Proactivity is when you are acting in advance in a situation. This is a very powerful move that can bring a lot of benefits in the future. It has nothing to do with guessing, by the way. Being proactive can be made part of your initial plan of actions and it should have definite and trackable consequences and results.
Today I’ll provide you with some advice on how to be proactive in technical writing.
Attend calls and meetings with devs and product teams
To be proactive also means to know what’s up. Do not ignore calls with developers or product teams. They might seem pointless and time-consuming for some, but this is not quite so, you can learn a lot from them.
What to pay attention to:
- Release date shifts — technical documentation is tied to release dates, so when they move you need to be able to adapt. The sooner you know about such shifts the better you can prepare.
- New functionality — another strong reason to be part of such meetings is learning about new features firsthand. As soon as you have this info, you can start drawing up a plan of how to include the new features into the existing documentation.
- Deprecation of features — good to know too, so you can promptly redistribute resources.
Get a better help authoring tool
Help authoring tools open up many possibilities for comfortable and efficient technical writing. Before starting a big project, think about the solutions you are using at the moment. Are they enough to help you succeed?
Be proactive — revisit your requirements. If you find out that the tools you are using now are perfect for the job, it is awesome. But if you know that this feature is missing and that one is not delivering the way you’d like it to — it is time you change the HAT. Getting equipped with a new HAT, which is right for you can significantly improve future results.
Figure out the best approaches to content maintenance
To write a user manual is one thing, but to keep it up to date is another. When you are working on multiple products, maintenance can be a real burden — if it is not done right it can take up a lot of time, much more than it should.
Being proactive here means really getting all benefits from single-sourcing your docs. You can start re-using a lot of pieces of your technical documentation instead of writing them anew. This blog post on user manual versioning explains this concept and what to do with it pretty well.
Pay attention to trends in reports
A key to being proactive is to pay attention to things. Software for tech writers often comes with a set of available reports. Keeping your finger on the pulse can serve you well.
There are two extremes I would like to warn you against when it comes to reporting: overreacting to things and ignoring things. These won’t let your proactivity shine.
Overreacting means being nitpicky and starting to panic because of any shifts in graphs. Don’t let this fake feeling of control get you — you can’t possibly control or even be aware of all things that can potentially influence these reports. It is too complex, with hidden parameters at play.
But choosing to ignore trends is equally harmful. Try finding the golden middle.
With these tips, being proactive will be a bit easier. If you follow them your efforts will count in the future for sure.
Kesi ParkerJob position: Freelance Technical Writer. I use ClickHelp for technical writing.
Technical writing is for ev