At Intellect (the trade association for UK technology companies) yesterday, there was a meeting looking at how UK software companies are faring in this current economic climate. At this event, a panel of software companies CEOs and directors discussed the key issues they are currently facing and the future economic climate for this industry sector.
What struck me was the changes that are happening in Technical Publications complement the changes going on in the overall business.
The ten main issues were:
- The reduction in sales.
- The need for cash retention and challenges surrounding raising debt or capital.
- The continuing difficulties in recruiting good talent.
- A high focus on customers and their needs:
– developing incremental services to existing customers
– developing more customer business focused services
– enabling software to connect to other applications
- The importance of improving the user experience, such as that adopted by Apple with the iPhone and iPhone Application store.
- The move to SaaS (software as a service) and the Cloud.
- The emergence of semantic data, collaboration and ontologies.
- The move to “mass personalisation” and the emergence of software artisan companies that will personalise mainstream applications.
- The growth in mobile phone applications.
- The ability to carry out greatly improved analysis of data, leading to greater customer insights.
The big trend in technical communication at the moment is the move towards (XML) single sourcing systems. These break the information into small units of information that can be re-used and repurposed for different circumstances.
This offers a number of benefits, consistent with many of the points listed above:
- It gives the software companies the ability to develop a range of user assistance documents, each focusing on a particular type of customer and their needs (Points 3 and 7).
- It means the content can be merged with other content to provide the support information in the right context (Points 3, 5 and 6).
- With DITA, it helps ensure the support information can written isn a way that clearly enable users to complete tasks (Point 3 again – more business focused services – and Point 4).
- With DITA, it means semantic data is included in the documentation (Point 7).
- Content can be published in different media (Points 5, 6 and 8).