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Integrated Technical Communications: A Map to Better Understanding

TechWhirl WebsiteTechWhirl Website United StatesPosts: 396 admin
edited September 2013 via Wordpress in Customer Experience Management
imageIntegrated Technical Communications: A Map to Better Understanding

Technical communications overlaps with all the other fields involved in the software development lifecycle and often our job objectives dovetail with the business analysts, interaction designers, software architects, product managers, marketing specialists, and so on. Integrated Technical Communications (ITC) defines an approach that supports the business side as well as the technical side of product development. Professionals focused on these disciplines can create ITC Mall Maps to increase visibility to key audiences and demonstrate strategic value to the organization.

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  • Gurpreet SinghGurpreet Singh Posts: 1
    via Wordpress
    Nice one Anna!

    I'm looking forward to the mall map for the chosen one (aka Technical Writers).

  • Andrew BrookeAndrew Brooke Posts: 1
    via Wordpress
    Awesome article Anna! It is indeed one of the greatest ironies of our profession that we are unable to clearly define what we do. Part of the problem is that so many of us do so many different things. "Technical writer" is a misnomer, because we actually strive to make things *less* technical.

    I love the idea of a mall map - perhaps it should have a big dot on it to indicate: You are here,

    In addition to a visual aid, our profession could use a catchy slogan: here are some to mull over:
    * Technical communicators: making sense out of nonsense.
    * Simplify. Clarify. De-mystify. Be a Technical Communicator.
    * Technical communicators: translating machine information for humans for over 100 years.
    * Technical communicators: we move information forward.
  • Ray GallonRay Gallon United StatesPosts: 3
    via Wordpress
    Anna, great article, right on the money. I like the mall map analogy, sounds like something we should be working on collectively!
  • Pamela AllisonPamela Allison Posts: 1
    via Wordpress
    Wow Anna! Very impressive article!
  • Thanks for the kudos everyone.

    Andrew, thanks for the slogans - a good start. Plus the idea of the "you are here" arrow. Exactly what I'm shooting for. Anyone entering the field as a young'n or someone who is switching careers can bring past experience with them. A "you are here" arrow is most definitely a feature we will use on the map. Also, the store directory. How do we set that up? What are the categories. If you look at mall maps, many of them filter info, not only by category, but also alphabetically. They also list services that the malls offer. Every single element of a mall map applies here, especially the you are here arrow.

    Ray, I would love to know what your mall map looks like - Ray is an uber technical communicator and tech comm professor - I would love to see your mall map. My next steps are to start interviewing and collecting data. This can't be done in a vacuum. Fun project! Looking forward to seeing where it goes.
  • PrasenjitPrasenjit Posts: 2
    via Wordpress
    My two cents and I may not be right; but it appears to be working at our organisation.

    First, sell technical communications as a service. (and associated KPIs of course - clients love to get that assurance)

    The service is comprised of several sub-units (you can call them stores in your analogy)

    Each service unit has its individual sub-units with different pricing (and yes, to take the mall analogy further, differential pricing by volumes, peak and off-peak times etc. also exist for our services)

    These individual service units deliver different output. Each output type becomes our showcase - a sort of shop front to show what you get from each service type, thus offering a pick and choose selection for the organisation.

    And yes, we are a technical communication service. I would be happy to collaborate in a formal set up and detail how we have done this and showed value to the management. In fact, the approach has got us higher visibility and well, we do not crib anymore...people now perceive value, since everything is defined in monetary units.
  • via Wordpress
    Hello Ms. Parker-Richards,

    Thank you for the timely article, "Integrated Technical Communications - a Map to Better Understanding", written 1/18/12 and posted at TechWhirl: http://tinyurl.com/6mtsu8p. I look forward to seeing this map evolve, providing a clearer explanation to me and those for whom I must provide a definition about technical communication. I do have a question about one statement in particular within the article. A bit of background first to help clarify.

    I've been an Instructional Designer for many years, officially (i.e., with a graduate degree) since 2002. My work has always involved writing courseware, sequencing training, and facilitating classes. Three years ago I began (again) to contract (freelance) and have been hired to create instructional videos for a few different clients using Camtasia Studio, PowerPoint, and Audacity. The work has included, as is often the case with techcomm, researching, writing, script writing, narration, synchronization, and production.

    But...it doesn't always involve a software development cycle...or even software at all. Thus, my question about this statement (next-to-last paragraph under the main heading).
    "Technical communications overlaps with all the other fields involved in the software development lifecycle and often our job objectives dovetail with the business analysts, interaction designers, software architects, product managers, marketing specialists, and so on."

    I'm inferring from this that TC only relates to software development. Is this true?

    Before I recently had my business cards created, I looked at STC.org's definition (http://tinyurl.com/5tqqpgc), and contacted my SIG's president to see if I would be misleading people if I used Technical Communicator as a title. I described what I do and what I don't do (e.g., coding kinds of work). He stated in strong terms that I am definitely a technical communicator.

    My business cards have been created...but I'm still struggling with this concept, and that statement in the article made me begin to wonder again.

    Thanks for any light you can shed on this...and apologies for the length of this post.
  • Becky, thank-you for pointing out this important aspect of the Technical Communications definition. Much appreciated.

    In my opinion, NO, technical communication most definitely does not only apply to software. You raise a good point about how I positioned my article - it was a bit misleading. When it comes to technical communications, the world I understand best is software development, because that's my area of expertise, so that's what I wrote about.

    However, as a technical communications evangelist, I want to clarify for the audiences specified in the article--students and executives--that technical communications is the concept of making complex concepts easier to understand using a variety of communications strategies and tools. So it's not just technology. This is where we need to be clear about what we mean by "technical" because it can apply to all sorts of topics that sit outside of hardware and software. We need to address this in the ITC Mall Map... hmm, but how?

    Here's another question we need to answer - What do we mean by "technical" when we say Technical Communications? What are some of our other verticals besides hardware and software?
  • via Wordpress
    So clever, "making sense out of nonsense." Not sure we could actually put it on a business card, but wouldn't it be cute with a catchy little tune :-)
  • [Deleted User][Deleted User] Posts: 0
    via Wordpress
    Great article, Anna. As the trouble-maker in the #techcomm industry famous for lines like the one Ankur retweeted (“RT @ankurjain8: Tech Communicators haven’t been known to lead the way. I think it’s the time for that to change. @scottabel #LavaCon,”) I can say with confidence that you are spot on. We need to redefine and reshape ourselves. And, we need tools, techniques, and some creative thinking to get us we we need to go.

    That said, Jack Molisani and I have been challenging technical communicators to think differently for some time now. Our recent article in Intercom spells out part of the problem (http://intercom.stc.org/2012/03/tech-comm-2-0-reinventing-our-relevance-in-the-2000s/) but due to lack of space and editors who are sensitive to what we'd really want to say, the article only touches on the tip of the iceberg.

    Karen McGrane, a content strategist who was interviewed at an event I hosted at PayPal eBay UK (Content Strategy Applied 2012) responded to a question from an audience member about something tangentially relate to our problem. When asked about the cause and solutions for problems we all know shouldn't exist (but do) she basically said, it's a generational problem. We won't be talking about this in 10-20 years. We will be doing it the way we talk about now, but it will be the way things are done. I think this line of thinking will be true of technical communication as well, especially as new educators (and older ones with willingness to explore fresh ideas and new approaches) start teaching new techcommers the skill set the need to work in today's always on, socially-enabled, dynamic content driven world. There are many things that will be changing in our field, but I doubt that it (most of the field) will change for some time. Sure, we need to -- and yes, I want it to -- but I don't believe that it will.

    As researchers at Aberdeen call them, the "laggards" will be around for some time, dragging their heels and wishing for a world that no loner exists, telling people who are trying to change things why we can't do it that way -- usually because "they've never done it that way" or some regurgitation of the notion that there's reason not to change.

    What is certain is that there is a new field of technical communication pros (of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels) reshaping what techcomm will look like in the future. I'm hopeful more of our ilk will jump inn the train and come along for the ride, sooner, rather than later.

    Keep up the good work thinking outside the box.
  • B.J. SmithB.J. Smith Posts: 3
    via Wordpress
    Anna, this certainly is thought-provoking.

    I can see how the mall map idea might be useful for thinking about the many aspects of technical communications in order to develop a message. It is more difficult to see how the metaphor will be used to deliver the message. (Possibly because I detest shopping so much, I have some reservations.)

    Diagramming is one thing; persuading the audience that the diagram is worth examining and understanding may be the bigger challenge.

    Looking forward to seeing how this evolves...
  • RioRio Posts: 1
    via Wordpress

    Having read this in class, I am glad you've taken the time to illustrate a solution to tackling the underlying uncertainty regarding the overall merit of this emerging profession. While I've likened the visual interpretation of the technical writer to website mapping, the ITC Mall Directory works more efficiently to encompass several key questions of the profession regarding:

    1) Direction
    2) Multi-facted skill entry
    3) Independent end user experience

    I agree with B.J. Smith in that having to persuade the higher ups in examining the diagram in the first place may prove to be the more difficult part. Though the field remains to be in its infant stages, I can foresee leaps and bounds in the coming years with the emergence of highly technical information systems and the use of newer and more competitive hardware/software.
  • ChantelChantel Posts: 1
    via Wordpress
    Spread the word! Tech Comm rocks!
    I love the mall map and the potential it shows for technical writers. When you showed us, I was relieved to have a nice visual– it helped me understand the profession and the many different possibilities it holds for us. Nice one!
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