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       Outsourcing Technical Documentation - Is it Right
       for Your Company?

by Wendy Yurick Wing
Wing Group, LLC

Many organizations feel as though they are spinning their wheels when it comes to technical documentation. They may have staff writers, but those writers can't keep up with demand. They may have good intentions of repurposing information, but they never follow through. They may have tight budgets, low resources, or people who are simply trying to do the job of technical writers, but they just don't have the experience it takes.

If you're one of these companies, you may be toying with the idea of outsourcing your technical documentation to another firm. Is that the right decision for you? That depends on your needs.

Benefits of Outsourcing

Regardless of what the service is, outsourcing - in general - is a good solution for almost all companies. There are several distinct benefits to outsourcing that make it an attractive alternative to hiring part-time or full-time employees.

  • You need not pay any benefits (i.e., vacation, sick days, insurance, social security, etc.)
  • There is no "down time" due to the natural learning curve that comes with all new hires.
  • No additional office space is required.
  • You pay only for what you need, rather than paying for 40 hours a week regardless of the current workflow.
Outsourcing Technical Documentation

When it comes to outsourcing your technical documentation projects, your particular situation will need to be examined.

Are you lacking employees with technical documentation experience? If so, you'll most likely find yourself spinning your wheels by having someone "fill in" as the technical writer. Duplication of efforts is likely to cost you additional money, and low productivity levels will become frustrating to your company and your customers.

If you do have in-house writers, are they able to keep up with demand? When the production of documentation is rushed, mistakes are almost always made. While your staff may be able to handle a "normal" workload, during your busy times outsourcing may be just the outlet you need to keep up with demands.

Are your manuals "user-friendly"? Many times, organizations have the engineers-who created various products-write the manuals and other documentation. There are two challenges that occur when this takes place. First, engineers (due to the nature of their work) are not normally used to writing on a novice level. Second, the person who created a product is likely to overlook some important issues when trying to explain the product's use to another. Because they know everything about a product, engineers may assume an end user is more knowledgeable than he/she really is. In cases such as these, outsourcing to someone who can not only provide technical writing skills, but also relay information in an easy-to- understand manner would be the optimum choice.

So, as you can see, there are several instances when outsourcing your technical documentation projects can be of benefit to you and your customers. Whether outsourcing is a permanent solution, or an "as needed" one, depends on your particular circumstances. Which leads us to one final point - outsourcing is also flexible.

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