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How Technical Writers Support IWCO Direct from Behind the Scenes

Diana Hvistendahl, PMP

Technical writers are key players within any system or process change initiative at IWCO Direct. Their writing style and standards turn the knowledge of our Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) into consumable content, providing clarity and answers for those that seek information about our processes.

“How do I use this new application or system?” “What steps do I need to take to achieve my client’s goal?” “What happens after I provide information to another department?” Technical writers research and, more importantly, document answers to questions like these to create an online knowledgebase. I’d like to spotlight the work of IWCO Direct’s technical writers and how their skills help our organization work smarter and exceed client expectations.

How Technical Writing Improves Our Work

Technical writers create the following knowledge assets for IWCO Direct employees, leadership, and clients:

  • System User Guides – These electronic books contain a table of contents that allows readers to jump to the section they need. System integration explanations, step-by-step instructions, user interface guidance, and glossaries help employees avoid mistakes and use our systems’ advanced features to achieve client goals.
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) – These short documents outline our Standard Work, often drafted during Kaizen events or other lean initiatives, to provide a quality expectation and requirement for daily staff operations. SOPs define who, when, and why to use the document and a step/action table, which lists the actions in a procedure and the person or people responsible for each step. Visuals often combine with writing to provide guidance within SOPs, and some are even translated into multiple languages.
  • Current-State and Future-State Process Diagrams – These visual workflows serve as a training resource for staff performing daily operations, employees learning new responsibilities, and project teams who need to target current pain points in our processes. Future-state diagrams are drafted during these projects to serve as a training and goal-alignment tool for all stakeholders involved.
  • Electronic Forms and Automated Workflows – These online forms replace hardcopy forms and freeform emails (which can get juggled between inboxes and often lack inputs for proper workflows) with standardized, logic-driven fields that can be emailed to relevant team members. The emails are often simple notifications that trigger the recipient to take the next action within an automated workflow built into a SharePoint site.
  • Templates – We are not the only writers at IWCO Direct; other SMEs contribute significantly to our online knowledgebase, and templates give them a head start. With templates created by our technical writers, SMEs don’t have to think about formatting or corporate branding standards—they can just drop the content straight from their brains into our common knowledgebase.
  • Training Materials – Many of the artifacts mentioned above are used during training classes. In addition, we are able to create eLearning modules, infographics, and videos that are helpful during the learning process.

Technical Writers Do More Than Write

Another valuable skill technical writers contribute to IWCO Direct is their ability to improve the work of others. Editing for clarity, purpose, and structure are a few of the ways technical writers help make our work better. They review others’ written work for the following:

  • Readability: Along with typo correction, they review sentence structure and simplify language whenever possible. Less is more!
  • Organization: We make sure each step really is the next action taken by a person, rather than the result of an action.
    • For example, this list of steps is incorrect:
      • Step 1: Click Print.
      • Step 2: The document prints.
      • Step 3: Walk to the printer and pick up your document.
    • The correct steps would be:
      • Step 1: Click Print. The document prints.
      • Step 2: Walk to the printer and pick up your document.
    • Technical writers also sort content into consumable pieces with numbered lists, bullet points, infographics, and images to make processes as easy to follow as possible.
  • Authorization: A technical writer’s last step is to make a document official—to stamp it as approved by SMEs on a certain date for a defined audience to consume. We make documentation official by tracking its revision history, uploading it to SharePoint, applying the visual corporate branding standards, and assigning metadata (such as the SMEs who approved it) to the file. Our employees know when a document is authorized for use when they find it in SharePoint, making that document the definitive source as opposed to having wayward files in a folder somewhere. This authorization process allows our audience to trust the information as correct—and if it’s still in question, they know which SMEs to contact.

Our talented group of technical writers may be behind the scenes a lot, but their work bridges the knowledge gap between SMEs and those who need to learn something new (or update their knowledge on an existing topic). That’s a key element in all our process and system improvement projects at IWCO Direct, and having clearly documented information helps us provide better services to our clients.

link https://www.iwco.com/blog/2019/10/22/technical-writers/
Diana Hvistendahl, PMP

Author

Diana Hvistendahl, PMP

Director, Information & Process Services. Holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Olaf College and a master’s from Metropolitan State University. Has been viewing challenges as opportunities for team-building at IWCO Direct for more than five years. When not improving processes and creating new tools to increase efficiency at IWCO Direct, she enjoys spending time with her two daughters and visiting her husband’s distillery.

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