Browsing articles tagged with " business"

The 21 Dimensions of Respect

Feb 18, 2016   //   by Barry Saiff   //   Blog, Concepts and Definitions, How-To, Reference Articles  //  1 Comment

Sometimes taken for granted, RESPECT is one of a manager’s key success factors for leading productive, diverse, multi-cultural teams. The ability to deeply, broadly, and authentically respect others may not come naturally to everyone. Even if you are a “natural,” you may find these tips helpful.

RespectForForeigners

We can respect people by:

  1. Understanding them
  2. Seeking to understand before accusing
  3. Considering their feelings
  4. Listening to them
  5. Believing in them
  6. Expecting more of them than they expect of themselves
  7. Not buying into their perceived limitations
  8. Believing that they can achieve great things
  9. Being careful not to assume things about them
  10. Judging them as individuals, fairly, not as members of a group (gender, culture, etc.)
  11. Being creative about how to reduce the impact of your own biases on your decisions
  12. Hearing their unspoken concerns
  13. Knowing the signs of upset, disappointment, and anger for each person
  14. Appreciating and acknowledging them regularly, always authentically, and calibrated to give them an accurate idea about how they are doing
  15. Praise everyone: “catch them doing something well”
  16. Being responsible for your impact on them
  17. Modeling the behaviors you want to see
  18. Being as willing as you ask them to be
  19. Being careful not to blame them for your mistakes
  20. Being more responsible than they need to be
  21. When things go wrong, looking first at your own actions and way of being

Adopting a broad, global view of respect will improve morale, increase productivity, and strengthen your international business relations.

Agree, disagree? Comment below.

Join us for a special free webinar on the CARVE/SLAP/THRIVE approach to managing technical writers on April 14!  Register at the link below:

How to Motivate and Empower Globally Competitive Teams of Content Professionals

About the Author

Barry Saiff has led several small to large multicultural teams consisting of Technical Writers, Graphic Designers, Marketers, and other professionals at 7 different companies in the U.S. and Philippines. The integration of cultures has created a global knowledge base for world-class quality.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Technical Writers

Jan 24, 2016   //   by Barry Saiff   //   Blog, Concepts and Definitions, How-To, Reference Articles  //  19 Comments

A Technical Writer’s maximum potential can be uncovered through developing these 7 habits, regardless of which country they are operating in:

1. Do not take it personally (learn)

Don't take it personally

Great technical writers thrive on criticism. They understand  that it enables them to improve, and to improve the accuracy and readability of their content. So, don’t take criticism personally. Use it to your advantage.

2. Learn before asking (respect, impress)

Learn before asking

Learn as much as you can from available resources before asking questions. In this way, you can respect others’ time and impress your colleagues with your ability to ask intelligent questions.

3. Ask (often)

Ask

Technical writing requires good people skills. Don’t attempt it alone. Ask questions. Ask for help.

4. REWRITE (always)

REWRITE

Pick 3 of your favorite writers. If you were able to see their first drafts, you’d probably think, “I can do much better.” The best writers in the world are the best re-writers. Always rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite some more.

5. Acquire Feedback (test, reviews)

Acquire Feedback

Technical writing is almost never 100% on the first draft. Without adequate testing and review, accuracy is often unattainable. Make sure you get the feedback you need to excel.

6. Understand (before publishing)

Understand

When you start, you may not fully understand your subject matter. That’s fine. By the time you publish, make sure you do understand. If you don’t understand what you write, your readers are not likely to understand it, either.

7. Contribute

Contribute

Notice things. Does the prototype work as expected? Are the user interface labels capitalized consistently? Ask questions. Make suggestions. Be a part of the product team.

Agree or disagree? We’d love to hear your comments below.

Why Do We Need Good Technical Writers?

Mar 12, 2014   //   by Barry Saiff   //   Blog, Reference Articles  //  1 Comment

And what do technical writers do, anyway?

Have you ever asked, or been asked why you need good technical writers?

The answer:
Developing quality documentation that effectively addresses the needs of each user, without overwhelming them with information they don’t need, is a skill that takes years to develop. It differs fundamentally from other forms of writing used in marketing, engineering, testing, or product management.

Penny-wise and Pound Foolish?

In a real-life example at a large company, the IT Team needed to make an immediate change to the VPN (Virtual Private Network) login procedure. This change would affect thousands of employees who logged in daily. To save precious time and money, the IT Manager asked an IT Engineer to write an email explaining the new login procedure, instead of using the Documentation Team.

Do you agree with the IT Manager’s decision? The result suggests it was not the best approach: The Helpdesk Team received over 10,000 support calls from employees who had problems logging in, ultimately costing the company thousands of dollars in technical support time.

The IT Manager learned some fundamental truths:

  • Good product documentation reduces support costs.
  • Not all engineers are also good technical writers.
  • The cost of hiring a good technical writer in many cases pays for itself many times over.

What Do Technical Writers Do?

Let’s look at how a technical writer works. What does a technical writer do when faced with a new project? Here are five of the most basic steps.

Step 1: Learn about the product

The first step is to gather background about the project or product. What needs does this technology address? What is the purpose of the product?

Step 2: Identify Your Audiences

Who uses this product? What are their roles, education, and work experience? Make a list of your user types, for example:

  • User 1 – Database administrator: technical degree, manages databases.
  • User 2 – Loan officer: experienced computer user, finance professional, approves loans.
  • User 3 – Executive: computer user, focused on reporting features.

Step 3: Start Counting — Features

One thing a technical writer does at the start of a project is count. Two of the most important things to count are features and tasks.
To count features, consider:

  • How many pages does the user interface contain?
  • How many elements or controls on each page?
  • How many total elements, on all pages, menus, etc.?

You don’t need a complete list. Just make some initial notes, for example:

  • Main pages: 8
  • Sub-pages, dialog boxes: 11
  • Elements per main page: average 12
  • Elements per sub-page or dialog box: average 8

Total elements: 184

Step 4: Begin Task Analysis

What tasks must a user accomplish? Each task includes a list of steps. Each step is a single action. Start a list of tasks, for example:

  • Add borrower
  • Add loan source
  • Configure borrower options
  • Configure regions
  • Configure global options

Step 5: Putting it Together

Consider the users you identified. To complete these tasks, what will they need to know?

Good product documentation requires topics, or chunks of information, of at least three types: task, reference, and concept. For a description of each type, see http://saiffsolutions.com/home/topic-types.

You’ve made a good start. Answering these questions enables you to start answering others, such as:

  • How many task, reference, and concept topics do I need?
  • What information is important to each type of user?
  • How can I organize the documentation so that all users find what they need quickly?
  • How long will it take to complete the documentation?

What About Apps?

You may be thinking, “This seems like a lot of work! Is all this needed for two sentences to explain a mobile app?”

While some apps are very simple, others are not. A sentence or two may suffice for one page or function. A complex app will require quite a few sentences.

And, as Mark Twain said, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”

Writing fewer words with equal effectiveness takes more skill and more time.

What is the Value of a Good Technical Writer?

Doing this type of analysis repeatedly enables a technical writer to notice things that even an engineer who developed the product may miss. Good technical writers have years of experience writing, rewriting, and then rewriting again to eliminate unnecessary words.

Why do we need good technical writers? Let us count the ways:

  • To create accurate, concise documentation that enables users to complete tasks independently.
  • To organize information so that users quickly find what they need.
  • To avoid confusing users with extraneous or out-of-place information.
  • To avoid losing users due to inappropriate assumptions about their knowledge and background.
  • To reduce support costs.
  • To increase customer satisfaction.
  • To demonstrate to customers that the guidance they need is accessible and easy to use.

Of course, as with every profession, there are both highly competent and less competent technical writers. At Saiff Solutions, we have decades of experience in hiring and managing outstanding technical writers. Because we are located in the Philippines, where English is the primary business language yet labor costs are much lower than in the U.S., we are able to offer the best value on the planet in technical writing services.

Is there something we can help you with?http://saiffsolutions.com/home/

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Types of writing

Dec 19, 2011   //   by Barry Saiff   //   Blog, Concepts and Definitions, Reference Articles  //  1 Comment
What is Technical Writing?

What is technical writing? Common usage differs in different places and contexts. In some universities in the Philippines, courses that teach how to properly write business correspondence and reports are called technical writing courses. This usage differs from the definitions below.

Business writing includes all types of non-fiction writing that may be needed to support a business. However, business writing refers most often to business correspondence, both internal memos and business letters, and business presentations, reports, and similar documents. Business writing also includes marketing writing.

Technical writing is writing that deals with technical subject matter. This includes training materials and all types of product documentation. Technical writing often refers mainly to software documentation. While technical writing is a subset of business writing, technical writing can occur in non-business environments, such as universities, non-profits, and government agencies. Technical writing often includes marketing writing. Technical writing also includes various specialized types of writing, for example aerospace, medical, legal, and scientific writing.

Marketing writing includes any writing intended primarily to represent a product or an enterprise to its market. For example, brochures, data sheets, white papers, and Web sites.

Of course there is a good deal of overlap between these categories. Web sites often provide product documentation and other technical material. White papers may be more technical or more marketing-focused. A business proposal for a product may be full of details about the technology of the product.

Just in the USA, there are approximately 20,000 technical writers, of whom at least several thousand are writing software documentation. It is likely that many millions of other workers in the USA are engaged in business writing during at least part of their work days.

The definitions here are important because of the confusion between business writing and technical writing that appears to be prevalent in the Philippines, and perhaps in other countries as well.

Saiff Solutions In The Media

- TechWhirl
- Nominated for 2015 Rice Bowl Asean Start Up

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Testimonials

“Barry [Saiff] truly is a force of nature – he is a consummate professional with deep technical expertise when it comes to technical writing which lets him just “get it” right out of the box. Barry pairs very strong writing skills with the ability to easily speak both “business analyst” and “software engineer” in the same meeting. Barry was the lead information developer for my product at Symantec, and I had the utmost confidence in his abilities and work ethic. On top of all that, Barry has a wonderful sense of humor and an infectious laugh that can transform the work environment in an instance. I strongly endorse Barry’s many talents and would welcome working with him again in the future.”

Angelos Kottas
Principal Product Manager, Symantec
December 17, 2010

Read more testimonials here.