Kathryn Showers, PlayStation
As a new manager of a technical documentation team, one of the first things I attempted to do was locate a corporate style guide. Wendy, my employee, suggested I reach out to the manager of the copywriters. I did, and he graciously shared his style guide with me. I later learned of another department whose focus is editing and formatting software API documents for game developers. Surely, I thought, there should be transparency and insight across all writing teams within Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE). I suggested to Doris, my boss, we should consider hosting a writer’s summit, where writers could determine the scope and breadth of the writing done at SIE and share processes, pain points, and resources, like style guides. As I was new and as there was so much to tackle, it made sense to relegate the idea of a writer’s summit to the back burner. Several months later, I learned of another writing team responsible for the CPU Host tools development documentation for game developers.
Understanding who these different teams were, their target audiences, and the scope of their documentation seemed even more relevant when my team, Information Development Services (IDS), was asked if we could develop API documents for external partners. The scope of IDS deliverables consists of authoring user guides for financial tools, customer service representatives’ tools, and pipeline tools, used to create and enhance the consumer’s shopping experience. When we began receiving requests for API documentation, due to our increased understanding of the various writing departments within SIE and the scope of their work, we were able to guide the requester to the correct team.
We then began having regular discussions with the writing teams responsible for API documentation, which expanded to include some of the other writing teams. During a particularly revealing conference call, when we discussed recently discovered writing teams, my boss piped up with, “We should have a writer’s summit!” All were in agreement, and the Writer’s Summit Committee was formed.
For months we talked about the theme of the summit, the agenda, and the focus, all the while gathering more writing teams interested in joining the summit. In the beginning, some of our conversations were stilted; all of us unsure of where we were going or what we were attempting to achieve. We sent out a survey to assess the level of interest for attending a summit, and to garner feedback on the topics attendees would like to see covered. Over time, as we clarified our summit vision and began to formulate a robust agenda, our discussions became more engaging.
The time we spent on discussions and information gathering paid off, as we were able to successfully communicate our vision to the executive team and explain how a writer’s summit would allow us to greatly improve our information development and technical communication disciplines, while bringing together our growing number of content creators.
As the committee members were located in both San Diego and San Mateo, we needed a place to share information and collaborate on summit development, timeline, topics, and agenda. We created the Writers Central space on team collaboration software to track summit details and began collecting information about writers, localizers, departments and the deliverables they generate, and a listing of style guides each department used. The site naturally transformed into a place for writers to collaborate and share ideas. I added a blog to the site and began to post daily writing tips there rather than in an email I would send to my staff. Something interesting happened—I started garnering a following of people outside of the technical writing discipline. One reader suggested I include a link to a slack channel where questions could be asked and then answered anonymously on the blog.
All of our planning efforts came together beautifully on September 7, 2017. We gathered 45 attendees from 13 SIE groups across 5 locations, including the UK, Tokyo, San Francisco, San Mateo, and San Diego. The purpose of our first summit was to define the who and the what. The morning was filled with presentations from each group illustrating their scope of work, their stakeholders, and their deliverables. Lunch was lively, and we enjoyed networking with one another. During the afternoon we divided ourselves into breakout sessions, where teams discussed the following topics:
- Working with subject matter experts (SMEs)
- Style and tone of voice (TOV)
- Tools gap analysis
- Localization strategies
The amount of energy and collaboration during the summit was amazing! The attendees agreed to have another Writer’s Summit in the spring and brainstormed ideas for staying connected between summits. Writers Central was a hit with attendees, too. They asked me to create pages for them to share information and to create additional tabs on the blog to organize content for localization, training, and document control. As a result of our efforts, we have the beginning of a global, unified writer’s community that echoes the spirit of “One Sony”.