Within any office a technical writer joins, there are documentation needs. That’s why they were hired. Maybe there’s a consistent influx of work, or maybe there is a long list they need to work through. Either way, technical writers are brought into offices to create documents for the good of the office. What many people overlook, however, are fundamental documents they think they can do without.
In many places, there is a person who seems to have all the answers. Every question directs you to them. We call this person a single point of failure. What that means is, were that person to leave for any reason, their entire knowledge base would leave with them and that gap in knowledge would prevent the office from functioning properly. These great knowledge bases are the single point of failure for the office, until a technical writer arrives.
Once a technical writer enters an office, they are responsible for identifying documentation gaps and filling them. If a question is asked, there should be a document which provides the answer. If there is no document, the technical writer must create it. By tracking the knowledge base of the office and ensuring its documentation, technical writers eliminate the single point of failure.
Additionally, technical writers should work on creating their own knowledge base. Lessons learned and answers found should be written down for the next person who fills the position. Think through your office. Imagine each person quitting that day, yourself included. What should their replacement know that isn’t documented? Consider the documents every technical writer needs. Helpful links and resources should also be gathered to create welcome packets for new hires. When in doubt, document everything. You never know what information someone might need.
About the Author
Greta Boller is a technical writer located in the Washington, D.C. area. For more information, please visit her bio page.