What does Digitisation mean within Technical Documentation?

The view of a millennial on the new information management.

© WrightStudio / AdobeStock

© WrightStudio / AdobeStock

I belong to the generation of so-called Millennials. Millennials, also commonly referred to as Generation Y, are said to be 2.5 times more willing to try new technologies than the rest of the population. This means that at the latest my generation is saying goodbye to traditional analogue content and processes, and expects them – also in our everyday work environment – in digital form. We're also experiencing this development in technical documentation.

For a long time now, it's no longer been a matter of handing over documentation as an entire "delivery" to the customer. Content is no longer created in Word, which resembles more of the old analog world rather than the new digital one; it's now created in modern XML Content Management Systems. These systems enable companies to publish their content in various output formats, from HTML to the common PDF document. In addition, the term "content delivery" has become increasingly important over the past few years. Content delivery portals provide information available in small, task-oriented chunks on web platforms or in apps for mobile devices, so that users can easily find and view them.

Is the digitisation of technical documentation now complete? Maybe, but perhaps not. In my opinion, this depends on the respective business model. For me as a Millennial, digitisation means not only the conversion of analogue values into digital formats, but also that digitisation is normally accompanied by a new business model and thus, provides additional benefits. This new business model can either be developed from a traditional one or contain a disruptive approach.

Two approaches for a new business model

If you consider machine building, there are already some large manufacturers who have developed their old business model, selling machines, into a digitised pay-per-use business model. The customer therefore only needs to pay for productive use and not for the entire machine, itself. Perhaps in the future such models can also result from the use of information. It's my view that information that goes beyond the requirements of current standards and directives and which creates added value, such as empowering your own service personnel to work even more efficiently has more financial value. I'd gladly pay more for a specific product if it would always provide me with the information I need at just the right time – simply because both the value and usability of such a product is made even higher.

The disruptive approach is far more complex. An Uber or an Airbnb, which both cause their respective industries to become nervous, is not quite so realistic for technical documentation. A disruptive approach would be if we would completely turn our backs in the future on standard operating instructions or operating manuals. If we stick with the machine building example, the individual plants and machines would have to provide users with the information they need "right now", in a way that the user wouldn't even notice. This requires not only a high degree of technical editorial expertise, but also a networked IT environment. The development of such a business model could hardly be executed by companies alone, and it goes way beyond traditional company boundaries. It's precisely for this reason, that at kothes, we're also establishing more and more strategic partnerships with high-performing and efficient companies. The speed of development is determined by our customers; our goal is to be the pioneer of our industry. And a little "dreaming" is a big part of every Millennial ;-).