If you have a typical family, none of the people gathered around your Thanksgiving table are going to want to hear about how thankful you are for any of the developments in our industry that have made your job easier – but in the event that you are asked to share your thoughts prior to your company’s pre-Thanksgiving potluck, feel free to use any (or all) of the following things that we at JANA are thankful for.
Do you remember the pain of having to try to make your documents look nice (and look the same as your other documents) using desktop publishing software? Not fondly, we bet. The ability to separate your content from the format is the gift that keeps on giving, and the ease of data development and entry in a basic, structured environment saves so much time and effort.
Well thought-out data models
Corporations and institutions that have invested time and effort into building and improving technical data specs over the last few decades definitely deserve our thanks. IBM (DITA), ASD (S1000D, STE), ATA (iSpec) and others have not only built these data structures to ease the pain of data development and management, but made them accessible to the masses as well. Big ups.
Powerful, flexible development and publishing tools
If you’re working with structured content (i.e., XML) you have a lot of options for creation, management and delivery of your content. Because XML is an open standard you can utilize best of breed components that will likely work with each other at a sub-document level and allow you to deliver print, PDF and HTML5. This reduces creation and translation costs while also reducing your time to market. Most importantly, it allows you to improve customer satisfaction by delivering the right content to the right consumers when, how and where they want it.
Conferences, forums, webinars and blogs
How great is it to meet other people who are in the same boat as you, working on the same types of projects? Even if you completely avoid the conference vendor tables (SHAME!) you can learn so much being around and engaging with your industry peers. Regional and local forums can also be a great place to interact with other tech writers and managers, often times without a vendor hall and sometimes with no salespeople around at all! And, if all that weren’t great enough, people throughout the techcomm industry are tripping over themselves to share and post great information via their webinars and blogs. How did anyone ever get anything done before the Internet?
Renewed focus on the end user
One seemingly unintended (positive) consequence of the industry’s move to structured data is the ability to focus on the end user and continually expand the ways that they are able to view your content. There are more ways than ever to get your content in front of the people who want (or need) it, and that increased availability comes full circle when you are the end user of another company’s content.
One big aspect of the end user experience is accessibility, and the tectonic shift that has taken place in the mobile realm over the past few years has made it easier than ever to access massive amounts of data by pulling a device out of your pocket. Someone somewhere in the world needs the content that you are developing, and it should make you feel good to know that they can access it whenever and wherever they need to.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to be thankful for one or more of the items on this list, JANA can help. We offer a number of services geared toward helping companies evaluate and improve their technical documentation systems and processes. So if you see something on our list that you’d like to be thankful for this time next year, please give us a call.
Related janacorp.com Blog Entries:
Eight New Year’s Resolutions for Technical Information Managers
A Metadata Primer (and why you should care)
The Digital Disruption of Technical Publications
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