How to Create and Deliver Intelligent Information

The Path from Technical Writer to Information Manager

The Technical Writer

The professional title “technical writer” was coined by tekom (Gesellschaft für Technische Kommunikation – tekom Deutschland e.V.) in collaboration with the German Federal Labor Office. A technical writer is responsible for the conceptualization, 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, for example, writing 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 of “technical writer” is largely unknown. (Wikipedia)

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

The Information Manager

The role of information manager is less clearly defined. Information management as a general term refers to 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 involved in information and communication management). […] In general, “strategic information management” is described by various authors as the planning, conceptualization, monitoring and managing of information and communication within organizations 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 German Agency for Employment as a “field of study” and “occupation after studies”).

A comparison of 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, information managers 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 both the process and the documentation. The tasks and responsibilities 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 responsible persons and those held accountable) 
  • Drafting of programs/projects 
  • Management of technical implementation 
  • Management of the (teams of) responsible persons
  • 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 authorized persons 
  • Reporting on 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, TYPO3, Confluence)
  • Ideally, some industry expertise

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 organization 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. At the same time, the demands on technical writers are becoming ever more complex. Experienced technical writers who take on additional responsibilities are referred to as information managers. Anyone interested in advancing 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/certifications do you see as must-have, and which as nice-to-have? Write a comment!


Jennifer Gitt
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Jennifer Gitt

Information Manager at avato consulting ag
Jennifer Gitt is a specialist for information management with a focus on IT. As Information Manager at avato consulting ag, she manages customer projects aimed at the development (including maintenance) of intelligent information. She knows the challenges, methods and process models that have proven themselves in practice in order to build up a successful information portal in the long term. She successfully completed her studies in International Business & Change Management in 2011 and has been involved in information preparation, communication and management ever since.
Jennifer Gitt
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