The Hidden Gem

It’s 8:10 am on a Monday morning at XCorp.  Knowledge workers are making their way up the stairs to their respective cubicles – backpacks strapped on and coffee in hand.  Stacey, a Data Analyst, revs up her computer, logs on and checks her calendar for the day.  She has a 9:00 am meeting with an IT manager in which she needs to present some data analytics on an IT project that is being implemented  this week.  So she gets right to work gathering the data she had collected the previous week.  She spends the next 40 minutes gathering her files, finding documents on the project site, and asking her co-worker, Jon, for the excel book he has been working on.  As she enters the conference room at precisely 8:58 am, Stacey realizes she’s missing an important document.  Apologizing for the delay, she opens her laptop, searches for and finds the document.  The meeting starts at 9:10 am after an hour of information gathering. 

This story is an example of something that happens all too often.  An article in LinkedIn  shows that knowledge workers are spending up to 8 hours of a 40 hour work week searching for information.  A survey of over 300 knowledge workers in the US and UK, revealed that it is taking workers a significant amount of their time to find information.  In his description of the survey results, Bernstein writes,

“It takes workers up to eight searches to find the right document and information, according to 80% of respondents” (Bernstein, 2013).

Why We Need Good Content Management in Organizations

Knowledge workers have become masters at creating all sorts of content; they create presentations, single point lessons, graphs and diagrams, spreadsheets, newsletters, memos, and much more on a daily basis.  Often a great deal of effort is spent on the creation of these materials while very little is given to how they will be managed.

Enter content management.  Having a good content management system in place can be one of an organizations best attributes.  In the book Digital Literacy, William Hart-Davidson provides a definition of content management when he writes,

“The term “content management” generally refers to a set of practices for handling information, including how it is created, stored, retrieved, formatted, and styled for delivery” (Hart-Davidson, 2010).

How Technical Communicators Can Enhance Content Managment

In our quest to understand the role of a technical communicator, we can think about content management.  Technical communicators have a unique set of skills that makes them perfect for CM.  So what are some of the specific skills technical communicators have that make them perfect for a role as content manager?  Hart-Davidson describes these when he writes,

“The following are three perspectives, or categories for creating and managing content.

    • Making texts – here texts are understood as more or less coherent wholes sometimes called “information products” or “information types;” these are the genres that a particular organization makes for its clients, users, and customers, and its own members or workforce.
    • Creating and managing information assets, defining relationships among these, and specifying display conditions for specific views of these – an object-oriented world view prevails in this perspective, ideally balancing the interests of users/readers with those of content producers; unlike the text-making perspective, the focus here is on ensuring that all the elements are in place to make text-making possible, scalable, and effective for all those involved.
    • Designing and managing workflows and production models – the third perspective focuses on the roles and responsibilities of those involved in content creation and management, including users in some production models; within organizations, this third way of seeing offers a managerial perspective; across organizations it incorporates the interests of partners and clients (think, here, of a supply chain)” (Hart-Davidson, 2010).

Conclusion

These are all skills in which technical communicators are masters.  Many organizations have CM issues, and many organizations have technical communicators who are not being leveraged to help with the organization’s CM.  If they have the skills to successfully manage content,  and they know how to use the CM tools that are available, why aren’t more organizations seeing technical communicators for the value they can provide them in regards to CM? Perhaps technical communicators are the hidden gem we’ve been looking for.

Posted on November 3, 2018, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Lisa,

    I have been fortunate that the water heater manufacturer I worked for as technical writer right out of college already had content management well under control before I came along. It did evolve and change as I worked there, and I am sure well after I left, but reading the chapter on content management, as well as your post here, I am surely thankful that was the case. I can’t imagine how unorganized and messy it would be to work for a company that had no organization to their mounds of data.

    Early in my career I was asked to do a project for a local bank with several branches. They were having me revise and renew their policies and procedures manuals. Each week I would receive this mess of PAPER files that I had to type into the computer in order to make their files electronic. That was in 2001. Imagine a bank today that has all of their policies and procedures written up on a type-writer! Haha. It was an experience for sure!

    Rebecca

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