The STC’s annual Technical Communications Summit is always among the year’s most rewarding and interesting professional events. The 2015 Summit in Columbus, OH last month was no exception. The Information Mapping team was there, working and playing hard as sponsors, speakers and exhibitors at the conference.
The good news: A great high-energy Summit
We’re happy to report that the technical communications field is in excellent health and growing nicely. In addition to the old friends we see each year, we had the pleasure of meeting many first-time Summit attendees, young professionals who are still in degree programs or working at their first “real” jobs. These newcomers are enthusiastic about their careers and eager to absorb all the knowledge they can. 2015 is a great time to be a technical communicator, and this was reflected in the high-energy, upbeat atmosphere of this year’s Summit.
The bad news: Decreasing input from end users
But the news from the Summit isn’t all good. Far too many attendees told us of their frustration at the increasingly rapid pace of their work, which no longer allows them to seek input or feedback from the end users of the content they create. They complained of tighter deadlines with no time for interviews or revisions, rapidly shifting project priorities, managers who claim their employees are too busy to provide feedback, and lack of formal processes for user review.
For the record, the attendees who complained weren’t novices: most were industry veterans with many years’ experience. They all acknowledged the realities of today’s business environment but were troubled by the impact on quality that results when end users are excluded from the document development process.
You can’t create high quality documentation without user input
Every day, in our work with clients around the world, we see the errors and inefficiencies that result when writers don’t—or can’t—pay sufficient attention to users’ requirements. Ignoring the need for user input at critical stages of the development process won’t save your organization time and money: it’s far more likely to add to operating costs. In today’s business environment performance problems caused by poor communication can quickly lead to increased risk and loss of competitive advantage. If your organization has begun excluding end users from the development process, it’s time to get them to stop.