Agile techniques for writers

Working in an agile team is quite challenging for most technical writers. If you work from home and love to work in perfect solitude, then agile is not for you, as it follows iterative methodology and interactions with the other members and daily meetings.

In new agile teams, a cultural clash is likely to occur at the very beginning, when a writer has to meet every single day with software developers and testers to work accordingly. In certain cases, you may not fit their bill initially, and they may get impatient and possibly even ignore the importance of your documentation tasks altogether.

However, patience is the key and with the learning attitude and cooperating daily to achieve a common goal helping to develop harmony and intimacy among the members of the agile team. The initial difficulties are likely to come, but a writer should make an effort to learn and fit in the agile team leveraging their experience and competence.

As a primary task, a writer must ensure that the documentation tasks are explicitly defined at the beginning of each sprint and then move to complete these tasks. Additionally, be willing to help beyond your normal duties: for instance, you may proofread a software specification, draw or check a complicated UML diagram, or help to craft a project report, and so on. Always remember that the agile team can only win or lose as a whole.

Unlike traditional techniques, the product documentation is done from the bottom up, followed by periodic releases. Each iteration should end up with a complete, although possibly minimal product, along with documentation.

While keeping the focus on the individual features being released, a writer should use his/her experience to remember the big picture, i.e., the global documentation targets that make easy for the team to achieve the end goal.

Working in an agile team can bring an incredible experience if a writer manages to learn or an uninteresting experience if he/she stays resist to changes.

Let’s learn what agile teaches to content writers.

Topic-oriented writing

Topic-oriented writing is the first norm of content writing: authoring short, self-contained units of information about a particular topic. In agile topic-oriented writing is a defining aspect of Information Mapping. Information mapping involves the breaking of complex information into basic components, and then the “chunks” of information are structured in a reader-oriented way.

Agile teaches to write informative but in a faster way. Information is classified into concept, task, and reference topics. Such categorization completely makes sense in an Agile environment, in which “the right documentation within the deadline” is the goal for all documentation, end-user and internal.

Turning User Stories into Task-Oriented Topics

In an Agile environment, user stories drive the development and explain the tasks that end-users want to accomplish with the software. In agile, customer-focused, succinct, and testable user stories helps writers to leverage them to develop user-focused and task-oriented documentation.

Task-oriented writing not only supplement development’s use of user stories, but it is an absolute requirement given short iteration cycles and an often fewer number of writing resources. The need to create installation and configuration information and solid procedural information (in an online Help system) often leaves less time in any release cycle to develop much conceptual or best practices information. Such information can, however, be developed by following a particular release cycle. The focus on tasks within a cycle, however, enables writers to achieve minimalism, another method particularly tailored to documenting in an Agile environment.

Working together

Perhaps more so than adapting to specific workflows or using necessary tools, collaborating with your team is central to agile. Agile teaches collaboration strategies to work more efficiently in a team to come up with stronger products, and also have more fun:

  • Involve Stakeholders. Agile teams embrace collaborative culture thus do not prefer to work on tasks individually. The idea is to bring stakeholders and teammates together to write user stories, plan product priorities, and write the insightful content. Not only will folks have a higher investment in the final product, but the final product will be influential on the virtue of the diverse viewpoints and voices built into it.
  • Write collaboratively. Use of tools like Google Docs so everyone on your team can contribute to writing or share their thoughts. Collaborative writing tools quickly involve everyone in a project, and they do wonders when you’re working across different time zones and from various locations.
  • Code-friendly format. Make it easy for everyone to shift drafts into code. Agile teams rely on Markdown and plain-text editors to avoid those pesky styling issues that crop up during copy and paste from traditional word processors.

Conclusion

Just as programmers use Agile techniques to improve and fasten their deliverables, technical writers can employ complementary writing methods to become an integral part of delivering useful software.

Task-oriented end-user deliverables help the user to perform at an expert level and become a part of the success of a product developed by using Agile methods.

If you want to grow into a Scrum Master or a Product Owner role, then CSM training or a Product Owner orientation is a path to pursue.

Guest Author:

This article is written by Danish Wadhwa of Simplilearn.  It is one of the leading certification training providers. “Danish Wadhwa is a strategic thinker and an IT Pro. With more than six years of expertise in the digital marketing industry, he is more than a results-driven individual. He is well-versed in providing high-end technical support, optimizing sales and automating tools to stimulate productivity for businesses.”

About Samir Penkar

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