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Unifying the technical documentation with Sadhana S of IBM

Category: Podcast

Last updated on Jun 24, 2022

Sadhana S, Senior Information Developer at IBM, joins us in this episode of Knowledgebase Ninja’s to share her expertise working through various kinds of workflows. Check out all the other episodes of Knowledgebase Ninja’s here.

Connect with Sadhana and IBM here:

Key Takeaways

Sadhana’s journey into technical writing

At the beginning of her career, Sadhana got the opportunity to work directly with customers which helped her understand the issues of customers as well as the way to address their issues. Initially, she started writing documents for the teams within the organization without knowing that it was technical documentation. She believed that it would help her and the team but did not understand its full importance.

As time passed by, she started taking up freelance projects, she would write for different websites and blogs, and that launched her documentation career. As an information communication developer, she produces content and is involved very early on in the process. Her major interaction revolves around communication with engineering teams and SMEs. IBM is also taking baby steps towards incorporating design thinking, and that mechanism is highly encouraged.

A collaborative documentation process

IBM primarily follows the agile model where one or more scrums are involved in the documentation process. The work is mostly done with engineering teams, and project managers and value is brought through UI. Communication is extended across what kind of content is put into the document. Consideration is also given to sensitive projects to make the content easier to grasp for the user. Depending on what kind of deliverables are expected, the process is altered a little. Following the initial phases, test checks are run, and they are sent to the engineering team for feedback and value addition. Following this, it is sent to the publishing company. Throughout the design to release phase, the focus is not just on content development but overall on user experience.

Management of documentation workflow

As per Sadhana’s personal preference, she adheres to the design thinking principles, which is also enthusiastically encouraged by her employer, IBM. When writing any document, most writers will make several assumptions about the users and create the document accordingly. The first principle is to remove all such assumptions from your mind and to collaborate with the team to understand a bit more about whom the user is. Once this sort of clarity is acquired, the content development part kicks in where the structuring and management system is emphasised upon. The key is to maintain a level of consistency such that there is a link between all sorts of published documents. 

Essential factors to consider when creating documentation

With regard to factors to consider in the context of documentation, Sadhana believes knowing the persona is very important. If you are aware of who you are writing for, whether it is the administrative officer or the sales team or the user itself, the content will be placed differently, and it can be tweaked appropriately. The goal is to empathize with the user and create a human conversation rather than a technical piece of writing. Another great thing that should be prioritized is streamlining documents such that they fit under the umbrella of the company, and it feels like they are all children of the same parent.  

How and who do you report to?

In IBM where Sadhana works, there are three technical writers in her team, of which two are in India, and one is in the United States. She reports directly to the release manager and also has an engineering manager in India who helps her out with any product related queries that may come up.

Who has inspired Sadhana in documentation?

Sadhana feels that all the peers and people she came across throughout her career helped her out and gave her very valuable lessons. She feels she was fortunate enough that each person added value to her growth and helped her progress in her technical documentation journey.

Sadhana’s favourite documentation related resources

What documentation related advice would Sadhana give to her 20-year-old self?

Sadhana feels like she would tell her 20-year-old self to keep on looking at the document and trying to improve it because no matter what number it is, there is always room and scope for further improvement. It is important to keep an eye out for it, so improvement is the primary element of your thoughts. She feels this is advice that stands still today.

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Gowri Ramkumar

Nov 5, 2020

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