TechPubs is not a very influential department in most companies. You’re considered a cost centre, massaging content and concepts that originate elsewhere in the company (like engineering), and then pushing it out into the world. As a result, most departments justifiably consider themselves underfunded and understaffed, and find themselves fighting for budgets and respect.
But the times are a-changin’. Multi-channel publishing initiatives like syndication networks and collaborative product development are accelerating demand for high-quality content. Blogging, Wikis, and other social-software phenomena are transforming the nature of marketing on the web. In the Web 2.0 world, people don’t buy products, they join communities. Often, those communities know more about how your company’s products actually work than the engineers who designed them. This presents a tremendous opportunity to the forward-looking techpubs department to turn their traditional role inside-out, and become a conduit for customer participation in the process of designing and documenting products.
Many will, understandably, fear this change. Letting your customers participate directly in the development of product documentation will require new processes, new ways of working, new relationships. But in that change is an opportunity to become more meaningfully engaged in the process of creating excellent products.