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By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail, or how we bring your documentation to the finish line

Running and technical writing may seem like fundamentally different activities, however, writing documentation and participating in a running race have a lot in common. Both require thoughtful preparation, the right equipment, and dedication. With the right amount of these three things, you might even exceed your expectations.

In this post, I will present how we at 3di plan work, overcome challenges, and deliver quality content to the finish line, regardless of the scope and complexity of your documentation needs.

On your marks. Get set. Go!

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Preparation is key

I can tell you from personal experience that the hardest part of running 5 kilometres is… actually running the whole distance – without stopping, giving up, or hurting yourself. If you start too fast, you may be forced to stop after the first kilometre, with shortness of breath or a painful cramp. If you don’t pay attention (it’s just 5 km, how hard can it be?), you may twist your ankle. Fortunately, you can minimise those risks by having the right preparation: planning and exercise.

3di uses the same principles when creating documentation. The process begins with getting to know the customer and their product, and choosing the right structure and tools to write the document. We also need to understand the audience and their information needs. Such analysis helps us decide what content needs to be created, and what is not needed. Our expertise, built over more than two decades in the industry, includes information models or templates we can apply and customise to best fit your project.

Do you need a website or PDF? Will it only be text, or do your users need images as well? Diagrams or animated GIFs? Asking the right questions before starting your project allows us to scope the effort required to complete the documentation and select the right team for the job. Before the project begins, we agree tasks and milestones with you. This helps us stay focused on the work to be done and monitor the project progress. This is when more detailed planning begins.

Planning

When you prepare for a sports competition, apart from training, it’s good to plan the day of the event. Write down key information: What time is the race? How do I get there? What’s the weather forecast? What do I pack? Planning helps you focus on what’s important and minimizes the risk of something not going your way. Instead of packing at the last minute, you can get a good night’s sleep, and enjoy breakfast in the morning.

There are various aspects of a documentation project that need planning. The information model helps us set out a detailed content plan – a list of topics that form the document. The content plan lays out the structure of the document, split into sections and topics. Project scheduling includes planning time for revision by 3di colleagues and subject matter experts on the customer’s side, to make sure we can identify and address any outstanding issues in time. If you want to translate your document, there is an additional phase handled by the 3di localization team.

With thoughtful planning, we can ensure every project runs smoothly, and we have the right balance of capacity, skill and resilience to deliver excellent documentation.

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Skills

Professional athletes make it look so easy, but behind every success are years of hard work. Anyone who wants to be active could give running a try, but not everyone has the perseverance to achieve their goals. Even if someone is a skilled writer, it doesn’t automatically make them a good technical author. Being a technical writer means acquiring, constantly developing, and practicing the right set of skills that make it possible to capture information and craft content in a way that makes complexity clear.

At 3di, we gather people with the right expertise, skills, and experience to cover all your documentation needs. In addition to our in-house team of service managers, technical authors, localization engineers and tools experts, we work with experienced freelance content creators and translators all over the world. This allows us to establish effective teams to tackle even the most complex documentation projects.

Tools

You don’t need expensive running shoes to run, but adequate footwear makes running, or any other sport, safer, easier, and more pleasant. In technical writing, our tech stack allows us to offer the authoring, publishing, and localisation tools that best suit your documentation needs. At the same time, the right tools help us organise and reuse content to minimise the workload and maximise the consistency of your documentation.

Whether you need a powerful out-of-the-box solution, or something simple and tailored to your needs, we can offer the best solution for your documentation. Be it MadCap Flare, which is our recommended tool, our Markdown tool stack with unmatched authoring simplicity, or the standardised format of Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) – let’s start a conversation to choose the best authoring environment for you.

For more complex projects, 3di can help by providing consultancy to better understand your specific documentation requirements.

Team effort

When I started running, I was just doing my best, and trying not to overdo it. It wasn’t until I joined a local outdoor enthusiast group that I learned my technique needed some improvement. The constructive feedback I got, combined with the opportunity to learn from others, improved my performance, and made running much more enjoyable. So, even if you prefer individual activities, a session with a personal trainer, or reading a beginner’s guide, can help you prepare for a safe and fruitful practice.

At 3di, documentation is never created by one person. Depending on the project complexity and timeframe, one or more authors create content based on the approved plan, pass it to a colleague for peer review, and improve it. Collaborative authoring makes it possible to create content more quickly. Other benefits include flexibility, better resilience, and higher quality content. The collaborative approach makes technical writing more like a relay race, in which the whole team contributes to the result.

To cultivate the team spirit outside of the office, too, 3di colleagues take part in Poland Business Run, an annual charity relay race. It takes place in Kraków, but thanks to the hybrid formula of the event, participants from all our offices can join. And to take a break from our daily habits, we don’t set a time goal: we run, jog, walk, stroll or cycle the distance to help the people whom the charity supports, and have fun doing it.

Reaching the finish line

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail”. The key to achieving success in sports is adequate preparation – without it, even if you run the whole race, and even if you get a decent result, you risk injury, muscle sores, and resenting the activity. In the world of technical writing, if you fail to plan, you may still get a decent document at the end, but risk delays in the process as well as problems in the future, such as localization issues or trouble with maintaining the documentation.

Making complexity clear requires the right planning, skills, tools and techniques. We have been practicing this approach for over 20 years, which means 3di could be your trusted partner in delivering your documentation project to the finish line – and getting ready for the next one.

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Anna Meyer

Anna Meyer

Anna is a Technical Author, based in our Kraków office. Having worked as a translator with poorly written technical docs prior to joining 3di, she now does her best to deliver quality technical writing.

Away from work, Anna enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, running, and ice-swimming.

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