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From Lemons to Lemonade: Technical Writing Outsourcing as a Dream Come True

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From Lemons to Lemonade:
Technical Writing Outsourcing
as a Dream Come True
Barry Saiff
Founder and CEO, Saiff Solutions, ...
• Technical communications leader
• 32 years of technical documentation
experience
• Led writing teams at 6 US companies
•...
QUESTION:What is Your Interest/Experience in
Technical Writing Outsourcing?
Have you experienced:
• Working with writers i...

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From Lemons to Lemonade: Technical Writing Outsourcing as a Dream Come True

  1. 1. From Lemons to Lemonade: Technical Writing Outsourcing as a Dream Come True Barry Saiff Founder and CEO, Saiff Solutions, Inc. Tagaytay City, Philippines
  2. 2. • Technical communications leader • 32 years of technical documentation experience • Led writing teams at 6 US companies • Founded Saiff Solutions, Inc. in 2011 • Provides content development to Fortune 500 companies in Japan & US About the Speaker: Barry Saiff
  3. 3. QUESTION:What is Your Interest/Experience in Technical Writing Outsourcing? Have you experienced: • Working with writers in another country? • Layoffs due to outsourcing? • Being involved in a decision to outsource? • A well-crafted outsourcing plan? A poorly- implemented plan? • Negative impacts of outsourcing? Positive impacts? •What else??
  4. 4. What is your overall impression of TECHNICAL WRITING OUTSOURCING?
  5. 5. The 6 Stages of Technical Writing Stage 1 Infancy (1970’s) Stage 2 Youth (1980’s) Stage 3 Adolescence (1990’s) Stage 4 Young Adulthood (2000’s) Stage 5 Adulthood (2010’s) Stage 6 Mid-Life (2015)
  6. 6. The GROWTH of Outsourcing From 1970 to 2010, outsourcing grew exponentially. Some examples: • By 2003, 77 global software development firms had R&D operations in India. • By a recent (2013) estimate, there were 80,000 software developers in the Philippines. • There are now technical writers in the Philippines with 10+ years experience in topic-based authoring.
  7. 7. DRIVERS of Outsourcing • Labor cost differentials • Growth of global labor market = availability • Communications cost reductions • Global market growth/economic liberalization • Increased ease of doing business globally • Convergence of global business culture • Increasing productivity • Increasing customer-centric focus on quality
  8. 8. Discuss: TWO Issues, Fears, Pitfalls What do you think are the major problems with technical writing outsourcing?
  9. 9. WHY OUTSOURCE?
  10. 10. PRODUCTIVITY is a powerful, historical force: Productivity rises, and everything changes to facilitate rising productivity.
  11. 11. OUTSOURCING Successes What happens when TWO works well?
  12. 12. OUTSOURCING Successes What happens when TWO works well? • Effective global collaboration • Learning • Process Improvement • Improved quality • Reduced costs • Increased global responsiveness • Productivity improvements
  13. 13. OUTSOURCING Pitfalls Can bad things happen as a result of outsourcing technical writing?
  14. 14. OUTSOURCING PitfallsCan bad things happen as a result of outsourcing technical writing? • Yes, sometimes. • Often when outsourcing decisions do not involve technical communicators. • Resisting outsourcing makes it less likely that you’ll be included in the decision. • What you resist persists.
  15. 15. Can good technical writers lose jobs to outsourcing? OUTSOURCING Pitfalls • Yes, sometimes. But not always. • Over 4 years, the # of Saiff Solutions clients that laid off of in-house writers: 0 • Yes, 0. We’ve never been in that situation. • Yes, layoffs happen. But not in every case.
  16. 16. Discuss: TWO Key Success Factors What things do you think need to happen to make technical writing outsourcing successful?
  17. 17. The Evolution of TWO For a long time it seemed that: • Technical writing outsourcing may not work. • Opposing TWO is the best way to keep local TW jobs.
  18. 18. CLEARthat… Now it is
  19. 19. The Evolution of TWO Now it clear that: • Technical writing outsourcing can work very well. • With technical communicators in management, we can author TWO strategies, instead of being victims. • How TWO is done is a crucial question.
  20. 20. TWO IMPLEMENTATION
  21. 21. TWO IMPLEMENTATION If you have writers: - As work grows, you can expand capacity at lower cost via outsourcing. - By reserving advanced tasks for the in-house team, you can improve team morale and cost-effectiveness.
  22. 22. TWO IMPLEMENTATION To determine if TWO is right for YOU: - No one-size-fits-all formula - No simple rule to follow - Quality varies everywhere
  23. 23. TWO IMPLEMENTATION: What do process maturity and content strategy have to do with TWO:- If technical writers struggle to discover design changes when co-located with engineers… - Outsourcing may magnify problems. PROCESS
  24. 24. TWO IMPLEMENTATION: When outsourcing goes wrong, it can be due to any of the following issues: RISKS Location Function INCLUSION Language
  25. 25. TWO IMPLEMENTATION: RISKS EXPERIENCE LEVEL Culture Competency Management When outsourcing goes wrong, it can be due to any of the following issues:
  26. 26. • Focus where you can have an impact. • Prepare yourself for change. • Focus on the success of your enterprise. • Focus on improving quality. TWO IMPLEMENTATION: LESSONS
  27. 27. • Start with process improvement and content strategy. • Focus on morale and effectiveness. Don’t ignore the need to sell change effectively. • Use inclusive planning. • Be aware of potential cultural pitfalls. TWO IMPLEMENTATION: LESSONS For management:
  28. 28. Assess process maturity and content strategy first, and improve if needed. - Include Tech Comm in planning. - Ensure a realistic financial analysis. - Identify & communicate vision & benefits. - Incorporate team feedback. - Focus on career development. TWO: KEY SUCCESS FACTORS
  29. 29. Carefully choose country: - Consider language, infrastructure, labor pool. - #1 country in business English: Philippines (http://www.globalenglish.com/business_english_index) TWO: KEY SUCCESS FACTORS Carefully choose provider. Start with a low-risk pilot project.
  30. 30. Understand and accommodate the differences: - Time zone - Language - Culture - Expertise - Background, context TWO: KEY SUCCESS FACTORS
  31. 31. Include all tech writers in meetings, reviews, scrums, defect tracking, wiki/intranet, email list, etc. Document testing, review = key parts of the project schedule TWO: KEY SUCCESS FACTORS
  32. 32. Outsourcing, poorly conceived, planned, and executed, can spread, expand, and increase the worst qualities of an organization. Conclusion
  33. 33. Conclusion Outsourcing, done well, can promote the growth of a thriving organization and contribute to continual improvement.
  34. 34. What is your overall impression of TECHNICAL WRITING OUTSOURCING?
  35. 35. By 2030, in a typical US company, what % of technical writing will take place outside of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe? a. 25% c. 75% b. 50% d. 95% Final questions In 2030, how will the number of technical communication jobs in the USA compare to 2015: a. At least twice as many jobs as in 2015? b. More, but not twice as many? c. The same? d. Less?
  36. 36. Email: barrysaiff@saiffsolutions.com Skype: SaiffSolutions Contact: +1 415 350 2959 +63 917 872 0929 Web: www.saiffsolutions.com Questions & comments!
  37. 37. Bonus Slide:Responsesto SurveyQuestionsat Lavacon 2015 How many of you have experienced: Work with off-shore writers: 7 Lay-offs due to TWO: 3 Involved in TWO decision: 6 Well-crafted TWO plan: 2 Poorly-crafted TWO plan: 2 Any negative TWO impacts: 6 Any positive TWO impacts: 2 Overall impression of TWO (at start): Positive: 0 Negative: 4 Overall impression of TWO (at end): Positive: 4 Negative: 0 Neutral: 9 By 2030, what % of technical writing will be offshore? 25% -0, 50%-6, 75%-4, 95%-0 By 2030, how will the # of TW jobs in USA compare to 2015? 2x-0, 1x-2x-6, 1x-0, <1x-4

Notas do Editor

  • We are lucky that technical communications matured as a field before technical writing outsourcing became widespread.
  • Research, planning, inclusion, vision

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