to apply. They might be getting paid, but obviously not the work of a professional.
So there are tools to the craft but, as with all tools they have to be employed with a canny hand.