Summary of the findings from our 2016 technical communications survey

We asked Technical Authors to complete a survey into the issues and challenges they face in 2016 and beyond. There were four main themes that stood out:

  1. Issues around working in an Agile environment.
  2. A need to develop skills in creating training screencasts. This included how to use tools, structuring and presenting content, and the ideal length of each video.
  3. Improving the status of Technical Authors and the Technical Publications department in the organisation. This topic has come up in previous surveys.
  4. Developing skills in using DITA.

We’ve looked at Agile recently, and we’ll revisit the other topics in the upcoming months.

Thanks to everyone who took part in the survey.

Revisiting “How many technical writers should we have in our organisation?”

We received an email today:

Having read your paper titled ‘How many technical writers should we have in our organisation?’,  I was wondering if you ever did the follow up the final results from you survey as mentioned in the paper and if they are available?

This refers to an article we wrote in 2003, where we looked at research on ‘standard’ ratios between developers and Technical Authors. We said we’d Cherryleaf would be producing a report on the final results from our survey this summer, but we didn’t obtain any new information that needed to be added to our preliminary report.

Have things changed since 2003?

There are some software tools for automating the creation of some API documentation, and organisations that have moved from Microsoft Word to a component-based content management system are likely to need to spend less time on the “look and feel” and formatting of the published content. However, we doubt these have had a major effect on the productivity of technical communicators.

An alternative way to determine the ratio

There is another way to look at the ratio of technical communicators to programmers – one we didn’t discuss in our original report. You could use the job sites to look at the total number of vacancies for programmers and the total number of technical communicators, and generate a rough-and-ready ratio that way.

It’s a rough estimate, because the job sites contain duplicate vacancies (a job can be advertised by more than one agency) and job titles can vary.

Looking at the reed.co.uk site today, there are currently 134 vacancies for Technical Authors and 761 vacancies for Programmers. That suggests a ratio of 17.6% , or roughly one in six technical communicators to programmers.

What do you think?

Please share your comments below.

The lone-liness of the UK Technical Author

We were looking at some of the survey results from the ISTC’s 2015 survey of technical communicators in the UK.

The survey reported:

  • 37.5% of the respondents worked as the sole technical communicator in their organisation.
  • 76% worked in an organisation with six technical communicators or fewer.

This means, in the UK, it’s harder to justify the ROI of large scale content management systems. With less content being created, the benefits may not outweigh the cost of the software. It also means that UK technical communicators need to rely more on resources outside their company if they want to develop with skills and keep up to date with trends.

The ISTC’s next survey is due for release in February 2016. We suspect we’ll find similar findings in that report.

Take part in the Cherryleaf Training Survey 2015

We’re carrying out a short survey into training courses for technical communicators. The questions are mostly around the courses you would like to see offered by training providers.

To participate, please complete the questionnaire below (alternatively, use this link to the survey):
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Location of Technical Authors – new data added to the map

location of technical authors August 2014

The Institute of Technical Communicators has kindly provided us with additional data for our Location of Technical Authors map. They’ve supplied us with an anonymised list of the location of ISTC members. These are indicated by the peach coloured pins on the map.

It confirms the locations where there are shortages of Technical Authors, with the exception of two areas: Birmingham and Glasgow. It also suggests new clusters: one around Colchester and Ipswich, and another around Cardiff.

 

Creating a map showing the location of Technical Authors

Sarah Maddox’s post on how she has added “techcomm titbits” onto an interactive map, prompted me to look at whether we could create a map showing the location of Technical Authors around the UK. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for years, and Sarah’s post suggested it was much easier to do these days, thanks to Google’s applications.

The map needs data, so if you are a Technical Author, please add your details to the map:

We will not include your name or email address on the map. However we do need your name and email address in order to check the integrity of the data and to update you of any developments. You can use the postcode of a neighbouring street, if you wish.

We currently have an intermittent problem with our website. If you see an Error Establishing Database connection message, please refresh the page and it should appear.

2014’s Top 50 most influential Techcomm experts

Mindtouch has published its latest (2014) list of most influential Techcomm experts, and, once again, Ellis Pratt of Cherryleaf is ranked as the highest ranked technical communications professional outside of the USA.

Little Bird measures  the popularity and frequency of people’s blog posts, tweets and activities on sites like Facebook and YouTube, so this is a list of of influencers across the social web:

MindTouch has been publishing these reports since 2009 by using data generated from Little Bird to amplify success, create new relationships, and spark discussions.

Who influences you, and how do they influence you? Does the social web have any influence on your role as a technical communicator? Please share your thoughts.