breaking_silos_tech_doc_trainingAt first glance, a technical writer and an instructional designer share the same goal: convert the technical specifications provided by engineering into information that is understood by the users. A slight nuance separates them nonetheless: technical documents aim at giving comprehensive and in-context information for set-up and troubleshooting. With training material, the goal is to enable the user to acquire the skills needed to use the products, from beginner to expert.

As technical documentation and training rely on the same data, terminology, standards and references, it would seem logical that both training and technical documentation services work hand-in-hand. So why do they operate in silos?

Several decisions and events trigger the disconnect between techpub and e-learning:

  • Organization

Training is part of  Human Resources, customer service, or marketing. Instructional designers focus on how to optimize retention and will be creative in the formats and channels they use. With technical documentation, the emphasis is on information efficiency,  and the budget is more limited.

  • Technology (software and file formats)
  • Timing

The techpub team works in sync with product design, while training can be disconnected from the product road map.

  • History (internal conflicts, acquisitions)

Consider breaking down the silos

The managers rarely perceive the disconnect between the technical documentation and training content processes. Yet it can have consequences for learners and product users:

  • Information discrepancies, which tend to increase with each documentation update
  • Translation discrepancies, which stem from the gap between the original technical and training material.

The consequences can affect the company’s brand image, as well as lead to legal liability, especially in industries that are regulated or require compliance training, such as laboratories, financial institutions, and companies impacted by the Machinery Directive.

Breaking down the silos implies a few in-depth changes:

  • Bringing the teams together
  • Setting up content sharing

It can entail images, terminology (common glossaries), product and task descriptions.

  • Set up a common content strategy

It implies single-sourced content that can then be converted to both documentation and training programs in each language.

Quality and efficiency gains

Agile companies, such as software designers, lead the way when it comes to implementing efficiency and quality gains. We are staunch advocates of breaking the silos and are confident that training and documentation teams will ultimately join forces.