Ninety people participated in four polls posted simultaneously on LinkedIN industry groups.  Comments show that management commitment is essential to successful projects. Would you agree?

Expert-sourced information and collaboration

One of the promises of the DITA standard is enhanced consistency throughout the information in the organization, automation, and reduced volumes.

“DITA benefits for writing project are:  focus on content—get out of the formatting business…” Cheri Mullins, Content Strategist.

Cheri Mullins, content strategist at AMD, explained that, for her customer: “DITA benefits for writing project are: focus on content—get out of the formatting business; enforced consistency; and ease of data interchange”.

As DITA grows out of the software industry and into new ones, new cases and organization models emerge.

In some industries, the information is chiefly developed by non-technical writers, with one lone writer-cum-editor dealing with what’s put in front of him or her. In these settings, the technical writer must use the information provided by the experts.

Leading a project in such an environment therefore requires careful planning, minimalistic workflows, and tools to collect best-quality information (structured, compliant to your style guide, business rules, and classification…).

As one person pointed out in the poll comments:

There is no good way for four people to play the same piano at the same time. There are lots of good ways for a quartet to play together on separate instruments.

Poll Results

We conducted four flash-polls while preparing the presentation from April 10 to May 17 2013. I submitted the same poll on four LinkedIn groups: Documentation and Technical Writing Management (37 votes), STC (29 votes), The Content Wrangler (17 votes), and STC France (8 votes).

Ninety professionals responded and the poll was strongly commented. As presented in the chart, Poor process (26 percent) and Unclear information plan/structure (27 percent) rank the highest with nearly the same score, followed by Lack of communication channels (19 percent). Inadequate tools (10 percent) ranks the lowest in the result.

Figure. Collaborative writing: primary pain points.

There are a few unofficial takeaways from the results. There is not one, but multiple pain points. The Other (18 percent) results prompted 65 comments, that can be split into four main categories:

  • Lack of leadership and control
  • Lack of management commitment
  • Lack of participants’ commitment (time, circle-writing, interest)
  • Missing coherent writing style
“You want to use structured writing techniques as much as possible, because you want to structure the information they provide you” LinkedIN comment.
 One participant also commented:
On dealing with non-technical authors, or, in fact, any author whose principal job is not writing, you want to use structured writing techniques as much as possible, because you want to structure the information they provide you in order to get some measure of consistency and completeness.

I totally agree, of course, but what do YOU think?