Top 10 reasons for tech writers and trainers to collaborate

Technical writers can and should collaborate with trainers to offer customers a unified and cost-effective learning experience. Here are eight specific reasons why they should collaborate – and two why they cannot afford not to do it:

  1. Same goal: Ensure that customers can set up and operate the product efficiently, effectively and confidently.
  2. Same audience:  Customers, more specifically users of the product (who, in a corporate setting, may have made the decision to use it or not).
  3. Same demands by that audience: Fill a knowledge gap, whether it’s large or small, conceptual or practical.
  4. Similar deliverables: Conceptual and instructional/procedural information, possibly in different formats, such as training slides or handouts, user manuals or online help.
  5. Cost-effective deliverables: Share text and images, use cases and examples.
  6. Better coverage: Writers and trainers see the product and its users from different angle and can help avoid professional myopia.
  7. Beneficial reviews: Writers and trainers who review each others work also learn about their own deliverables.
  8. Satisfied customers: A unified learning experience increases user confidence, satisfaction with and trust in the product.

Companies where writers do not collaborate with trainers run a considerable risk:

  1. Confused customers: Incoherent or even contradicting messages in documentation and training materials confuse and alienate users.
  2. Lost business, potentially in three ways:
    • Bad reputation and bad impressions keep prospects from buying.
    • Bad learning experience keeps customers from continuing or returning to the product.
    • If you’re really big, external companies can take a bite out of your training or manual business.  This is harder to replicate and hence less likely if you offer one seamless learning experience.

Your turn

Have you considered or tried to collaborate with training? Has it been worthwhile? Can this be a first practical step towards content strategy? Please leave a comment.

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9 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Learn Logic, Technical Comms. Technical Comms said: kaiweber: Top 10 reasons for tech writers and trainers to collaborate http://bit.ly/dbgjI4 […]

  2. Actually, I think educators as a whole have more to learn from technical writers than vice-versa. Clear presentation of materials is not a skill that teachers & lecturers are specifically trained in, which results in some terrible handouts (and yes, they usually are documents on paper which are handed out).

    In terms of lost business, I couldn’t agree more – the first requisite for deciding to buy a product is to know what it does, and that’s where tech writers and trainers should collaborate most.

    • Thanks, Zoe. Indeed, complementary skills are another major factor to consider! Maybe technical writers could in turn learn from educators about how people learn and how to order procedures?

  3. Cooperation with the training department was discussed last week in Vienne (Austria) during JoAnn Hackos’ MINIMALIST workshop. It is an essential part of the “Defining your audience” process. Scheduled workshops:
    http://www.comtech-serv.com/workshops/minimalism.shtml

    • Thanks, Marie-L.

      If both departments, training and documentation, can agree on common methods and standards, such as minimalism, I’m sure you can reap a lot of benefits.

      Incidentally, DITA 1.2, approved today, might also help thanks to its learning specialisation.

  4. Agreed Kai. The deliverables may be different but the core aim is the same. A lot depends on where the trainers and tech writers sit within the organisation though. We are lucky as we are part of the same team so have a lot of interaction between us.

    • Thanks, Colum. Yes, you’re totally right, collaboration can use some organizational support.

      I’ve found that the training team often is part of the implementation department, while documentation was part of R&D. The resulting silo mentality is hard to overcome.

  5. I agree with all you say. Excellent ideas. I would also say take a step further and make sure that your efforts and the trainer’s efforts are collaborative, not just cooperative, and that the results are complementary from the client perspective. The offerings should be an array of complementary resources for the client (the unified experience you talk about). Develop a plan that is based on sound instructional design that includes deliverables for both documentation and instructor training.

    • Thanks, Kay, for taking my ideas towards an actual implementation. I think the careful mapping out of complementary resources for a unified experience makes a lot of sense.

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