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Knowledge Management vs Technical Writing

Posted by
Anastasia in Technical Writing on 8/20/20193 min read

Man and woman

Today, we are going to cover quite an interesting topic that discloses how a technical writer can contribute more to the company's success and have a stronger presence within the company. For that, let's take a look at an overlapping role - knowledge management and see where these two positions differ, where they coincide, and what technical writers can learn from this comparison.

Similarities Between Tech Writers and Knowledge Managers

hands

The most obvious similarity lies in the core of both occupations - knowledge. Technical writers and knowledge managers' main purpose is to pass over information in the most efficient manner. Even though technical writers operate in different professional spheres and environments that presuppose authoring different types of technical documentation, it is still just the means of transmitting information whether we are talking about white papers, software documentation, scientific articles, user manuals, etc.

The next overlap stems in similar approaches towards the target audience. Knowledge management deals with information circling within the company, and, still, the methods of figuring out the typical reader are the same. Understanding the target audience is the cornerstone of successful information flow. And, it directly influences the toolset. Fine-tuning content like this is what both roles are supposed to be doing.

Differences Between Tech Writers and Knowledge Managers

people

Knowledge managers are responsible for what is going on within the organization. They analyze what data is currently at the employees' disposal and whether it is sufficient. They study vital processes inside the company and look for ways to document some things or find external sources that hold description of the processes. So, to put it simply, knowledge managers seek out gaps in internal data, they decide which gaps should be filled in to benefit their organization and how it should be done.

Technical writers are focused on what is going on outside of the organization. They can be also looking into the knowledge missing from user manuals, but that's only a small part of help authoring.

Knowledge managers are very much concerned about the right KM tools and ways to preserve knowledge and make it available to everyone interested. Technical writers don't quite have the same power over ways to deliver content neither do they choose the output types directly. For KMs, what tech writers do seems more like micromanaging. Technical writers get access to new product features and figure out which technical documents require updates and their task is to make sure each help topic does its job.

Companies benefit from both roles greatly. But, in case of technical writers, product users are their direct beneficiaries, while KMs are inward-oriented.

Also, the placement of the two jobs within the company is different. Technical writers belong to the documentation team, while knowledge managers have their own niche, often leaning towards Human Resources, Organization Development and the like.

Conclusion

Knowledge management and help authoring are clearly two different jobs yet they share some common traits. We can see that KMs focus more on the reasoning, benefits, means, and tools while technical writers are more about the writing itself.

However, here comes the important part - it is believed that KMs have more vertical growth potential. This is understandable since companies have many layers of internal procedures with varying levels of importance and data sensitivity. Totally different scales of internal information exist. Another growth driver would be the fact that the teams where KMs are located imply upward mobility be it HR, Human Capital or other similar departments.

Those of you who seek wider career growth opportunities, but want to be still involved in working with technical documentation just from a manager standpoint, may consider this role shift.

But, anyway, knowledge management skills can be of use for tech writers even without any career moves in mind since they provide a broader perspective on how to deal with content.

Good luck with your technical writing!
ClickHelp Team
Author, host and deliver documentation across platforms and devices

 

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