April 6, 2009

Identifying Future Skills for Technical Communicators: An Action Plan

Posted in Work, Writing tagged , , , , at 4:22 PM by moxiemuse

Based on a technical article in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers journal, iexplore

Here are some notes I took from a future skills lecture sponsored by the Society for Technical Communication-Puget Sound Chapter:


Why do we need to identify future skills?

• Continuous technological advancements

• Evolution of technical communications means we need to adapt


What process did Boeing use to identify future skills?

 • Brainstorming*

• Analyze trends

    o Industry

    o Technological

• Consult journal articles

• Scrutinize organizational resources

    o Current skills

    o Customer requirements

    o Correlation of skills to requirements

• Work assignments

• Job descriptions

• Talk to our customers


Findings General

• Broaden expertise to include more business-related skills

• Manage contracted services

• Participate in service integration


• Want proactive partners skilled in leveraging information

• Don’t want support staff

The Ideal Communicator

• Possesses required skills to design, develop, and provide information

• Provides quick turnaround The Myth of Versatilists

• Success in IT will depend less on, say, development know-how or engineering savvy and more on a multilayered amalgam of business connections, strategic planning and marketing expertise.


How to continue to identify future skills

• Analyze current job descriptions and identify changing areas

• Analyze external drivers affecting a company’s goals and mission

• Determine current tools or technologies for acquiring and sharing future skills information

• Join professional organizations

• Attend conferences and seminars

• Adopt mentality of versatilists

• Join SIGs

• Develop a lifelong learning plan to stay abreast of rapid development

• Focus on training that emphasizes skills, not specific tools

• Remain nimble, adaptable, and responsive

*Brainstorming areas of future skills with a focus on processes/skills over tools

• Gestural design

• Animation and virtual 3D

• Editorial


 • Mobile development

• Adaptability

• Content management systems

• Collaboration processes

• Telecommuting

• Instructional videos

• Be catalyst for change and showing value added

• Presentation skills (know how to present projects/models for a changing environment)

• International standards and regulations

• Reuse/single sourcing • Localization and customization

• Interactive assistance


• Usability

• Entertaining documentation

• Podcasting/webinars/mobinars

• Miniaturization/robotics

• More need to 508 compliance (accessibility guidelines; more alt text is read by computers than people)

• Touch screens versus keyboards

• More reliance on professional associations to update a technical communicator’s skills

• Content analyst

• Functional analyst

• Project/performance manager

• Games (as a teaching tool)

• Speech recognition tools

• Social media technologies

• Multiplicity of common mechanisms (phone, PC, e-mail, twitter, SMS/MMS)

• Company reputation management

• Outsourcing (and understanding ROI & metrics)

• Self-management skills

• Thought leadership

• Learn how to target women, the very young, and the very old