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Who Is a Documentation Engineer?

Posted by
Elmira in Technical Writing on 9/14/20227 min read

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As your business grows, the amount of documentation created, stored, and exchanged within the organization increases. The movement of documents, as well as other operations concerning paperwork, has to be monitored and managed on a daily basis. Besides, strategic decisions are to be taken that may refer to such fields as authorization policy, archive management, publishing and sharing policy, storing, deleting documents, etc.

All these functions can be fulfilled by a documentation engineer. This position is similar to and yet different from the position of a technical writer. The responsibilities of a documentation engineer (or a knowledge engineer) are broader, as they include strategic functions and are usually scaled on the whole company, while a technical writer is usually focused on one or several docs.

Strategic functions cannot be fulfilled by a documentation management program either. In addition to strategic thinking, a documentation engineer should have communication skills to get information from employees about what they lack or consider superfluous. With this position introduced in your company, you are sure to make the most of your company’s learning base.

Who Is a Documentation Engineer?

A documentation engineer is a person in charge of the company learning base, knowledge base, or company wiki. All three terms are widely used and applied to the expanding information base of the organization.

Documentation engineering is, in fact, helping your company to get rid of the so-called information silos – storages of unused docs. Mind that ‘unused’ does not mean ‘useless.’ Information silos may contain very important docs, but the thing is that nobody knows they are stored there, or nobody has access to them. That is why they remain unused for years.

So, important info may be just ‘dumped’ in a folder on some PC. Meanwhile, your employees may be looking for such information, and technical writers may be working right now on creating such content, as they have no idea that they already have it.

The Daily Routine of a Documentation Engineer

A documentation engineer will monitor and keep a record of all the docs in the company (both internal and external documentation), trace the routes the docs ‘travel’ from employee to employee, elaborate such routes, etc. This person will help to manage the technical information properly: organize, share, store, use, and re-use documents. This will save a significant amount of time and money for your business.

The routine duties of a documentation engineer consist in monitoring the information flows.

They know which documents are in the highest demand (accessed most often), which still need to be created, which have become outdated (documentation tends to become ‘obsolete’ just like computer software and hardware) and need to be adjusted, and which are to be deleted. Another duty is to ensure people have the information they need and don’t have access to confidential stuff. Putting it differently, a documentation engineer is a position you can’t do without if you want to optimize the workflow.

Documentation Engineer vs Technical Writer

Another important thing an employer or an HR specialist has to know about this job is how it is related to the position of a technical writer. As has been said above, a tech writer or a copywriter is usually focused on a specific task. This person has a concrete assignment that looks like terms of reference. They know what content has to be created and work on this content. It is usually a text, e.g., a manual, an installation guide, a white paper, product specifications, etc.

A documentation engineer’s responsibilities have a more general and abstract nature. They include the elements of management, dispatching, coordinating, cooperating, and strategic thinking. In a way, a documentation engineer orchestrates the way tech writers work and shows what content needs to be created and updated. This puts this position a step above that of a technical writer.

In some companies, a technical documentation engineer is literally in charge of a team of technical writers. In this case, the engineer's job is to coordinate and structure the work of subordinates by developing a content plan and a schedule. Working as a team leader also implies having good communication skills to ensure understanding between the team members. The ultimate goal, in this case, is to streamline the work process and enhance the overall quality of work.

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Benefits of Having a Documentation Engineer in a Company

A documentation engineer is someone who can relieve you as the company owner, president, or CEO from part of the management load. This is just one of the many benefits of a knowledge or documentation engineer. Below are the top benefits of having this position in the company.

  • Time and cost-efficiency. Working time will no longer be wasted on searching for the necessary content. This usually happens in the form of exchanging e-mails and writing requests. If this doesn’t help, there is usually a downtime. A documentation engineer will help to optimize the work process and save time and money.
  • Finding new and trendy information. A knowledge worker must also look for industry-specific content and share information on innovations and new terminology with the concerned employees. This work is usually carried out to align the business with the latest trends in the industry.
  • Improved communication within the company. Your employees will feel at a loss if they don’t have the content they need. This work ‘apathy’ often comes along with a feeling that it is their managers’ fault that they haven’t got the necessary information. Apathy and blaming the manager are often transformed into indifference to the company’s goals. A knowledge engineer will survey the employees and find out what info they need.
  • A better onboarding practice. A properly managed knowledge/learning base can be used to train new hires. The information architecture should make onboarding easier. This refers not only to the new hires but also to their colleagues. A documentation engineer should ensure that the new employee and the trainer have the information they need. And again, it means reducing downtime, saving overall working time, and, ultimately, saving money.
  • Faster decision-making. A documentation engineer can be helpful for executives as well. Accurate information is crucial for the decision-making process. If delivered quickly, it can save time and spare the effort otherwise wasted on information search, verification, and discussions.
  • Reduced clashes and duplication. If there is no one to manage the knowledge base of the company, duplication of documents will occur quite often. In addition, the documents stored in the base pass different iterations in the process of work and are assigned different versions or revision numbers. The adjusted and updated docs often clash with the previous versions, and the job of the knowledge engineer is to ensure that the right document is available and accessible for those concerned. Their duty also includes publishing release notes. These documents (often called change logs) convey the features, changes, improvements, and adjustments of each new version.

These benefits (as well as many others) will increase the functionality of your document management system and the workability of your team, improve communication between co-workers, enhance workflow efficiency, and, ultimately, result in the implemented ‘higher profits in less time’ formula of business.

Documentation Engineer Skills and Responsibilities

A documentation engineer has a certain set of responsibilities to fulfill. Below are listed the most prominent ones:

  • Managing (creating) a knowledge management system. The knowledge engineer has to create, configure, manage, and maintain a knowledge system. This includes developing policies and regulatory documents for storing, deleting, accessing the content, and monitoring and controlling access.
  • Providing a search tool for the system. The employees must have a search tool integrated with the knowledge base. This way, they won’t waste time and will proceed right to work as soon as they get an assignment.
  • Ensuring co-operation. A documentation engineer should ensure two-way ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ communication in the company. This means that initiatives should be exchanged from the top-management level to the line workers and vice versa (vertical communication). This will facilitate the decision-making process. At the same time, employees should be able to share docs with co-workers (horizontal communication).
  • Educating the employees. Along with trainers and coaches, documentation engineers are involved in educating, training, and coaching the personnel. Their role consists in aligning the education process with the in-house and industry regulations.
  • Searching for and sharing new knowledge. Today’s world is subjected to everyday changes. That is why companies must be aware of the latest trends in the industry. New knowledge implies information about new technologies, products, and developments. The job of the knowledge engineer is to find new knowledge and share it with all the stakeholders in the company.

person with drawings at table

Documentation Engineer Job Description and Salary

Requirements for the position of a documentation engineer may vary from company to company. However, there are core requirements that are featured almost in every vacancy:

  • practical tech writing experience (may range from 3 to five years) is essential, as to lead a team of tech writers, an applicant must be more experienced than they are and know all the ‘secrets of the trade’;
  • managerial experience (team management);
  • experience with source code (Java, C++, Python, and/or JavaScript);
  • the ability to multi-tasking;
  • communication skills.

According to zippia.com (a website positioning itself as a career expert or a site providing guidance on building a career), a documentation engineer’s salary in the US varies from $57,000 at the entry-level to about $120,000 per year, the median salary being $83,151. This puts the documentation engineer’s salary about $11,000 above the median manager’s annual payment in the country ($72,441).

Conclusion

Information (not only material, financial, or human resources) should be considered one of the company's assets. That is why, like all other assets, information should be appropriately managed (updated, archived, accessed, used, re-used, distributed, shared, etc.). Though introducing a new position in a company may look like a challenge, it is worth it, as a documentation engineer will be the one to perform all these functions and more. An adequately managed learning base of the company will optimize the workflow, help to enhance the decision-making process, and, ultimately, bring more significant profits.

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

 

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