We add value! Don’t outsource technical communication!

I was struck by R. Stanley Dicks’ article (chapter 2 in Spilka’s book), particularly how technical communicators must always be defending their role in the company. I can see how sometimes management can wonder what “technical communication” really is, especially when it touches so many other aspects of a company–why can’t technical communication fold into the other departments and eliminate the formal technical communication job title?

This has happened, with technical communication splitting into two general tracks, “design and programming of information databases and the other focused on providing content for these databases” (Carliner, ch 1 in Spilkea’s book, p 29). User Experience experts, information design, documentation divas, information technology, all have cuttings from technical communication. So why not eliminate the formal technical communication discipline when it’s grafted into all aspects of a company already?

In my opinion, no. we need technical communicators–we need us! While there are aspects of technical communication in other disciplines, technical communicators have the vision and distance from one particular area to consider the implications of audience.  We are the users’ advocate first and foremost, and our whole goal is to see how we can get and retain users. While IT and other areas greatly contribute to this end goal, it’s in the company’s interest to keep technical communicators around, and in house to successfully reach as many audiences as possible.  Back in Dicks’ article, he writes that the workers with the most value are those that “analyze, synthesize, combine, rearrange, develop, design, and deliver information to specific audiences for specific purposes” (p. 54). That’s how technical communicators add value.

Posted on September 28, 2014, in Workplace and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I can’t help but get a feeling that people think that having the job title of technical writer means that you are a technical writer. I have stated my opinion that technical communication is a skill or mindset. Being able to “analyze, synthesize, combine, rearrange, develop, design, and deliver information to specific audiences for specific purposes” (Dicks p. 54) are all qualities of a technical writer, job title or not. Conversely, having the job title of technical writer doesn’t magically grant you the skills listed above.

    I agree that we need good technical writers, ones who possess the qualities above. However, I don’t believe writers that possess all of these skills are the majority in the workplace today. In my personal experience, I think the older writers, close to retirement, lack the ability to keep up with the fast changing technology and fail to incorporate it into their work to become more efficient. I also see the younger writers as the opposite. They are well versed in the technology, but are somewhat lacking in the core competencies that their older counterparts have mastered. Obviously this is my personal observation, based on three Fortune 100 companies, and is not indicative of every company nor every technical writer.

  2. natashajmceachin

    Hi Oliver,

    I can also relate to not knowing where technical writers stand within an organization as a new professional in the field. During my internship experience within these past two years, the company I was working with lumped technical communication within the marketing and communications department. I never quite understood this, but after reading that article it makes more sense.

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