Technical communicators are now “management consultants for content,” Content Wrangler Scott Abel recently observed, at the Adobe Tech Comm Enterprise Summit, in Boston, MA. In his keynote, “Understanding the Role of Technical Communication in Enterprise Efficiency,” Abel noted that technical communicators are now in the business of creating content (not books), which can be repurposed for multiple devices, audiences, formats, and languages.
Abel further explained how “automating enforcement of writing rules is one easy way to gain efficiency,” and how software can now encode rules to prevent authors from making the most common and costly writing mistakes.”
In Abel’s view, content creation is science, not art. For the technical communicator, Abel suggests, the art lies not in creating content, which can now be manufactured, but rather in deciding how to make content fit, in different scenarios, and in optimizing every part of the content creation process, eliminating redundancy and other waste, through the
application of structure and consistent terminology.
Abel pointed to Autodesk’s WikiHelp, which embeds videos, as an example of socially-enabled support content, and the efficiency gains of directly connecting and listening to customers, in this way. He also pointed to the iFixit community, which provides repair information, not documents, which community members can directly edit. He further stated that every piece of generated content in these examples can be tracked and directly tied back to sales.
To advance similar initiatives, Abel recommended evangelizing efficiency gains and marketing achievements, within your company. He further advised partnering with
product management, with the objective of breaking down silos.
Resources on Structured Authoring
For more information, Abel pointed to Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy by Ann Rockley.
At the Enterprise Summit, Adobe’s Thomas Aldous offered a compelling value proposition for Adobe Technical Communication Suite, 3.5, suggesting that it makes a lot of sense for technical communicators, even those who are currently using the unstructured FrameMaker version, to set themselves up from the start, on a multi-channel publishing platform, which offers both unstructured and structured authoring options, and which can evolve with changing and inevitable market requirements.
Do you agree with Abel’s keynote, that technical communication today represents more science than art? What might be the possible exceptions? Can you recommend additional resources or tools, for structured authoring?