AIIM Open Forum

The Path From Technical Writer to Information Manager

By Jennifer Gitt posted 09-10-2019 07:45

  


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This article aims to draw attention to the increasing importance of Technical Writers / Information Managers (m/f/d) and highlight the features of these job descriptions. As well as this, it offers an overview of possible developments and recommended qualifications. To improve readability, the following does not include the supplement “m/f/d”. Use the comments to let the community know which certifications you think are important for a Technical Writer or Information Manager.

 

The Technical Writer. The professional title "Technical Writer" was coined by Tekom (Gesellschaft für Technische Kommunikation) in collaboration with the Federal Labour Office. A Technical Writer is responsible for the conceptualisation, creation and updating of technical documentation such as user guides, operating manuals, installation and assembly instructions, as well as training material. Technical writers are increasingly working in-house and write, for example, system and application documentation as well as requirement specifications. They also manage terminology and user interfaces alongside the development process.

Did you know? There were around 85,000 full-time Technical Writers in Germany in 2016. A large portion of the documentation is, however, authored by individuals, who actually have a different role, which means that the actual profession “Technical Writer” is largely unknown. (Wikipedia)

Reading suggestion: Why Your Role of Technical Writer is Becoming Increasingly Important.

The Information Manager role is less clearly defined. Information management in general means the management of information, however the term has various definitions in technical literature. The reason for this is the dynamic environment of IT development as well as the various academic disciplines (in particular information systems that is involved with information and communication management). [...] In general “strategic information management” is described by various authors as the planning, conceptualisation, monitoring and managing of information and communication within organisations with the aim of achieving strategic goals. (Wikipedia)

Information manager – a profession? Information manager as a role does not have a job description and is not listed as a skilled occupation in the German setting (see Planit, berufe.eu; despite this, however, “Information Manager” is included in the occupations list of the employment agency as a “field of study” and “occupation after studies”).

A comparison between the activities of a Technical Writer and those of an Information Manager finds similarities. Both deal with documentation/information. However the Information Manager flies higher. Unlike a Technical Writer, they aren’t involved full-time in the actual creation of documentation but instead are also responsible for the process of information management and the quality of the process as well as that of the documentation. The tasks and responsibility of a Technical Writer are therefore a good basis for professional development into an Information Manager. The experience gathered helps master growing challenges and expanded responsibilities.

Additional tasks for an Information Manager include:

  • Management of the documentation process
  • Recording of information needs
  • Communication with stakeholders (regular meetings with Responsibles & Accountables)
  • Drafting of programmes/projects
  • Management of technical implementation
  • Management of the (teams of) Responsibles
  • Adaptation of available modules, templates and models as required
  • Management and support of information creation, review and updating
  • Making reviewed information available and accessible for authorised persons
  • Reporting about the status, progress and obstacles / risks
  • Holding training/education sessions
  • Interest in and promotion of continuous improvement

 

An Information Manager should have the following knowledge and skills:

  • Understanding of the overall objective and the defined scope
  • Ability to work across departments and understand connections
  • Adequate experience
  • Knowledge of the necessary methods and practices as well as how to apply them
  • Handling of information management technologies and knowledge of their advantages/disadvantages
  • Basic user knowledge of content management systems (e.g. SharePoint, Alfresco)
  • Basic user knowledge of content delivery systems (e.g. WordPress, Typo 3, Confluence)
  • Ideally some industry expertise

 
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Which qualifications can aid success in the additional areas of responsibility?

  • Studies, for example in information management / multimedia communication and documentation / digital humanities
  • and/or several years of professional experience as a Technical Writer
  • Certified Information Professional – CIP** (aiim)
  • (agile) project management
  • Technical writer (Tekom)
  • ITIL Foundation (especially in IT)

 

CIP – what is this? Certified Information Professional is a certification offered by the American organisation aiim (Association for Information and Image Management). Details can be found in the following article: Why Should Technical Writers get CIP Certification?

 

Summary

The need for Technical Writers will increase (Why Your Role of Technical Writer is Becoming Increasingly Important). At the same time, the demands on Technical Writers are becoming ever more complex. Experienced Technical Writers that take on additional responsibilities are referred to as Information Managers. Anyone who is interested in an advancement to Information Manager can gain an overview of the tasks and skills of an Information Manager and obtain the available certifications.

Which certifications do you think are relevant for a Technical Writer / Information Manager? Which knowledge/certification do you see as must-have, and which as nice-to-have? Write a comment!

 

 

 

1 comment
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Comments

18 days ago

​Hi Jennifer. I was trained in analog electronics by the US Navy and assigned to operate and maintain US Naval Air antisubmarine warfare (ASW) aviation electronics (avionics) during my service. Afterwards, as a civilian, I worked as a final test technician, and very soon after that, was invited to become a technical writer. After 25 years as a tech writer in six different aerospace companies, I earned master degrees in technical management and systems engineering, and became a principal engineer in logistics, again performing tech writing to keep procedural, descriptive, and parts information up-to-date for the next 25 years.

I mention this because technical writing has always been based on one's military as well as commercial training and service experience. The complexities you refer to reflects the ever evolving nature of technologies, from analog electronics to digital processing of information technology and now on the cusp of imagery displays and conversant databases for digital twins (composite 3D system designs) in private secure server computer clouds over a robotically manufactured system's life cycle.

That said, I've never required a certification beyond my resume to be trusted to do my job. But that, too, is continuously evolving.