Industry 4.0, Internet of Things, Communication Associations or Smart Factories – hardly a day goes by without new headlines about the rapid changes in the course of the digital transformation.
One thing is for certain: For industry in particular, the increasing use of connected, digitised and automated technologies means serious upheaval. However, technological advances aren't limited to the digitisation of produced goods. With the increasing relevance of digital communication channels, the internal and external information and communication processes of companies are changing – across all industries.
Here in particular, it's becoming increasingly clear that information itself and the knowledge gained from it have long since become both a critical productivity and competitive factor for companies.
Information as a key resource
What makes information such a valuable business asset? A good supply of information reduces the degree of uncertainty in decisions and is therefore the cornerstone of all business processes. If important information is not available to a supplier, customer, or the company's own employees at just the right time, this can have serious consequences for a company.
The systematic management of information processes is also becoming increasingly important in the development of innovations (i.e. when new knowledge is generated and combined with existing knowledge).
How can the information be made usable?
Many companies have already recognised the enormous economic importance of information for their business success. However, one major challenge remains: While a potentially vast amount of information exists within a company, all-too-rarely is the individual piece of information available in the right place and in the right form.
So how can the enormous potential of the corporate information that already exists be exploited? The real challenge is to further develop and systematically optimise the way information is handled. Quite a few companies still shy away from professionalising their information and knowledge work in a targeted manner. The obstacles posed by the introduction of new systems and processes (as well as a lack of people power) seem too high.
The Technical Editorial department as a nerve center
The good news is that the road to professional information management is less rocky than is often assumed. After all, many companies already have a place where information from a wide variety of sources is well documented and quality-assured: the Technical Editorial department. The variety of data that is prepared here didactically and medially is quite considerable. This is a rich treasure trove of data that's unfortunately still leveraged too rarely. The methodological potential of this data is considerable and is by no means limited to the creation of "just" technical documentation.
How can the existing data be used to improve the state of information within the company as a whole and to direct the flow of information to where it's needed? To answer this question, it's worth taking a look at the central players in technical editing, specifically the Technical Editors.
As experts in interface communication between development and application, they specialise in presenting technical content of all shapes and sizes in a comprehensible, clear and logically correct manner. It's obvious that this ability is virtually guaranteed to improve the supply of information for the entire company. So are today's Technical Editors the Information Managers of tomorrow?
Evolution instead of Revolution: The journey from Technical Editor to Information Manager
If you were to compare the current job profiles of Information Managers and Technical Editors, you'd indeed discover several similarities in their requirement profiles. Basically, one of the core competencies of both job groups is to view technical issues from different perspectives and to prepare them in a way that's suitable for the target audience.
Differences can be found more in the details: The Information Manager is responsible for the overall planning and implementation of the provision of information. This naturally requires a cross-departmental way of thinking and working, with which all information flows in the company are taken into account and optimally controlled. To do this, Information Managers need in-depth knowledge of the information and communications technology systems that are used to organise and provide information. In addition, the Information Manager supervises and optimises the information systems with regard to their efficiency, acceptance, and user-friendliness.
What does this mean in practice? How far is the path from Technical Editor to Information Manager, actually?
At kothes, we're absolutely convinced that the targeted specialisation of existing competencies will enable Technical Editors to develop effectively into Information Managers for the entire company. This development is already reflected in the day-to-day activities of many Technical Editors: The work of Technical Editors is no longer limited to the mere creation of manuals and the like. Increasingly, they're using their wide-ranging interface competence and their methodological-didactic skills in a wide variety of areas; for example in the development of topic-oriented information solutions or the maintenance of internal corporate knowledge platforms. The sharpening of already existing qualifications has a positive knock-on effect: In-house information work can be improved and expanded upon step-by-step, without having to fear the radical upheaval in existing organisational conditions.
We therefore view the further development from Technical Editor to Information Manager as a logical and desirable transformation, which we ourselves live and actively support in the course of our daily work. It's irrelevant whether the Technical Editorial department is located inside or outside the company. Far more important is the fact that the various departments and, in particular, their decision-makers recognise the value of professional information and knowledge management and support it with the appropriate measures.