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Back to the Future — Of Technical Documentation Content

Digitally empowered consumers and the subsequent imperative for customer experience management have profound implications for technical writers and other documentation professionals. Next week, I have the pleasure of taking part in SDL’s event in London on the Future of Technical Documentation. In my presentation, I’ll first review how the forces of digital disruption (especially mobile and social) have empowered consumers and created the imperative to master customer experience management.

Then I’ll explore three ways in which customer experience changes the role and the value of documentation professionals and technical content.

  • First, documentation content breaks out of the “post-sale jail,” and may now be deployed at any point in the engagement cycle. This shift requires documentation professionals to think about producing content in different formats (more video, fewer PDFs) and styles (“bite size” pieces that can be consumed as the consumer desires, and, in some cases, a more conversational tone).
  • Second, this means that technical authors should now be members of broad, cross-functional teams responsible for the comprehensive experiences. The isolation of technical content teams will come to an end as they work closely with marketers and others to produce consistent and coherent experiences across a customer journey.
  • Third, and most important, given the complexity of multi-event, multichannel experiences for numerous customer segments and campaigns, the structure and precision typical of documentation production must be extended to the customer experience management as a whole. Superior customer experiences demand a structured and systematic approach. The teams responsible for their design, production, and delivery will inevitably draw upon the structured and systematic approaches (such as DITA) that have been developed by documentation professionals.

In short, although customer experience management requires documentation professionals to think and act more like marketers, the future of technical documentation is to become the organizing principle at the core of complex yet cohesive and consistent customer experiences.  I hope you will join me at this important half-day event on September 23, which will include case studies from Microsoft, HP and more; an open round table discussion; and a networking lunch.


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