Knowledge Integration Requires New Skills for Technical Communicators

In a recent webinar sponsored by Scriptorium Publishing Services, Tristan David Bishop, Senior Principal Business Analyst at Symantec, describes an emerging new role for technical communicators, as knowledge integrators.

According to Bishop, the knowledge integrator “partners with other teams across the organization to gather content that can proactively solve customer issues, reducing the need for incoming support calls.”

For technical communicators, knowledge integration involves these four steps:

Gathering content. Seek key topics missing in the doc, Bishop advises, by reviewing customer comments on published topics, studying web search results, and monitoring Tech Support Forums.

Ensuring accuracy. Through close relationships with Dev, QA, Support, and other SMEs, coordinate rapid cross-checks of the documentation.

Ensuring compliance. Through close relationships with Marketing/Branding, ensure repurposed content is compliant with corporate branding requirements.

Delivering repurposed content. As examples, Bishop suggests posting the repurposed content to the knowledge base for browsing, pushing updates into local installations, and optimizing for mobile viewing.

Bishop goes on to describe the key skills, required for successful knowledge integration: topic-based writing skills, XML publishing skills, and social media skills.

For background on the forces driving knowledge integration as an essential new responsibility for technical communicators, see the informative Scriptorium presentation, about the future of technical communication. There, Bishop provides specific examples of how Symantec is incorporating knowledge integration into its business processes, with some noteworthy results.

Additional webinars are available from Scriptorium Publishing.

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2 thoughts on “Knowledge Integration Requires New Skills for Technical Communicators

  1. Your title says “new skills” — and, yeah, I guess some of the skills are new. But mostly they’re skills that technical communicators have been using all along. More significantly, I can’t think of any group besides technical communicators that comes even close to matching this set of skills. The emerging role of knowledge integrator, therefore, represents a great opportunity for technical communicators. It’s ours for the taking.

    • Hi Larry,

      Thanks for the RT and for dropping by. Your comments always add depth to any discussion…

      I agree that we’ve always been knowledge integrators and that the shift Tristan is proposing is a natural one, for many technical communicators, especially the ones already engaging on Twitter, and those who have been writing online help topics for awhile.

      My title was mostly in reference to Tristan’s remark in the presentation, about how the social web will change the way tech writers work…not writing from specs anymore…and no longer behind the corporate veil, as Rich Maggiani once noted in an STC article on what he called “Social Media Technical Communication.” Rather, we’ll be acting as enablers or instigators of conversation, on the Social Web, a la Anne Gentle.

      If not a new skill per se, it’s a new way of working (moving from a standard one-to-many communication, to a many-to-many communication), and I think some tech communicators will thrive in and welcome this new landscape (content for collaboration, versus content for consumption, as Maggiani says), more than others. Like you, I think these changes are a tremendous opportunity for technical communicators who enjoy engaging in this way.


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