When a project becomes too large and a technical writer is needed

By Carol Henderson

- AST Team Member

Do you need a technical writer for your documentation?

Not always. This answer may be unexpected coming from a technical writing company. But the truth is small projects don’t usually have the budget for a technical writer. Even a brief manual requires a minimum amount of time to produce, professionally. A technical writer will follow a trusted method, starting by liaising with key stakeholders, gathering source material, performing a gap analysis, outlining the structure, producing a list of required information, gathering further material, compiling a draft, putting out to review and round it goes. These tasks add up to many days work, and where a commercial obligation exists you can be sure they will be performed thoroughly. At a typical daily rate professionally written documentation usually becomes unviable for a small project.

It’s normal at this point to opt for in-house staff to put together an adequate publication, pieced together from a pick ‘n mix template, probably written in a quick and easy style using MS Word. Will the quality, language and consistency be that of a professional technical writer, of course not. It’s unlikely much time will be given to those extra professional touches either, safety warnings, features for ease of navigation, page layout and cross-referencing which are second nature to a technical writer.

In-house authoring does the job for a small project which by their nature are less complex, have fewer assets, less to maintain or go wrong and less regulatory constraint.

So when does a project require a technical writer?

At a certain point a project becomes too large for simple in-house documentation. At this point a standard manual is no longer acceptable and professional bespoke documentation written by a technical writer is essential.

There are a number of reasons for this:

  • more complex and technical systems and services
  • operation and maintenance is more demanding due to greater number of assets
  • larger quantity of technical data
  • project requires documentation of a certain standard for certification at handover
  • end-client demands documentation of a certain quality
  • larger project requires a professional finish representing the prestige of the project
  • project value is now large enough to cover the cost.

We have clients who only use a technical writer for their biggest projects. And potential clients who explore the idea but soon realise for the reasons above, that the time is not right, but who later require our services as their business and project sizes grow.

We are always happy to discuss your requirements and come to the right decision together.

So maybe you won’t always require a technical writer, but we are here for when you do.