I have a dream: that technical documentation will become the most important department at a company.
When I presented this dream during my opening speech at our 2016 DOCUFY User Meeting, the audience was exhilarated. But we all know what the reality of today’s documentation work looks like. The technical documentation department rarely has a lobby on the management board and is viewed by many as a mere cost factor that needs to be kept at a minimum. I remember making a visit to a large producer of household appliances. The technical writer there had managed to invite her boss to a meeting about their content management system. He opened the meeting with the words: “I personally think that technical documentation is superfluous. We only have a documentation department because we are required to by law.”
Of course, this is an extreme example, but it reflects an attitude that is often widely held.
Our working environment is changing: Knowledge workers are now the largest professional group in Germany.
Uwe Reißenweber, DOCUFY GmbH
But our world is changing! The age in which great products were developed, then produced in identical batches and sold in large numbers is nearing its end. The future lies in flexible methods of development and production that enable us to configure products for specific customers and produce them on a tailor-made basis. Industry 4.0 is the magic word that promises the mass production of custom products.
But Industry 4.0 is not the only trend that is changing our working environment. The activity profiles of almost all job descriptions are subject to drastic change. Professions that require manual labor and those that are especially process driven are on the decline and are being superseded by knowledge-based job profiles.
At 40%, knowledge workers now comprise the largest professional group in Germany. And this trend is increasing. The much lamented gap between rich and poor in our society mirrors this trend. It is not just the group of well-paid knowledge workers that is growing, but also the group of poorly paid unskilled workers. What is shrinking is the group of specialist workers who traditionally made up the “middle class.” German companies are on their way to a knowledge-based economy. The study “Wissensstandort Deutschland,” carried out by the Fraunhofer Institute, has shown that the importance of intangible assets has significantly increased in industrialized countries. Intellectual capital has a larger influence on successful business outcomes than material resources do. German companies’ most important form of capital is their human capital.
Specialist skills were named as the most important factor in knowledge-based company management. But the productivity of knowledge-workers currently lies at just around 60%. They spend 30% of their working hours actively searching for information, but are only successful in about 50% of cases.
Have you tried wilfing?
Wilf stands for the first letters of the phrase “What I’m looking for.”
The Internet was developed in order to make it easier for people to access information. However, it has become clear that people go on the Internet with a certain goal in mind, but then completely forget what they were looking for due to a myriad of distractions, and wilf for hours on end.
This means that there is a lot of underutilized productivity potential in the case of knowledge workers. Learning how to better tap into this potential is already an essential task for companies today – especially as the number and importance of knowledge workers are expected to continue growing.
Technical writers have a wealth of knowledge at their disposal that needs to be leveraged. DOCUFY’s Multi-Level documentation provides the technology and tools to do this.
Uwe Reißenweber, DOCUFY GmbH
Who is better able to impart specialist expertise than the technical documentation department? This is where pooled company knowledge is well documented, quality assured and translated into a number of languages for others to use.
But today, much of this valuable information is trapped in documents such as operating and service manuals, which co-workers and customers are able to utilize only insufficiently. The task is to “liberate” this information and uncover the treasure that is lying dormant on our hard drives. We have to do this anyway for very different reasons (Industry 4.0).
To this end, DOCUFY has developed a concept that we call Multi-Level documentation. With the concept of Multi-Level documentation, we provide you with the technology and tools that will enable you to process your information in such a way that it can be utilized flexibly in a range of different application scenarios, fully unfurling the user potential of documentation and company knowledge.
This makes the technical documentation department the most important source of information and thus the most important department at your company!
I wish you every success in your knowledge work!
Image credits for title image and illustrations: