At the first STC New England program of the year we discussed ways of working with the “frenemy.”
On September 16th at the Hilton Garden Inn in Burlington, MA, Rick Lippincott presented his experience working as a technical writer as part of a technical support unit: “Frenemies? Tech Comm, Tech Support, and Working Together.” Rick compared and contrasted technical communication (TechComm) and technical support (Tech Support) units, summarized what it’s like to work as a technical communicator in a technical support group, and recommended a few ways that TechComm can improve its working relationship with Tech Support.
Some of the fundamental differences between TechComm and Tech Support are in each unit’s approach. Usually, TechComm documentation must support as wide an audience as possible. TechComm is expected to provide a complete set of data, which Tech Support rarely needs. Tech Support deals with problems as they are reported individually by users. And these users often can’t be bothered to read the documentation provided by Tech Comm.
On the flip side, TechComm has no direct contact with customers, but does have access to subject matter experts and is included in the design process. Tech Support has constant interaction with customers, but is not in the loop on the latest developments to fix a problem and is usually unaware of the designer’s original intentions. To bridge these information gaps and work effectively with Tech Support, TechComm should learn about Tech Support’s structure, operations, and what users’ biggest pain points are. TechComm also needs to make information easily findable for Tech Support and show SMEs the value of receiving user feedback information from Tech Support.
Before the meeting, new Council member Paul Duarte led the audience in a “rose/bud/thorn” icebreaker exercise. Attendees wrote sticky notes for things they loved about their jobs (roses), things that could be better (buds), and things that they hated (thorns). The results gave the Council ideas for future events or InterChange topics.
About Justine Sundaram
Justine Sundaram holds an M.A. in English from the University of Chicago. She currently works as a librarian at Boston College and her interests include all things software, mobile and cloud. Visit her blog (https://justinestechtutorials.wordpress.com) to learn more.