The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.
~ Sydney J Harris
The power of effective communication in helping effectiveness—personal and professional—is an established fact. In this post, we look specifically at technical writing as a communication speciality and why it is so important to all people dealing with technology.
Conventional wisdom says that technical writing is a specialised vocation and is best left to the chosen few who are called technical writers. Typically, the technical writers create manuals, online help, case studies, white papers, demos, tutorials, knowledge bases, presentations, and the like to support the solution.
However, this narrow definition of technical writing is limiting and excludes a whole lot of other technical communication (formal and informal) that takes place within an organization.
Consider the lifecycle of any technical project. It involves exchange of technical and functional information:
- The analysts must be able to translate user requirements into precise functional requirements so that the technical architects can design an effective system.
- The technical architects must communicate the technical design effectively to the engineering team so that they can build the solution correctly.
- The engineering team must describe what they have done precisely so that others can later maintain or enhance the solution.
- The managers must interface with the client team on a variety of technical and non-technical issues.
- and the list goes on…
And all this is after the project has been won. Even before that, the sales team must communicate the client’s requirements to the technical team which then puts together a proposal. The proposal must delineate what is required and what will be done in precise terms, otherwise it could later lead to disputes.
We are not even talking of the hundreds of emails that fly around with queries, clarifications, and counter-clarifications! 🙂
The success of the project depends on each stakeholder communicating effectively! Otherwise, we may end up in a situation similar to that depicted in the famous project management cartoon shown below.
Thus, every stakeholder in the project needs to and must develop effective technical writing skills. This will enable them to communicate effectively using the written word; clearly, concisely, and accurately.
The next few blog entries will deal with tips for writing effectively. Watch this space!