The third option in the poll question, “What makes an effective procedure writer?” deals with the mastery (or at least effective use of) procedure development tools. In this regard, I am somewhat less adamant about my position than on the other matters we have discussed.
The reason for this is that I have been, to date, almost exclusively used Microsoft Word for procedure development and Microsoft Power Point for presentations and training materials. I am not the most technically advanced person you will find plying the procedure trade, but as I tell my colleagues, when it comes to Word, I can do anything the long way.
But the world is changing, whether I’m on board or not. And I am slowly, timidly stepping into the shallow end of the world of authoring software. I will not discuss the comparative merits of different tools; I have been introduced to a tool called Mad Cap Flare, and if the advertising is true, the flexibility it will provide me will more than make up for the learning curve I am about to enter.
In a more general sense, I would say the mastery of tools and software programs must be in keeping with the needs of your customers (whether internal or external). Not only are the methods used to document information varied and changing, the means of delivery to the end-user are expanding. I am learning that if ink-on-paper is the only delivery means you have at your disposal, your effectiveness will be increasingly diminished in the near future.
Effectiveness only counts if your means of information delivery meet the customers’ requirements and desires. The more development capability you have, the more effective you will be.
One other note: do not expect wizardry with software and authoring tools will be an effective cover for poor organization or poor execution of procedure content. If you are backed into a corner, with only time to improve your ability to write or master the latest and greatest software, you’d better focus on the former.
This topic touches on the procedure writer’s ability to provide multiple options for information delivery. Which feeds into the next discussion of procedure writing effectiveness: the options that were not included in the poll. Check back tomorrow for more, and don’t forget to get your copy of the procedure writing course.