The Digital Disruption of Technical Publications


I noticed a graphic from Dez Blanchfield who was speaking in May at CeBIT Australia (a technology & business expo). He posted this slide:


You can add another: Largest publisher of information in your company doesn’t publish books ( Technical Publications )

The Digital Disruption has already happened to the collective industry known as Technical Publications. Which means it is happening at nearly every company this industry serves.

Lisa Arthur wrote an article for Forbes in March 2013 titled “Five Ways Digital Disruption Will Impact The Customer Experience” and two of her five were ‘Personalization of interactions’ and ‘Speed of interactions’.

Those that consume technical information (engineers, technicians, mechanics, support staff, etc.) are looking to quickly get the nugget of information that they need to do their job safely and efficiently. They want to know that the information that they access is relevant for their task at hand (Personalization) and they zero in on a procedure, specification or other nugget very quickly without having to sort through manuals and pages (Speed).

Offering a directory of PDFs that use a Table of Contents navigation may be a fine last resort – but make no mistake – it should be a last resort. Lisa Hoover at MindTouch wrote a brilliant blog post in 2013 titled “5 Cold, Hard Truths About PDFs as Product Support” where she outlined some of the main reasons why PDF is not a good solution for technical information.

In some situations you have to deliver the entire manual – for legal and/or off-line aspects. You should definitely have that capability for archival purposes. But the entire manual is typically not what your customers need for day-to-day usage.

In subscribing to the adage “let the requirements drive the solution” - I would propose that the electronic delivery of technical information meet the following requirements:

  • Capability to be filtered based on model and or serial number
  • Be searchable and only presents relevant content (not an entire manual)
  • Supports desktop and mobile delivery

This doesn’t get into the aspects of content creation, translation and integration with other systems and/or manuals.

Maybe that's a post for another day.

Are you delivering ‘manuals’ or ‘information’?

What do your customers (internal and external) want?