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Technical Documentation in Industrial Environment - Its Importance, Challenges, Writing process, Tools, and Technologies


Are you a technical professional in a highly specialized or regulated organization? At some time during your career, you must document your activities or deliver written technical presentations. Writing technical documents may even be a regular part of your job.

Understanding the importance of technical documentation, its challenges, writing process, tools, and technologies can be of great help especially if you find writing documents to be a challenge. This article provides valuable insights to address this challenge.

    Types of technical documents

    Types of technical documents

    The importance of technical documents

    Technical documents must provide the most accurate information. Effective technical documentation delivers value not only to the technical writers, but also to their organization, and users.

    • Technical documents are an integral part of the introduction of a product or service to the market
    • They can have a substantial impact on the financial success of a product or service
    • They play an important role in the product life cycle during operation and maintenance
    • They help in carrying out inspections, audits, and other regulatory requirements.
    • Effective documentation can prevent incidents/accidents. Many big accidents have occurred due to inefficient documents
    • Effective documentation helps in product verification and validation, testing and repairs.
    • They minimize the risk so inherent in misinterpretation and/or error in oral communication.
    • They help in complying with the documentation requirements of regulatory agencies.

    The challenges in writing technical documents

    Writing technical documents with the needed illustrations and appropriate content present many challenges. The technical specialist must have effective writing skills clubbed with product/domain knowledge, regulatory knowledge, skills to interpret SME drawings, visualization skills, and end-user point of view. Acquiring all these skills requires effective training. Other challenges include:

    • Making the documents easy to navigate, search, and reuse
    • Presenting the content in simple, short and concise language
    • The inability to reuse information

    Technical writing courses

    Training programs go a long way in helping develop effective technical writing skills. Some such programs are listed below:

    Webinars

    Seminars

    Recorded CDS

    Standard Resources

    The process of writing technical documents

    Generally, a six-step process is followed in writing technical documents. It includes the steps outlined in the following figure:

    writing technical documents

    Analyzing the requirements:

    This step comprises of

    • Studying of input documents such as specifications, drawings etc.
    • Analyzing the document requirement, target audience, the depth and complexity, the language level to be used for the specific user group
    • Verification of the compiled information by domain experts if they are involved
    • Clarifying of queries
    • Good understanding of the product from the user point of view
    • Listing of queries and issues while analyzing the product inputs
    • Clarification with SMEs regarding the queries

    Designing comprises of:

    • Designing of document templates
    • Formatting requirements, font, presentation style, etc.
    • Estimating the number of pages, number, and types of illustrations, etc.

    Developing the content:

    • Writing content in harmony with the requirements
    • Using graphical illustrations to convey the information more clearly to the reader

    Conducting a technical review of the content:

    • Review of technical content for relevancy as per input
    • Review technical content for accuracy and logical sequence

    Proofreading:

    • Review of content for aesthetics and grammatical mistakes
    • Verifying the presentation for information, formatting, and other aspects of the document

    Publishing:

    • Publish it in accordance with the requirement electronically or in print
    • Distribute it as hard or soft copy as per the requirement as pdf, word files, online help or any format as called for

    Technical writing tools

    • Traditional publishing systems such as word and desktop publishing software
    • Automated publication systems
    • Tools for creating technical illustrations like CorelDraw Technical Suite etc.

    Some Training programs to use technical writing tools and technologies