Documentation Culture in an Organization

May 4, 2023
image shows documentation team working

We’ve said it time and time again, Paligo is developed with the technical writer in mind. But that doesn’t mean that a component content management system (CCMS) should be limited to just one department in a company. In fact, Paligo enables more people throughout an organization to contribute to content and get valuable information back to help them do their jobs more efficiently.

I speak with clients daily, and a common theme is starting to stand out. Technical writers want other parts of their organization to collaborate with them. They believe this collaboration will benefit the documentation over the entire organization and those who use the documents. While I certainly agree, I believe there is a greater narrative here, which centers around organizations starting to create a documentation culture.

Though it’s still in the early stages, some organizations are working with consultants to improve how documentation is run in their businesses. Some technical writers themselves have also been asked to revamp documentation strategy in their business while asking other departments to contribute and collaborate. In the past, many writers would only be working with SMEs (subject matter experts) to get content, and for some clients, technical writers are still struggling with the traditional challenge of having to prove their value.

When reflecting on why this is and how it’s changing, I’ve narrowed it down to a number of factors. The biggest one may be related to improvements in technology and its increasing ease of use. The impact is that non-technical writers can start to take up knowledge management writing and use a documentation platform like Paligo, which contains functional features like the contributor editor and the review mode.

With ‌review and contribution functionality, it’s simple for writers to work together in a single source. In Paligo, if you are an author, you can assign a document, or even just a section of a document, for review. The reviewer can then provide feedback as comments, and set the status of the content at the end of the assignment, so the author is notified as soon as the review is completed. This way, no one writes over each other, and the owner of the content can accept the changes.

In larger organizations with many products and teams, there is a lot of content available that could be further documented. Technical writers can see the potential of this and have aspirations to fully utilize all of this knowledge. And much like Paligo does with content reuse, make the knowledge as re-usable as possible for their colleagues and clients.

If we look at this in more detail and suggest a few examples, we could say that marketing teams have content that would benefit teams through awareness. Marketing is the department that can introduce specific content that may help the rest of the company. This not only expands the engagement of the technology, but also increases the value of the content.

When it comes to the support department, a good use of Paligo would be to create content about the most asked support queries, which in turn could help to bring down support tickets. And of course, when we consider engineers, UX developers, and field service teams, they all have valuable information that they could document through collaboration with the technical writing or knowledge management team.

The main benefit of having a documentation culture in your organization is that it allows for more efficiency overall. In addition, great documentation helps employees and clients learn more about your products and services. So, to review, implementing documentation software across the company helps:

  • Explain how to do tasks
  • Bring down support tickets
  • Share client info from the field directly back into the organization
  • Make key improvements
  • Puts information into the hands of people who need it to do their daily jobs.

And that’s even before mentioning how content can be further reused through the e-learning abilities of Paligo and added into an organization’s Learning Management System (LMS).

The above are great benefits, but creating this culture takes time, and it’s a big project with challenges. During a conversation with a client last week, he confirmed that this is down to a cultural, functional and mindset change. The documentation team traditionally writes the content in their company, and their roles are clearly defined. To change a culture, you have to show the value of the change to the participants, and this starts at the top level down. Some questions that are necessary to ask: Do field service engineers have time and resources for writing documentation? Is this an additional task in their job role? Does the marketing team need to learn another software platform for creating content?

The functionality exists in documentation platforms like Paligo, but how does an organization start to create this culture? What are the steps they need to take? This is an evolving project for many clients, and from my own perspective I believe it will take time. However, I feel that relationship building, guidance, support and advocacy with clients is the most important piece of the puzzle to begin this journey and help them discover how to further develop their use of Paligo. It’s a big project, but one with so many benefits.