Many technical authors pride themselves on staying above the political fray —avoiding office politics and instead focusing on producing excellent content. But the most effective technical communicators and managers embrace the organizational complexities.
When management doesn’t know anything about tech comm, technical authors must manage “up.” Leading a successful technical communication effort requires close attention to the organizational priorities and aligning tech comm work with those priorities.
In this keynote presentation, Sarah O’Keefe discusses how technical communication can become more influential within an organization.
Sebastian Göttel is Sales Director at SCHEMA. He studied computer science at the university Erlangen-Nürnberg and Bordeaux. He has used his expert knowledge for component-based authoring, single source publishing and translation management at SCHEMA since 1998 and as a member of the board there since 2005. He has accompanied XML- and DITA-based projects at Philips Healthcare, Roche Diagnostics, Bosch Security Systems, Boehringer Ingelheim, Novartis and many more as consultant and key account manager.
One of the major advantages of DITA and XML lies in automating layout. One of the major challenges of deploying DITA and XML lies in automating layout.
Automating layout is a tedious task performed by some technically gifted persons. But what if there are dozens, even hundreds of different layouts? Then automating layout becomes expensive and only available to large-scale projects. Rolling out structured authoring to areas with such layout requirements is virtually impossible.
What if the required layout cannot be fully automated? Then performance and security gains on the authoring side may be eaten up by finetuning the generated output. This might be a show stopper on an otherwise worthwhile move to DITA and XML content management.
In this presentation Sebastian Göttel explains how SCHEMA tries to tackle the challenge by allowing for automating layout without scripting or repeatedly fine tuning. Layout automation and flexibility do not have to be in contradiction!
Vikram Verma is a Product Manager at Adobe Systems, India where he manages the Technical Communication line of products. He is responsible for product strategy and roadmap, partner ecosystem management and customer relationships.
Prior to Adobe, he worked as a strategy consultant at Religare Enterprises, where he led product management and analytics initiatives for Religare businesses. Earlier, he worked at Pramerica Mutual Fund , where he was responsible for developing quantitative stock investment models. He also worked as a software engineer at Samsung Electronics, India. He has an MBA from Indian School of Business and an Integrated M.Tech in Mathematics & Computing from IIT Delhi.
This session describes the options available in DITA for variable text and variant text. Participants will learn how the DITA constructs are used in place of complex schemes with multiple condition tags in unstructured tools.
Charlotte Branth Claussen shares her own experience
Are you not sure if you’re ready to go to a conference?
Are you not sure if TCUK is the best choice for you?
– I’d say go!! And here’s why:
You don’t need the background knowledge of a senior
You might find that some subjects are presented on a level that’s too advanced for you. That’s OK. See it as inspiration on what to read up on when you get home. At the same time, given the diverse backgrounds of technical writers, you might experience that you have knowledge that is interesting for others.
When I attended my first TCUK, the specialist theme “anything but text” touched on theory I knew very well from my university education in art history and cognition. On the other hand, I was lost when hearing about DITA 2.0 when I still had no idea what DITA was. That was perfectly OK. In a coffee break, I said out loud that I had no idea what DITA was all about, admitted that I was confused about all the talk of encoding, standards and software applications. Frankly, I’m one of those who see programming skills as a necessary evil, so I’m glad I opened my mouth. I went home with a basic understanding of the essence of DITA, ready to explore a field I would have otherwise ignored.
TCUK has a good balance of focus and diversity
I find it inspiring that TCUK each year has a specialist theme. It gives you the opportunity to explore different angles on a common theme and, indirectly, on technical writing in general. With a common theme, different approaches tend to become clearer.
Keynote speakers are carefully selected to offer you insights from a well-known insider in the field, an intriguing story, and input from a related field.
Sessions and workshops are selected by quality, and fit with the specialist theme and diversity of the programme in general.
TCUK makes you feel welcome
The conference is a reasonable size, participants stay at the conference hotel, and the conference is evidently a not-for-profit event with the volunteer spirit showing. No need to be a networking genius – you will soon find yourself involved in discussions or informal chats. TCUK has a uniquely intimate atmosphere and is populated by technical communicators who are passionate about their field. When I attended TCUK for the first time I was not just accepted; I was welcomed and offered help and encouragement.
Nigel is the Global Chief of Technical Data Services as well as the Deputy Head of Engineering for Services for Civil and has worked for Rolls-Royce since December 1997.
Prior to joining Rolls-Royce Nigel spent 24 years with the MOD (Army – REME) supporting engineering requirements globally with a specialisation in heavy armour.
Nigel has a MSc in Project Management from Manchester University and also has Chartered Management and Fellow status from the Chartered Management Institute as well as full membership of the Institute of Engineering & Technology and the Royal Aeronautical Society.
David Farbey is an experienced technical communicator, a lecturer in technical communication, and a popular speaker at professional events in the UK, Europe, and the USA. As well as technical writing and editing in general, David’s interests include content strategy, information design, and the management of technical communication, particularly in the context of agile software development. David blogs on these and related topics at http://www.marginalnotes.co.uk.
David is a Council Member and Fellow of the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators (ISTC), and teaches (part-time) on the distance-learning MA Professional Communication programme at Sheffield Hallam University (SHU). This is David’s second year as chair of Technical Communication UK.
Business West working with their IT partners i2i, have built upon their combined expertise in assisting companies to export and tackle the bureaucracy and paperwork associated with exporting. The platform creates the myriad of documents required via a single entry point and then enables these to be shared both up and down the supply chain.
The resulting award winning platform www.acorninteractive.co.uk is now assisting exporters across the globe and enables them to engage with a raft of related export services.
The team will outline how they identified the market opportunity, scoped and developed the technology and are now taking this innovative solution to the end users.
James is Commercial Director at Business West, one of the most influential business leadership organisations in the UK representing over 16,000 businesses in the South West. Companies can benefit from the range of information, advice, networking events and International Trade support from Business West.
James is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and has an MBA from Bath University, in addition to his export activities, he operates a portfolio of Enterprise Centres across the South West and is Chairman of Tetricus Science Park.
Penny is Managing Director of I2I Ltd, based in Shepton Mallet. Penny has spent the past 27 years promoting the use of technology to enable exporters to comply with regulations when shipping their products outside the UK. Understanding the demands on each individual organisation is key to providing a commercially beneficial service.
Export compliance is moving online, so our technical solutions provide online subscription services. Penny’s role is to promote these using the wide range of online tools available including, web sites, eNewsletters, blogging, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Promoting a message suggesting people change the way they work is challenging but necessary to enable them to comply in a changing world.
This keynote presentation will describe the Common Technical Data Solution being introduced at Rolls-Royce. The aim of this plan is to optimize the development of technical publications across different business functions, and to coordinate the work of the technical authors involved in writing them. This promises to be a fascinating and exciting insight into technical communication on a grand scale.
Ian McGill is an Engineering Systems Specialist in the Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) business at Rolls-Royce, responsible for the IT systems used by the MRO Engineers and in particular those relating to Technical Publications. He has over 15 years’ experience in the MRO environment, working both within the MRO facilities and also in-service with the Operators.
The MRO network is the majority consumer of the Technical Publications produced by Rolls-Royce, but is also a sub-function of the business that creates them. Therefore, Ian’s role puts him in the ideal position to drive significant improvements to the Rolls-Royce Technical Publications.
Steve Foster is a Business Improvement and Transformation Manager at Rolls-Royce, Civil Engines in Derby, where he has worked since 1981. Steve started his career after qualifying as a Technical Illustrator and has been involved in all aspects of technical publication creation, delivery and use. He is currently working on a number of improvement projects including the implementation of the new Rolls-Royce Global Technical Publication Solution and the Rolls-Royce Global Customer Portal.
In his spare time Steve enjoys building one off café racer motorcycles and likes to relax fly fishing on his local river.
Sarah O’Keefe is the founder of Scriptorium Publishing (www.scriptorium.com) and a content strategy consultant. Sarah’s focus is how to use technical content to solve business problems; she is especially interested in how new technologies can streamline publishing workflows to achieve strategic goals. Her latest book is Content Strategy 101: Transform Technical Content into a Business Asset.
Sarah speaks fluent German, is a voracious reader, and enjoys swimming, kayaking, and other water sports along with knitting and college basketball. She has strong aversions to raw tomatoes, eggplant, and checked baggage.
The average consumer doesn’t read manuals any more; even the most complicated device they get (such as a smartphone) will be expected to explain itself, not through words, but through affordances. (The classic example of an affordance is a door handle; but those can be done wrong too – watch how many doors have a u-shaped handle built in, yet are meant to be pushed.)
That’s partly because people don’t want to read before getting to play with their devices (play being a good thing; we learn about things through play), but also because we grew so used over the years to badly translated manuals that weren’t in Chinese but weren’t in English either. People puzzled it out.
So what is left for technical writing? Is it only for those spaces where people have to describe fiendishly complex processes occurring within banks, or for dismantling aircraft? Even the latter will be transformed by devices such as Google Glass, which might show you which item to unbolt first when you’re taking something apart, or what not to touch.
Technical writing – a field in which I once considered a job – is going to have to evolve in the consumer space to become something akin to design. When people don’t want writing, they’ll still want guidance, but in a more subtle form than it ever was before, because the devices we’re using are more complex – in terms of what they can do – than before. (Consider the tree of possibilities when using the iPhone’s Settings app, which has scores of possible paths, each of which will have an effect.)
If it’s not called “writing”, what will it be? That’s a puzzle for the profession. All I’m sure of is that the change is coming.
Charles Arthur is technology editor on The Guardian, where he has been since 2005. He co-founded the Free Our Data campaign, which aimed to get government data such as mapping and Treasury data made available for free to the public – and was effective with the release of large amounts of Ordnance Survey data in mid-2010.
Before that he worked at The Independent from 1994 to 2004; before that, at New Scientist, Business magazine and Computer Weekly.
What does it take to create great visual content to support technical documentation, reference and other content? Do you have to be a graphic designer or artist to make effective content? Believe it or not, it’s not all about you and your creations. It’s actually about everyone else and getting their feedback.
In this workshop, you learn and practice a few ideas to help you keep your design looking professional and useful. We’re will run a design review on work that you create and revise in the session. Believe it or not, at least half of good visual design isn’t about you or what you create it’s about the feedback you get.
We’ll layout ground rules for a design critique session and then work through suggestions for getting the most meaning out of the feedback, without the ‘I just don’t like it.’ We’ll practice providing feedback on visual elements and help you overcome the ‘But I don’t know anything about that!’ for yourself and those reviewing your work.
So while you may not be an expert in visual design and would prefer to ‘just work with words’ come explore with us how you can do more with a little feedback.
So, your organisation regularly churns out bids for technical equipment and services and your boss wants you to set up a team of specialist communicators to support this work. How do you decide what that team should look like? How do you plan, launch, develop, fine tune and finally manage that team in “steady state”?
In this session Fi will present several approaches to this challenge in large and complex organisations. She will illustrate these approaches with examples based on her experience building teams to support business and technical communications in the professional services, IT and telecommunications, and engineering sectors.
Fi is a technical communicator with over 15 years’ experience designing, commissioning and producing material for business communications, end user support, sales and marketing, tendering and training. She wrote her first bid back in 1989 and today she is the principal proposal author at Babcock Defence Systems Technology, where she is busy developing a new team to support the production of bid submissions for the UK, Canada and Australia. In her spare time she translates technical texts from French into English and occasionally sails away from the office desk into the big blue yonder.
Is social media the place for “over the gate” discussion
In order to meet the challenges of feeding an ever growing population the farming sector needs to use innovative ways of getting in touch with each other and also to access general knowledge that will underpin and enhance existing indigenous knowledge. Whilst access to high speed broadband is challenging in rural areas the opportunities to engage in a digital dialogue remain. Conversation and knowledge exchange is driven by the demand for information and skills within a context of ” not knowing what you do not know.” Simple information transfer can be delivered through SMS texting and websites but this is a broad brush approach and does not afford the information seeker to modify or enhance the information provided. Social media provides the opportunity for greater person to person interaction and upscaling of a sector.
Louise Manning, PhD, is a senior lecturer in Food Production Management at the Royal Agricultural University.
She has worked with the food supply chain in the area of sustainability for over twenty five years addressing food safety, quality assurance, animal welfare, financial and business performance, ethical issues and environmental and conservation management. Her research has been published in many peer reviewed journals. Louise is responsible for the development and implementation of the Integrated Farm Management strategy on the land farmed by the RAU. Louise is also responsible for the translation and knowledge exchange strategy for the Royal Agricultural University with specific emphasis on social media, supply chain interaction and the development of a global knowledge network.
Whatever the next step might be for your career, leadership will become increasingly important. Whether you are moving into a management role for the first time, have been managing for some years, or are looking for ideas about how to increase the influence and development of technical communication in your business, it is leadership that will protect you, and leadership that will open up new opportunities.
This presentation will make the case for focussing your energies and learning on developing your leadership habits, and will demonstrate what this means in the context of technical communication.
Paul has been consulting, selling, managing and leading in technical communication for nearly 20 years. He established 3di in 2002 to combine his two areas of professional passion: his belief in the value of well-designed technical information and making it easier to deliver multi-lingual versions of products to new markets. In a volunteer capacity, Paul is also currently the President of the ISTC, and led the revival of the Technical Communication UK conference. Over the years he has met and worked with hundreds of technical communication teams and individuals, and seen the impact and legacy of a wide range of management and leadership practices.
Bristol is one of six Science Cities in England. The designation is there to attract inward investment, and encourage organic growth, in the technology and science sector. The challenge for Science City Bristol Limited is how to communicate with a disparate audience of business people, investors (both local and international), academics, funders and support organisations. This session will look at the approaches SCB is taking to try and reach these sectors and what success it is having. These include the use of social media, newsletters, networking events, video, websites, conferences and an innovative cluster map of technology-related businesses.
Alastair is the Science City Bristol Director. He is responsible for promoting the Bath and Bristol region as a great place to start and grow a science and technology businesses. He engages with many other organisations in the West of England region. Alastair previously held the post of Network Director at Science City Bristol. He has a science degree from Oxford and an MBA from Cranfield. Following an early career in production engineering, he became a management consultant, specialising in business transformation. He has advised many large, and small, businesses over the years, as well as starting up three businesses himself.
Marilyn Heron and Nick Tonge give an insight into their varied roles at Pace plc, showing how these have extended beyond that of the traditional author. Using examples of their work in consumer electronics for the Americas market, they describe:
How they became responsible for designing the labelling on products and cartons. This led to:
input into product design
increased understanding of the manufacturing processes
discussions with suppliers
research into labels and materials
How they took over the design of carton artwork
How their typical authoring tasks changed, moving away from user manuals, words and paper.
Marilyn Heron, BSc, MISTC has been a technical author for 28 years, over 20 of them at Pace plc. Her role has changed significantly, as the company has grown and technology has changed. Before that she was a research engineer in the electronics and aerospace industries, including in Germany. At Pace she designed and implemented their interactive service manuals, based on an idea she got at an ISTC conference. She gave a presentation about these manuals at the conference several years ago. She has been involved in carton-artwork design for about four years and in labelling for two years.
Nick Tonge, BSc, MISTC has been a technical author at Pace for nine years. Before that he spent five years writing on-line help for medical software after starting his authoring career writing maintenance manuals for compressed air systems. Shortly after his arrival at Pace he had to unexpectedly take on responsibility for the company’s labelling requirements. The way that Pace specifies labels has changed significantly over time and Nick has overseen these changes and trained up additional staff. He is Pace’s labelling expert, at the same time still doing traditional authoring work and carton-artwork design.
Our consumers’ attention span is diminishing on a yearly basis, increasing the challenge to engage and retain their focus. Although a few tools make it easy to insert rich media into multi-channel published content, how do you determine when to use images instead of traditional steps? Today’s projects require distribution equivalents of a press release, a movie trailer, and an interactive, visual experience. Text and words aren’t going away; we will just be using fewer of them. Attend this dynamic session to discover which skills you already possess to address the challenges described above, and how to “think visually”.
Maxwell Hoffmann is Adobe’s Product Evangelist for Technical Communications. A former product manager for FrameMaker at Frame Technology, Hoffmann also spent nearly 15 years in the localization industry doing multi-lingual Doc and Help projects in production; over 1,000,000 pages appeared on his screen during that stint. Hoffmann has also provided face-to-face, hands-on training to over 1,200 people in scalable authoring solutions. He is based in Portland, Oregon and can be followed on Twitter as @maxwellhoffmann.
Robert Illes MISTC has developed a niche in providing technical communication services to the energy and resources sectors. This follows a colourful career comprising 10 years’ experience in R&D and inventing in lighting and outdoor media; 10 years in academia and teaching; and a doctorate in energy education. He relishes in applying fine attention to detail while keeping the large, strategic picture in view at all times. Outside of work, Robert has made a respectable contribution to music with the release of several albums and some significant live credits.
Working as a technical writer on some energy and resources mega-projects, it is apparent that there is a potentially vast “undiscovered country” of opportunity for writers. An exploratory study was carried out, with the help of stakeholders at all levels, concerned with identifying and exploring the risks and opportunities associated with using a dedicated technical communication resource on engineering projects. One recurrent theme emerged – that of promoting technical communication as a profit centre. Furthermore, the risks identified were largely culturally predisposed and were perceived as being easily mitigated and/or massively outweighed by the benefits.
Some style guides specify the part of speech that an approved term has. For example, Microsoft style permits the word ‘input’ as a noun but not as a verb. An effective style checker must give a warning only if a term is used incorrectly.
Patterns in language can be used to identify the part of speech that a term has.
In the structure, ‘an + X + was’, X is a noun. Most text is more complex.
Sometimes, disambiguation is not possible. However, the patterns are sufficiently good for practical purposes. (The patterns are used in a term checker.)
Many years ago, Mike taught English as a foreign language. Mike started his technical communication career in 1995. In 1999, he became a freelance technical communicator.
Mike uses controlled language to make his documents as clear as possible. In 2012, he released an open-source term checker for the controlled language ASD-STE100. You can download the term checker from www.simplified-english.co.uk.
This session presents an overview of some of the issues documentation and training materials can face when being viewed through a cultural lens different to our own to better equip technical communicators who are writing for an international readership. Choice of words and supporting images will be examined with the aid of in-country research conducted in Oman together with experience gained on recent projects.
Technical communication is a second career for Andrew following nearly a decade spent as an overseas HE lecturer in both China and the Middle East. He now writes both software documentation and military training materials and remains acutely aware of the interaction between end-user culture and the message he is trying to convey. He holds degrees in Religious Studies, Molecular Science and a MA in English Language Teaching, and has presented at conference on the development of training materials for culturally sensitive regions.
This session is about getting yourself ready for the future, whatever it may bring. Change is not something that we usually excel at in technical communications.
If we don’t update our thinking, content and methods, each new wave of technology puts us yet another step behind the curve. Even though tablets and smart phones have reached near ubiquity with professional users, most organisations do not have their people, processes, platforms or content ready for mobile delivery. Many are not even internet-ready. Today we’re bombarded by announcements of new content creation and consumption technologies that are wearable, social, dynamic or embedded directly in products.
Although we can talk about how to do something about it, before our content and processes can change, we must change. We must address what is actually holding us back: how we think about our content in the first place.
This session will provide a new and inspiring perspective on how you can and must work with content to be ready for the future. We’ll look at updating our processes, structures and the biases and habits that surround them.
Dynamic delivery is delivery of context-appropriate information that can be assembled at the time of request with the most up-to-date, relevant content appropriate for the user and interface in question.
Embedded content is where content becomes a seamless part of device interfaces. Products become “self-describing”, allowing users to work uninterrupted by the need to open help files or manuals.
Many aspire to working in this way, but few (so far) have achieved it. This workshop looks at the benefits, requirements, and barriers related to these new types of delivery.
We will look at:
Why should we bother with this type of delivery?
What type of techniques, technologies and skills are required to realise such a system?
Noz Urbina is Content Strategy Practice Owner for Mekon Ltd and co-Author of Content Strategy: connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits. With years of experience as a content strategy and content management consultant he has provided services to Fortune 500 organisations and small-to-medium enterprises. Noz’s expertise is brought into projects for requirements analysis, project planning and scoping, tool selection support and training. Noz also manages and curates Mekon’s consultancy methodology used by all Mekon consultants ensuring quality service.
Maria Luisa MacDonald is a graduate linguist with over 30 years’ experience in technical translation and 13 years as a trainer of technical authors and engineers in the ASD Simplified Technical English (STE) Specification. Maria is the UK’s National Coordinator for the UK STE Working Group and a member of the ASD STE Maintenance Group, the body responsible for review and update of the ASD-STE100 specification. She is the Team Lead for STE Training within the UK Council for Electronic Business (UKCeB) and provides STE Training on a regular basis either at UKCeB Bristol or off-site at clients’ premises.
Persuasive writing is an important skill that cannot be taught too early. Business cases and proposals need agreement from others before you can move forward. Presenting your arguments clearly and persuasively will help you to get that agreement.
This workshop will show you how to develop this essential management skill. You will learn how to create business cases and proposals, with a good logical structure, which are easy to read and persuade readers to your point of view. We will also cover how to write for readers with different behavioural characteristics so that you can be sure that your key messages are absorbed by all of your readers.
The session will include highly enjoyable practical sessions and you will take away a number of checklists to use back at your desk.
As the owner of Write to Win, Alison has been an experienced freelance technical communicator since 1994, but has a documentation/training history spanning over 30 years. She has had roles that covered technical author, online help author, trainer, copywriter, marketing specialist, and documentation consultant. In addition she currently helps businesses to write Bids, Tenders and Proposals concentrating on persuasive writing. Customers include Microsoft, Fujitsu, Tata, Shell, Siemens, Balfour Beatty Construction, Balfour Beatty Rail and Xerox as well as local businesses and charities. Alison is also a creator and trainer of business writing training and a member of the ISTC.
Chris Atherton is a user experience consultant. Originally from an academic psychology background, Chris got interested in how people process visual information presented on screens, and subsequently ran off to join the software industry. Since then, she has worked with a variety of clients and organisations including Skype, the BBC, and Time To Change. Chris is currently embedded at the Home Office as part of a UK Government initiative to improve citizen-facing products and services.
This workshop will give technical communicators a guided opportunity to develop a documentation structure, with the emphasis on doing justice to existing, unstructured content, rather than merely recreating the concept, task, and reference ‘holy trinity’ of topic types. Chris and Kai will outline basic principles of creating a taxonomy and an information model, drawing on cognitive science concepts like learning and mental models, to explain why standard topic types don’t always work, but why taxonomies do. They will also show how information models can be effective in making structured content easier to understand, and efficient for technical communicators to reuse. The workshop will give attendees practice at using physical media to turn unstructured content into structured documentation, at deducing and sketching out taxonomies based on existing content. Techniques such as card sorting may be of particular interest to attendees whose job roles touch on usability, user experience, or information architecture.
Léonie Watson began using the internet in 1993, turned it into a web design career in 1997, and (despite losing her eyesight along the way) has been enjoying herself thoroughly ever since.
After many years as Director of Accessibility at Nomensa, Léonie is now working with The Paciello Group (TPG). Amongst other things she is Chair of the British Computer Association of the Blind (BCAB), writes for .Net magazine, and is a member of the W3C HTML Working Group and HTML Accessibility Task Force. She even appears every now and then on TV and radio to talk about technology.
Delivering content across different digital channels is an accepted part of today’s communication landscape. But how do you make sure your information is reaching everyone who wants (or needs) to access it?
This presentation will explain how to create a successful digital accessibility strategy. It will look at existing standards and frameworks, accessibility as part of agile and waterfall methodologies, and provide best practice guidance for accessible content across different platforms.
John M A Burns BSc.(Hons) Pg.Dip. MSc. MISTC MBCS CEng is an IT manager leading a team that develops and supports a range of systems within the ICT Division at Solihull MBC. He is an experienced project manager, ISEB qualified business analyst, systems developer and technical author. He is one of his organisation’s leads for project management and systems development using Agile methods.
Alasdair Bullivant BTech is Business Services Manager at Solihull MBC. He manages a team of ICT project managers, analysts and applications staff. He holds a degree in Technology and Computer Science and is one of his organisation’s leads for project management and systems development using Agile methods.