Browsing articles tagged with "outsourcing Archives | Page 3 of 3 | Saiff Solutions"

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)


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

4. REWRITE (always)


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)


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


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.

New Brochure!

Nov 13, 2015   //   by Barry Saiff   //   Blog, Uncategorized  //  No Comments

We just published our new brochure! If you visited one of our booths at Information Development World 2015 or LavaCon 2015 you’ve seen it already. Now everyone has access to the new brochure online.

Here are links to the front and back view and the inside view:
– Front and back view
– Contents view

View our other marketing documents, including articles and case studies, here.

Creating a Customer-Centric Information Architecture

Aug 25, 2015   //   by Barry Saiff   //   Blog, Concepts and Definitions, Content Strategy, How-To, Outsourcing, Reference Articles  //  No Comments

How much difficulty do your customers have accessing your documentation and finding the exact information they need? You can improve findability, and increase customer satisfaction, with a well-designed information architecture. Information architecture is defined as:

“The art and science of structuring information (knowledge) to support findability and usability.”
— Cluadia Wunder, The Language of Content Strategy

Why is information architecture important? Because most people would rather find the information they need themselves than contact Customer Support. By improving findability, you are creating a win-win situation: Happier customers and reduced customer support costs!

In the age of instant information access, people have less patience, and may not be willing to work to find what they need.

Creating a complete customer-centric information architecture requires a thorough analysis of your content, and results in a comprehensive model that guides the organization and delivery of your content. You can get started on improving findability by implementing a few key approaches:

  • Clear topic titles that follow consistent rules help people find what they need. Even if you are still using a book paradigm, how you name your chapters and sections can make a big difference. And those sections can all be put into a hyperlinked information database.
  • A rich, varied structure of links between topics supports people who need specific information and people who want to learn more broadly.
  • The ability to find the information in your topics via searching, ideally by using a popular search engine, is crucial. If your information is only available in PDFs, this won’t work well.
  • Indexing that isn’t limited to your feature-naming scheme. A good index includes words that people unfamiliar with your product might use to describe product functions. For example, if you consistently say “power off” in your content, your index should list power off, turn off, shut down, and anything else you can imagine. To provide the best possible assistance to your users, you need to follow different rules in your index than in the rest of your content.

Do you have a customer-centric information architecture? What approaches are you using to improve findability and usability? We’re interested in your thoughts and experiences.

Are you considering outsourcing content development? Do you need some help planning your information architecture or your content strategy?
Saiff Solutions, Inc. can help you develop a strategy to succeed. Contact us if you’d like to talk:
barrysaiff AT saiffsolutions DOT com

My Thoughts On Our New Office

Jul 13, 2015   //   by Barry Saiff   //   Blog, Outsourcing, Uncategorized  //  1 Comment

My name is Gaile, and I have been working as a writer here at Saiff Solutions since April 2014. We’ve learned a great deal from the various projects we’ve completed.


To write well, we need a place without loud noise. Our old office had a lot of road noise. We spent one wonderful year in our old office, and I can say that the old office served us well. We were able to build extraordinary working relationships. We developed new skills and discovered incredible things. We had our share of ups and downs, which didn’t prevent us from enriching our skills. Everything can be learned if we just try. In fact, I am calling the old office “my training ground.” As our team is growing, a new, more comfortable office is just what we need!

We moved to the new office two weeks ago, and everybody was excited to be working in a new, bright environment. I was delighted and grateful when I first walked into the office. We no longer have to deal with excessive vehicle noise, and the smell of burnt rubber any more. (There was an automobile hose shop next to our old office.)

Our new office is very accessible. There is less traffic, and we are on the second floor, set back quite far from the road. This location is much better for writing. The brand new 2-storey building is surrounded with trees and tall grass. We like our warm, friendly neighbors who work at the salon next door. The tile flooring is quite shiny and the walls are painted white. We have a land line phone and a faster Internet connection. Overall, the new office is a great place to work in.

For me, every day is a new beginning, a new challenge, a new adventure. Spending the day working in an inviting, comfortable office is rewarding.

The Saiff Solutions family is stronger than ever!

See our new office!

– Gaile

Global Content Collaboration: Making it Work

Jun 9, 2015   //   by Barry Saiff   //   Blog, Content Strategy, How-To, Managing Technical Writers, Outsourcing, Reference Articles  //  No Comments

How widely dispersed, geographically speaking, is your content development team? Or, are you currently in one location and considering expanding to another?

Implementing a global content collaboration strategy can be a rewarding investment. Making it work begins with understanding these key success factors

  1. What Country?

Which country best fits your needs? Consider these factors to start:

  • Cost and availability of skilled labor
  • Language
  • Infrastructure – electricity, Internet, transportation

In considering countries, don’t leave out the Philippines –  the #1 rated country for business English.

  1. Ensuring Success and Quality via Project Management and Editing

Let’s face it, splitting your content development across countries, if not managed properly, can multiply your problems instead of reducing them. You need competent project management, in each location, to effectively facilitate global collaboration. The pitfalls of no project management include misunderstood instructions, missed deadlines, and poor quality work.

Editing, for grammar and substance, is a crucial part of quality control. A lack of editing is the chief culprit in many failed projects.

To prevent misunderstandings and build rapport, qualified editors should work in the same physical location as writers. Working with a writer in-house can accelerate progress dramatically, especially if English is not the writer’s first language. Body language, eye contact, visual cues — all of these support effective communication.

A less desirable option is to use local editors to work remotely with offshore writers. This is far better than not having any editing at all.

  1. Choosing a Low-risk, High Reward Pilot Project

For your first project, choose something that has clear scope, goals, and instructions.

Updating existing documentation, reworking documentation for a new platform, converting files to new formats — all of these can make good initial projects. By choosing a simpler project, you can minimize the number of variables, and better determine what is and is not working.

  1. Managing Risks

Act on these risks early to mitigate future mishaps.

  • Meetings Across Time Zones

While business needs sometimes dictate odd hours, allowing people to work reasonably normal hours most of the time has great rewards. Many projects only require odd hours for regular meetings.

Some of the things to consider when scheduling meeting times and work hours are:

– Availability of transportation: In many places, no transportation is available between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am, for example.

– Health: Night shifts are not for everyone, and may not be healthy for anyone on a long-term basis.

– Opportunity: Time zone differences may allow you to get more work done in each 24-hour period.

  • Work with Multiple Communication Styles

The keys to successfully working across cultures are awareness, relationships, and inclusion.

A lack of cultural awareness can cause many problems. For example, in some cultures, “Yes” doesn’t always mean “Yes.” Quick conversations that lack substance can lead to misunderstandings that surface later, after damage is already done.

Ask questions, frequently. Clarify everything. Surrender the idea that your culture is better or more effective – there is no cheese down that road.

Effective communication occurs within effective relationships that are based on inclusion. Diverse communication channels can help build a strong, collaborative, multinational team. Include multiple avenues for connection and learning, for example:

  • Shared wiki sites/intranets
  • One-on-one meetings via videoconference or phone
  • Group email lists
  • File storage/sharing sites
  • Occasional conferences with the entire project team or subgroups

Global content collaboration can be an enriching experience for all involved. Faster turnaround, lower budgets, and higher quality are all possible.

Are you considering outsourcing content development? Saiff Solutions, Inc. can help you develop a strategy to succeed. Contact us if you’d like to talk:

We have a free offer until July 7, 2015.

Welcome, New Year!

Saiff Solutions, Inc. wishes all of our followers and supporters a Happy New Year and a prosperous and joyous 2015!

Once again we are sharing with you our year end/year start questions. Use them as you see fit, to empower yourself, your organizations, and your loved ones.

Questions and Answers – 2014/2015

1. What did you accomplish in 2014 that you want to be acknowledged for?

1a. How well did you perform on your intentions and promises for 2014?
Question 5 – completion steps
Question 6 – vision for the year
Question 7 – Intentions to learn
Question 9 – greatest challenges
Question B – Promises for 2014

2. What did you learn in 2014? (LESSONS LEARNED)

3. What did you fail to accomplish in 2014?

4. What is still incomplete for you? Consider your answers above, as well as people, events, or situations that you may be incomplete with.

5. Are you willing to let it go? If not what do you need to do in order to get complete? By when will you do that?

6. What is your vision for 12/31/15? Name at least 3 things.

7. What do you intend to learn in 2015?

8. What are you grateful for?

9. What is your greatest challenge?

10. What support do you need?

Optional bonus questions:
A. Fill in the blanks: I am willing to give up _______________ in order to have _________

B. What are you willing to promise for 2015?

C. What requests do you need to make to get started on fulfilling your promises and your vision?

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

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?


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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“Barry [Saiff] is one of those people that every company needs. He is a very efficient and productive member of any team and on top of that ensures that others feel a member of the team also. Whilst at Brightmail I got to know Barry as he was the organizer for our local toastmasters group. His energy and enthusiam encouraged this collection of diverse people to create a wonderful group experience. I would recommend Barry for any position that required trust, loyalty and a great sense of humor.”

Raj Rana
Sr Systems Engineer, Brightmail
December 27, 2010

Read more testimonials here.