Trends in technical communication, 2014 edition
Our annual prognostication, along with an assessment of our predictions from last year.
2013 in review
Our predictions from 2013:
- Velocity: the requirement for faster authoring, formatting, publishing, delivery, and updates is forcing tech comm into significant changes. This was a theme in our presentations and consulting projects this year.
- Mobile requirements change tech comm. This is happening, but more is needed.
- Rethinking content delivery. Again, I’d like to see more.
- Bill had PDF continuing to thrive, and continued growth of localization requirements, along with another trend related to mobile.
Looking back, these predictions seem quite cautious, but I think that are largely accurate as trends.
On to 2014…
Trend 1: People like their silos.
Despite increased talk about breaking down silos, people still like them. Working in silos gives those working within them and managers overseeing them a sense of control over their content, whether real or perceived. Technology investments within individual silos will continue for the foreseeable future. This technology will need to “talk” to the technology used within other silos—using a common format—to efficiently share content. While people may like their silos, executive management is growing less fond of them, regarding them as roadblocks to collaboration and contributing factors to excess overhead costs. Looking forward, we will start to see technology investments across or outside of silos that further centralize content management and ease the burden of reusing content across groups.
Trend 2: Reorienting toward a customer perspective of content
Organizations are beginning to look at content from the customer’s point of view. Customers just want information; they don’t care about the internal differences between a knowledge base article and a topic from tech comm. As a result, the pressure to integrate these diverse roles and deliver unified information (usually to the corporate web site) is increasing. Executives are aware of these issues, and they do not want to hear about how the internal structure of an organization makes it problematic to deliver what they want.
Trend 3: Blurring of tech comm, marcom, and content strategy
The term “content strategy” has been heavily used by those working in tech comm and marcom over the past few years, though the focus has differed. In the scope of tech comm, content strategy primarily involves the process of creating, managing and producing content. The marcom focus of content strategy has traditionally been on audience engagement. The line between these two camps is now blurring. Tech comm is increasingly interested in and responsible for tracking the effectiveness of content, and marcom has an increased awareness of the content management lifecycle and of localization requirements. We’ll see an increase in collaboration between tech comm and marcom as the lines continue to blur, and perhaps a new discipline will emerge as the trend continues.
Trend 4: Apps are winning over HTML5
This one requires context. A lot of our customers are building apps for their content. In particular, they are using apps for information that is delivered to staff technical support or field services people—employees who go to customer sites and install or fix things. For that specific use case, most companies are opting for an app because:
- The company provides the employee with a device (usually a tablet) with the technical content. As a result, the target device is known—the company can create a single app on a single operating system.
- They want functionality, especially integration with other systems, that is easier to achieve with an app than with HTML5.
- They like the control provided by the app update process.
Does this fly in the face of the bring your own device (BYOD) trend? Yes, it does.
Trend 5: Lots of creativity in output—not source
Business and consumer demands drive content requirements, and the rate at which these demands change is increasing. New apps, new delivery formats, and new use scenarios are constantly introducing new requirements. To respond to these evolving requirements, content developers will need to get creative on the output side while standardizing on a simpler, cleaner source. This will ensure that content is poised and available for transformation and production to required formats.
Trend 6: Content can be an asset—or a liability
Like other content strategists, we have been arguing for some time that content is a corporate asset and should be managed properly. But “content is an asset” doesn’t tell the whole story because the corollary is that:
Bad content is a liability.
Organizations are beginning to recognize that their content can help or hurt them. They ignore content at their peril.
What do you think of our trends? Did we miss one?