Historically, technical writers worked with one product from start to finish. That meant beginning with an outline for the product or piece of equipment, writing the content, and then formatting it for delivery.
In some industries, technical communication is undergoing a shift. This change resembles more of a manufacturing model. For example, a tech writer might be responsible for writing a portion of a manual, and may have no input in the rest of the manual or the end product that goes to consumers. This assembly-line approach requires some adaptation, with benefits and drawbacks.
Collaborative environments offer companies and workers several benefits:
- Encourages information sharing
- Sharing knowledge leads to more informed problem solving
- With shared goals in place, a team can produce more output
One drawback of collaborative technical writing is that the information and presentation must be consistent across all writers, which isn’t always easy to manage. It requires strict adherence to style guides, as well as streamlined writing to avoid words or phrases that stand out in the document, which can jar the reader and make a document less cohesive.
Another drawback is setting up a successful collaborative environment. This requires a company to value collaboration over competition. A company must also let employees know their ideas and opinions count. Fundamentals of trust and open communication have to be fostered to promote a collaborative environment. Not all companies have this subculture in place for a successful transition to collaborative working and technical writing.
What Do You Think?
What is your opinion of a collaborative approach to technical writing? Is this a good thing? Going in the wrong direction? Too challenging?
Consider reading the article in TechWhirl called “The Foundation of Successful Collaboration” by Greg Larson, who delves into the topic further.