Suyog Ketkar, Autodesk
October 1, 2021
Of the many recent challenges I have faced and accomplished, one has had me tackle relatively more hurdles and obstacles. I have realized, facing challenges is proof that you are on the ‘write’ track — pun intended. One such challenge was delivering documentation to internal customers — also the subject-matter experts (SMEs) for the project. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Establish a Strong Communication Network
Writing about something isn’t as challenging as sharing what you have prepared with the SMEs, especially when they claim to be busy with regular updates to the tool. By the time you write about a feature, its form factor, scale, and look-and-feel would have undergone noticeable changes. Yet, we chose to face the challenge with open arms. We purposely asked to step into the task of writing along with the Test sprint. So, we gained insights on the tool, dashboard, and, most importantly, SMEs’ expectations as we ran in parallel to the Testing team. By the time we had prepared the final Wiki content, we had managed to hit multiple targets simultaneously:
- We had more than one round (back-and-forth) of edits on the content.
- We had Created a consistent-looking information flow.
- We were ready to make the content live on the same day their dashboards were ready to go live.
In summary, we had built a strong communication network and relationship with our SMEs. Why was this relationship important? The answer to that question ushers us into the next point.
Build a Post-Release Experience Strategy
The project in reference was one with a shifting target. Each quarter saw its own set of new features. So much so that a few dashboards gave way to entirely new dashboards. So, a few merged. A few split. A few got redesigned. So, the second phase of this project needed a completely different outlook on what we were doing. We had built a strong communication network. But now was the time to bring it to full use. We set up meetings with our SMEs to discuss the planned workload and the roadmap of improvements. Based on their roadmap, we created, shared, and aligned ours. But if there was any learning that remained unchanged across these quarters, it was that we had first learned their language and later used it for communication. It helped us significantly reduce:
- The back-and-forth of edit iterations
- The Communication gaps
- The time it took to finalize a piece of content
To date, our SMEs appreciate us for not what we contributed but for how efficiently we handled the overall process. To give you an idea of the project: there are eight dashboards, each of which on average has four underlying reports. A team of five for each dashboard. In contrast, we were two writers. Funny how it was still the developers who complained about the workload.
Retain Content Quality Governance Rights
The biggest challenge — goes without saying — in the process was to retain our sane selves! The SMEs snatched every possible opportunity of poking at the oversights, technical inaccuracies, and insufficiencies within the initial drafts. I can never understate them ignoring our contributions. We even had to fight for simple things like posting FAQs within the tool versus posting the FAQs on the Wiki. It was a constant battle of their words against ours and their opinions against ours. Nevertheless, a bit of conviction and we were back on track. With each iteration, they acknowledged the importance of the tiny yet critical changes we made. Despite the initial resistance, we stood fast that we would retain the right to govern the quality of the content. Once again, the content speaks the same language. This time, though, on a much larger scale.
If anything, the challenge has proved once again that we all are humans. And that despite how difficult it might seem, a bit of bowing down always helps. Just that, we’ve done what we must in a way that lies at the sweet spot of command and respect. We’ve learned to respect their views while commanding our posts of writing. As I said, this project is going to remain a shifting target for a while. It is challenges like these that make way for a steep learning curve. And I couldn’t be any happier.
At work, Suyog Ketkar is a certified technical communicator and mentor. At heart, he is a writer. In 2017, he published his first book, ‘The Write Stride–A Conversation with Your Writing Self,’ which discusses communicating the correct message correctly. In the past, he has spoken at national conferences. Some of his works have been published in international magazines. You can find him on his social media, website (http://suyogketkar.com), YouTube channel (Words and Wordsmith), and Quora, where he has close to 400 answers. This year he will release his second book (first historical fiction).