Technical writers (TWs) play a critical role in software product development, but they constitute to be the minority workforce of any organization. Although a not-so-defined policy of the IT industry says that the accepted ratio of headcount between developers to technical writers is 9:1, the reality is quite different. With big organizations downsizing due to the pandemic, and with the axe most often falling on the TW headcount, the number of TWs are dwindling in most organizations. Those writers who survive the brunt, before they could even breathe a sigh of relief, find themselves filling the gaps left by their writer friends. Then starts their journey of multi-tasking between projects to create documentation!
If you are in such a situation, and find yourself overwhelmed, try a few of the tips given here to save a breath or two at work.
Most of the time the volume of tasks to be accomplished in a day weighs you down mentally. Do not think of the pending tasks or the tasks to be accomplished when you leave home for work. Enjoy the journey from home to your workplace. At the office, log in to your workstation and get started with the easiest or the smallest task first. As you accomplish tasks after task, you build your confidence, and the momentum picks up!
The tasks assigned by a development engineer will be of high priority, but you need to weigh the priority of the tasks assigned to you. For example, tasks that impact the customer such as a query or a reported defect is of utmost priority. A documentation task for an upcoming release is of lower priority than a customer issue. Review the list of tasks on a daily basis to pick out the critical ones to be addressed.
Make sure that you set the right expectation with your development team about what you require in terms of preparatory notes for creating content for a feature. These can be design documents or mockups. You can also recommend for a process that the development team and the TW can adopt for sharing information. For example, if your company has implemented the Agile methodology, you can decide to either align with the development sprints or negotiate with them to deliver content drafts on alternate sprints. Additionally, do make the Management aware of your multiple projects and the constraints that you have.
TWs are often constrained by and burdened with impromptu requests from the development team or other cross functional teams. You need to be professional in handling such requests. Sometimes, such requests help you establish your credibility and give you an edge over others. Therefore, if you have to work on such tasks, take up the requests that can be delivered within 15-20 minutes, and only those that don’t block your project delivery.
It is always wise for a TW to be aligned with the same process that the development team is using. Whether it is Agile or Waterfall method, align your work with their process and ensure that your deliveries for the project are logged and tracked using the required tool.
One of the complex and time consuming methods of getting the technical reviews of the content is the Table-Top review process. Here the stakeholders meet in a room and review the content collectively leaving the TW to take notes of the changes suggested. This can be time consuming if you are doing the same for more than two projects. You can discourage such review methods and try to adopt tools such as Collaborator for review purposes.
Start content creation only when you have all the required information to get started. Do not start multiple tasks parallelly and then leave them half done. It takes more time to reset your mind and continue working on the half-done tasks after a gap of time.
Romi Ganguly, Manager Technical Writing Broadcom Technologies. She holds a degree in Master of Science in Electronics. She is a trained classical singer, and prefers to listen to music more and also read books.