Managing documentation projects in an Agile way

Agile methods are increasing in popularity as an approach to project management and product delivery. Originating in computer systems development, the methods are now gaining acceptance for application in contexts other than information technology. Many organisations, across all sectors, are citing methods from the Agile family as assisting in delivering the right products and services at the right time.

This workshop will develop knowledge and understanding of Agile methods from two viewpoints: what a project manager will experience when managing projects using an Agile method and what technical communications professionals and customers will experience when working on a project managed using Agile methods.

John and Alasdair’s workshop will use a variety of workshop interventions and exercises to express ideas, engage the group and to facilitate knowledge and understanding of the Agile family of methods.

This workshop is facilitated by John Burns and Alasdair Bullivant.

Single-source/content management beyond text: Dealing with graphics and multimedia

For most authors the concepts of content reuse are nothing new. Whether you work under the labels of “single-source publishing”, “content management”, or “multi-channel publishing” it all boils down to writing content once, maximizing reuse, and (hopefully) never resorting to content duplication to achieve your publishing goals. All of this works beautifully with text, but various media elements have always been the Achilles heel of content reuse. In this session Mr. Hamilton will explore concepts and techniques to bring graphic and multimedia elements into the content management workflow.

This session is delivered by Mike Hamilton.

Sophie McMonagle

Sophie McMonagle
Sophie McMonagle
Sophie McMonagle is the Information Architect for the IBM CICS (Customer Information Control System) portfolio of transaction processing tooling, working at IBMʹs software development laboratory in the UK. She has worked for IBM since 1996 in a variety of development and management roles in the banking and government sectors. In her current role Sophie is helping to shape the direction of IBMʹs software information, and she feels passionately that a cohesive information strategy is vital to give customers the right information when they need it.

Sophie’s session is called: ‘Working with product management – how important is the information experience?‘.

Working with product management – how important is the information experience?

How well do you know your product manager? Do they come to you to understand what the user experience is like when using the product and associated help? If not, then maybe it is time they should. According to the Product Development and Management Association (PDMA), products that deliver unique benefits and superior value to the customer are the primary drivers of success and product profitability. This doesn’t just relate to function, it also relates to the user experience as a whole, a massive part of that being how a user feels about the help and ‘documentation’ that is presented to them as part of that experience.

Sophie will discuss her experiences working with product management in terms of ensuring the right message is being delivered across the product, but also in making the product teams aware of the impact that the written word has on the user experience.

This session is delivered by Sophie McMonagle.

Using screen video: best practices, regardless of the tool

Screen videos have been growing in popularity as ways to provide detailed information and document processes. Many in the Technical Communication field are finding that they need to expand their skills beyond writing to communicate with their audiences. Many already use screenshots, but will benefit from creating screen videos.

We will focus on tips for making screen videos, including tips for recording, editing and producing – regardless of the tools used to make the video. Be prepared to walk away with ideas that you can apply, whether it’s your first or fiftieth video.

This session is delivered by Matt Pierce.

Matt Pierce

Matt Pierce
Matt Pierce
Matt Pierce is manager of the video department at TechSmith (formerly lead training, documentation and support groups). He is also the host of the Forge, TechSmith’s monthly web show promoting visual communication and screencasting. Matt has experience in instructional design, visual design, public speaking, and advocacy of good design principles.

Matt has worked in various training settings, including teaching hands-on computer courses at Indiana University and developing instructional content for multiple companies. Matt has a Master of Science in Instructional Systems Technology from Indiana University, and considers himself an instructional design geek.

Matt’s session is called: ‘Using screen video: Best practices, regardless of the tool‘.

Managing accessible mobile content

There are two trends that technical communicators must be aware of, and manage.

  1. In some regions or market sectors, you might not be permitted to sell your products or services unless you can demonstrate accessibility.
  2. The growth of mobile platforms continues to accelerate.

In this presentation, we review the implications of these trends when taken together, illustrated with simple examples. We will explore the impact of accessibility and mobility interaction, and outline ways in which you and your organization can manage technical content to benefit from the resulting opportunity.

This session is delivered by Adrian Warman.

Adrian Warman

Adrian Warman
Adrian Warman
Adrian has been with IBM for twelve years, and works as an Information Architect. He is a voting member of the OASIS DITA Technical Committee, a member of IBM’s team on the International Digital Publishing Forum, specializing in the EPUB standard and technology, and is active in IBM’s work on Mobile Information Architecture.

Before joining IBM, he worked in the telecommunications and retail banking sectors. He began his career as a University Lecturer, researching Information Systems and Computer Security. He maintains active links with universities, and is a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at Bournemouth University

Adrian’s session is called: ‘Managing accessible mobile content‘.

Developing KPIs

KPIs (key performance indicators) are measures that help you manage your team’s activities, improve your content and communicate with your colleagues and customers. Even if KPIs aren’t part of your organisation’s culture, going through the process of developing them will sharpen up your strategy and ensure you and your team are focused on activities that really matter to the business.
This is a hands-on workshop, where you will spend most of the time working alone and in small groups and to come up with KPIs through exercises.
During the session you will:

  • learn about the characteristics of good KPIs
  • begin to develop KPIs relevant to your role

The workshop is suitable for anyone working as a technical communicator or managing a technical communications team.

This workshop is facilitated by Rachel Potts.

Rachel Potts MISTC

Rachel Potts
Rachel Potts
Rachel specialises in improving the customer experience that software and technology companies deliver. This involves working on the interfaces between the companies and customers, as well as the interfaces between the various disciplines involved in creating and communicating about products. After 13 years working with software and technology, she knows quite a bit about developing user-centric business processes, creating and managing support portals, improving findability of information, and improving software user interfaces.

Rachel advises on 3di Technical Communication projects and runs the 3di Software Usability division ( In her ‘free’ time, she is a volunteer for the ISTC (

Rachel’s session is called: ‘Developing KPIs’.

Planning user documentation when you are a startup business

In this presentation, we’ll look at how to plan a user documentation project when you’re working for a startup technology company. Working in this environment gives you the opportunity to work ‘from a clean sheet’, but it also has its own challenges of working in a dynamic and rapidly changing environment.

We’ll look at the issues around planning user documentation and the additional considerations when you are a startup. Your budget may be limited and the product or service in development may be constantly changing, so how should you work in this situation? What should you be developing, and what is the value of user documentation for a startup?

This session will cover:

  • What is different about working for a startup
  • Lean startup strategies
  • The value of user documentation for a startup and why should you provide it
  • How to document in this environment
  • What you should document
  • What you should measure
  • What to do when budgets are limited
  • What to do when there is no clear audience

This session is delivered by Ellis Pratt.

Ellis Pratt

Ellis Pratt
Ellis Pratt

Ellis is Director and Help Strategist at Cherryleaf, a technical writing services and training company based near London, in the United Kingdom. He has over fifteen years’ experience working in the field of documentation, has a BA in Business Studies, and is an Associate of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. Ranked the most influential blogger on technical communication in Europe, Ellis is also an author and editor of two books: How to Write Instructions and Trends in Technical Communication.

Ellis’s session is called: ‘Planning user documentation when you are a startup business‘.

Kai Weber

Kai Weber
Kai Weber

Kai Weber gets a kick out of technical communications that make users excel and look good. More formally speaking, he’s a Senior Technical Writer for SimCorp in Frankfurt and Copenhagen. He got into technical communications during high school, translating a COBOL programmer’s guide. Since then, he’s been writing, editing and translating software documentation. After graduating with an M.A. in American Studies, Kai became a full-time tech writer in 1999 and has focused on financial and banking systems since 2001. Sometimes, his interest in cognitive science catches up with him. Kai blogs at and tweets as @techwriterkai.

Kai’s session is called: ‘Addicted to meaning: Mental models for technical communicators‘.

Kai is also facilitating a workshop jointly with Chris Atherton called ‘Bake your own taxonomy‘.

Addicted to meaning: Mental models for technical communicators

This presentation explores how ‘meaning’ works and how you can create meaningful technical communication. Understanding how and why communication is meaningful can help make your documentation more effective. Based on semantics and mental models, Kai explains:

  • How users create meaning from documentation
  • When meaning succeeds – and why it fails so often
  • Why minimalism works, but FAQs often don’t
  • And how we all are addicted to meaning

Attendees will get a deeper understanding on their work as Kai puts familiar tech comm methods into new context in a romp of aha-moments.

The session is delivered by Kai Weber.

Stefan Gentz

Stefan Gentz
Stefan Gentz
Stefan Gentz is the owner of tracom, a German consultancy with focus on the Tech Comm and Translation industry. With a deep and broad knowledge and long-time experience of content management, authoring and translation tools, techniques and processes he helps organizations to manage their global content challenges successfully, reduce costs and become more efficient. Stefan is also a certified Quality Management professional, ISO 9001 / EN 15038 auditor and Six Sigma Champion.

Stefan is a popular speaker at conferences around the world like the Intelligent Content Conference, tekom, tcworld, LocWorld, GALA and other Tech Comm and Translation industry events. He’s also an active social networker on facebook, twitter and LinkedIn.

Stefan’s session is called: ‘Leading the change‘.

Leading the change

“The only constant is change” – Heraclitus taught that more than 2,000 years ago. Has anything changed since then? Do we need professional Change Management? “Yes!” says Stefan Gentz, senior business consultant at TRACOM Germany. Manage the change or be changed!

The Tech Comm business is fundamentally changing before our eyes. We keep adapting, and yet – five years from now, ten years, and beyond, the sector will continue to face new technological, demographic, and economic challenges. In this keynote Stefan Gentz will outline a brief history of change and unveil the real triggers that drive the world’s top 500 managers to initiate (and approve!) change projects. After a quick check-up of today’s major social and economic forces driving the need for change Stefan will search the North Pole with the audience (yes, Change Management can be fun!) to start a journey through the top errors in change management. Finally we will conquer the eight steep stages of successful change management, drop off ballast to climb and will eventually learn why Change Management is not Crisis Management.

This session is delivered by Stefan Gentz.

Ray Gallon

Ray Gallon
Ray Gallon
Owner of Culturecom, a consultancy in technical information design, content strategy, and usability, and co-founder of The Transformation Society research group, with over 20 years’ experience in the technical content industries.

Ray is a director of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) and past president of STC France. He is a two-time winner of awards in the trans-European technical communication competition, including Best in Show.

He is a frequent speaker at conferences, webinars and seminars around the world, is a published author, and has taught in universities throughout the world. He shares his life between Barcelona, Spain, and the Languedoc region of France.

Ray’s session is called: ‘The Quantum Funnel: working with the black holes of knowledge‘.

The Quantum Funnel: working with the black holes of knowledge

For most of our history, we have designed linear, sequential learning systems, starting with beginners’ level and progressing to advanced. But the web lets us quickly find morsels of information out of sequence, without the context to understand it. We all have “quantum black holes” in our knowledge bases, which we fill in using a variety of strategies, mostly improvised. This presentation focuses on a cognitive model that explains current learning phenomena, and goes on to explore how we can design information for this world of “standalone chunks” that comes from a “new” user interaction model, and a new type of user/learner.

This session is delivered by Ray Gallon.

Time-saving tools and techniques for capturing screens

This session starts by presenting examples of how screenshots can really add value to software documentation and user assistance. You’ll then learn the key steps you need to take at capture time: these include guidelines on setting colour depth, sizing UI objects, and capturing drop-down menus. The session concludes with demonstrations of the most popular and powerful screen capture tools and strategies that are available.

You will learn:

  • Where, when, and how screenshots can really add value
  • The key steps for capturing a window, screen region, or object successfully
  • An overview of the tools available
  • The strengths and weaknesses of each tool
  • A range of powerful tips for saving time
  • Guidelines on single-sourcing screenshots for print- and screen-based presentation

This session is delivered by Matthew Ellison.

Creating instruction videos for using software – a case history

This session takes you through our experiences of creating a set of short narrated videos (*.avi) to supplement a set of HTML Help pages required for a new-look item of Remsdaq software. The talk will be down-to-earth, covering the entire process including both its successes and the inevitable setbacks and problems encountered when one does something for the first time.

This session is delivered by Martin Block.

Jang Graat

Jang Graat
Jang Graat
Jang F.M. Graat studied Physics, Psychology and Philosophy before starting a career as a technical author, trainer and consultant in the high-tech computer domain. In the past 25 years, he has delivered hundreds of presentations and courses on a wide variety of technical topics in many countries around the globe. His specialty is explaining technology to non-technical audiences and explaining complex concepts in a way that even his mother would understand. Jang lives in Amsterdam, rides an Italian motorbike, plays Spanish guitars and African drums and listens to music from all over the planet.

Jang’s session is called: ‘Changing the engine without stopping the car‘.

Changing the engine without stopping the car

Even if you know that structured authoring and reuse makes perfect sense, the sheer volume of your existing documentation may keep you from making the transition that your documentation team desperately needs. Most companies cannot afford to start a full rewrite of their materials, and they cannot afford to stop production for months while the legacy materials are being converted and imported into a content management system. This presentation shows how gradual migration of legacy materials into a structured authoring environment, and subsequent migration into a reuse system, is feasible when you use the right set of methods and tools.

This session is delivered by Jang Graat.

Was this written by a cat on a keyboard? The useless assistance project

Over a year ago Edward Smyda-Homa started a brave Felix Baumgartner-like, spiraling plunge through the Twitter-sphere. He created and maintains a Twitter account called Useless Assistance (@uselessassist), which contains retweets to remind organizations of the frustration and negative emotions that result from poorly prepared assistance.

This presentation is a light-hearted look at the poor assistance people are encountering and attempts to categorise the common gripes. How organizations are monitoring and responding to such negative assistance-related tweets will also be examined. It is hoped that the findings shared will trigger discussion on how quality issues in our trade can be addressed.

This session is delivered by Edward Smyda-Homa.

Edward Smyda-Homa

Edward Smyda-Homa
Edward Smyda-Homa
Edward is a Canadian-born Technical Writer based at Lumension Security’s development lab in Galway, Ireland. Previously a marketer, he became increasingly dissatisfied with the generality and cliché ridden copy typically generated by marketing and sales teams. Edward was introduced to technical writing in Poland during 2004, and spent the next 6 years there honing his writing style to one that guides, informs, and supports people towards their goals.

Edward founded the Krakow Chapter of the Technical Communication Professionals in Poland, and is an advocate of DITA and content quality. He also has a special interest in information navigation and retrievability.

Edward’s session is called ‘Was this written by a cat on a keyboard? The useless assistance project‘.

Content delivered? Check. OK how do we use it?

You spend months developing your content. You deliver it and wait for your users to say how good it is. The problem is, how many users REALLY know how to get the best from it. For example, do they know:

  • What content is there?
  • How best to find what they require?
  • How to navigate around the content?

In this presentation you will see how training users about your content increases customer satisfaction and reduces support costs. If you can’t do this directly, it will show how others can do it on your behalf.

This presentation is delivered by Colum McAndrew.

Colum McAndrew

Colum McAndrew
Colum McAndrew

Colum McAndrew (MISTC) has a passion for how the Technical Writer’s skill set crosses over into Content Strategy, Usability and Information Design. He maintains a high industry profile through regular eSeminars and conference presentations. He leads a team of Technical Writers at IDBS in Guildford, UK but also runs his own consultancy –

His expert application knowledge is recognised by membership of Adobe product beta test teams and often offers advice on the Adobe product forums. He writes the Adobe Technical Communication Tips column in the ISTC’s Communicator journal and maintains the popular RoboColum(n) blog – He tweets as @robocolumn.

Colum’s session is called: ‘Content delivered? Check. OK how do we use it?‘.

Andrew Westfold

Andrew Westfold
Andrew Westfold

Andrew is a Senior Technical Writer with more than 20 years’ writing experience in a range of industries. He has seen his current employer, McAfee, grow from having a number of individual regional writers using a wide range of writing tools, to a global team of 50+ writers, editors and DITA developers all harnessing the power of common tools, processes and best practices.

Andrew’s session is called: ‘McAfee: Our DITA journey towards collaborative authoring‘.

McAfee: Our DITA journey towards collaborative authoring

Although painful at the time, the move to topic-based writing and the use of DITA and a Content Management System has improved our content, significantly reduced localization costs, and provided the building blocks for dynamic and collaborative content.

Explore lessons learned and areas of opportunity for tapping into the power of DITA and all it promises.

This session is delivered by Andrew Westfold.

The Challenges of Remote Management

In this session, Adrian draws on his experience managing technical writers at a distance to discuss some of the issues faced with remote management. The talk will cover areas such as the following:

  • Remote management scenarios
  • Hiring
  • Security
  • Access to company resources
  • Working on shared documentation projects
  • Performance expectations
  • Conducting reviews
  • Data backup scenarios
  • Communication
  • International issues
  • Firing/redundancies

This session is delivered by: Adrian Morse.

Adrian Morse

Adrian Morse
Adrian Morse

Adrian Morse is Documentation Manager at Picis, a US-based provider of information solutions for hospitals. He is responsible for documentation and help files, and for the people who work on them. His background is scientific: he holds a PhD in Applied Physics and worked as an electrical engineer and later as a lecturer at Manchester University before becoming a technical communicator in 1997. He is an advanced user of Flare and FrameMaker, and has also been involved in numerous localisation projects (he is fluent in Spanish). Email:; LinkedIn:

Adrian’s session is called: ‘The Challenges of Remote Management

Managing as a freelance technical communicator

You leave office politics behind when you become freelance – but you find yourself taking on tasks that would previously have been carried out by others. As a small technical communication business, Clearly Stated has to manage time and resources, provide estimates and quotations, co-ordinate reviews with people over whom we have no control… and find time to actually do the work. All this ramped up a notch when I became an employer! You will find this session useful if you want to learn from my mistakes, or if you take on freelance technical communicators and want to avoid pitfalls.

This session is delivered by Alison Peck.

Why you should attend TCUK 2013 – a personal perspective

If you have ever tried to explain to someone what a technical communicator does, you will know there is no easy answer. We cover a range of disciplines (writers, editors, illustrators, information architects and so on). We work in just about any industry and sector you can think of, from healthcare and consumer goods to utilities, financial services, government and military organisations… and everything else in between. You’ll find us anywhere that clear communication is important.

Technical Communication UK (TCUK) is the one event in the UK that brings us together. If you only practise one discipline in one sector, you may feel this diversity is irrelevant. But sometimes it’s the diversity that brings the spark of inspiration – it gives you a fresh perspective, leading to ideas and concepts that you can transfer into your own everyday work. From personal experience, I’ve attended sessions at TCUK on documenting and illustrating machinery (I don’t do that) and on creating motivating e-learning materials (I do some of that), and each time I have come away with ideas I can use in a number of different ways.

Our profession is changing rapidly. Every time someone develops an innovative product, we provide the support that the people who use it need. Every time someone thinks of a new way of presenting information, we have to decide whether we want to make use of it. We can’t stand still – if we do, we’ll appear to be moving backwards. We could, I suppose, do all this ourselves – but I find that I can learn as much in three days at TCUK as I would in weeks of ploughing through online resources.

I’ve mentioned “our profession” – and if you’ve read the recent edition of Communicator, you’ll know I believe that we have to keep up-to-date if we want to consider ourselves to be “professional” technical communicators. I don’t know where else I’d get the level of update that I get at TCUK, as there is so much more than just the presentations. I’ve learnt a fantastic amount in conversations over dinner, at the bar in the evening or at one of the fringe events.

The vendors are there too. They may consider they have a captive audience – conference attendees who are all interested in what they have to sell. But I look at it from a different perspective. I have a “captive vendor” and five minutes at a stand has saved many hours of frustration (and time is money).

There are only two people at Clearly Stated: Andrew joined me in July last year. I decided to take Andrew to TCUK 2012 as I thought it would be a great way to open his eyes to the potential of what we do. The result was that we came away from TCUK with a contract that we would not have obtained in any other way, and a host of ideas for further business development. We are now investigating opportunities for technical communication business that would not have occurred to us before. It was definitely well worth the money.

Alison Peck, Clearly Stated

Alison Peck

Alison Peck
Alison Peck

Alison became a technical communicator in 1994, although she didn’t know that’s what she was at the time. She formed Clearly Stated in 2004, operating as a sole trader and finding the bulk of her work herself, with occasional contracts through agencies. Being freelance provides the variety she craves, and satisfies her desire for learning. Working in a number of different disciplines and sectors has increased her range of subject knowledge, while managing a small business has opened her eyes to issues she had never encountered as an employee.

Alison’s session is called ‘Managing as a freelance technical communicator‘.