Documentation Forecast: The Future Looks Cloudy

© Miriam Lottner

Much has been said already about how great it is to work “in the cloud.” I don’t think there’s anyone left who hasn’t experienced the greatness of Dropbox or a shared Google Doc.


Author-it Cloud login page

So where does that leave the technical writer? We technical writers and documentation managers are long used to our love affair and possessive tendencies towards our “files” and our proprietary authoring software. A huge part of what gave us value was the relative obscurity of what we do. Transforming huge swaths of knowledge and information into books, with endless links and ToCs that update and indexes that contain links. One customer even went so far as to call what we do, “knowledge geek magic.”

What will happen if we take all of that away and author in simple tools that were built for everyone to use easily in the cloud? If anyone can log into our software, collaborate, review, comment and critique, will our processes fall apart? Will the magic be revealed as a fake? Will we be replaced by knowledge engineering robots?

I don’t think so.

A big hurdle in the last few years of technical writers adopting new and more modern documentation approaches has been adoption. Every new “tool” has been more complex, more IT heavy and less independently manageable than the last. There were resellers and customization consultants for every popular tool. Why? Because no one was selling a black box that would work like you wanted from day one, and everything seemed to require a level of sophistication to deploy that the average technical writer didn’t possess. On top of that, money was tight, deadlines were pressed and few companies had 3-6-9 months to implement and deploy a solution.

There are no more excuses. Cloud is here. It is fast, it is easy and it is affordable. It is also easy to deploy, requires no IT management, no infrastructure and allows you work with and collaborate with people from their hotel in San Jose, at home or on an overnight sales trip in Katmandu (assuming they have WiFi or an Ethernet connection). For all the same reasons enterprise applications are moving quickly to the cloud, so too are authoring tools and solutions. Author-it is the first traditional documentation authoring tool to make the move, and I applaud them for having the courage and vision to make it happen so early in the game. For small companies or those with limited budgets, Author-it Cloud is affordable and full of every feature previously thought unaffordable or out of reach. Say hello to enterprise level features at a fraction of the old costs.

So the next time someone comes and asks why you aren’t delivering your content like X or Y company, you are going to have to think a lot harder about why it can’t be done. It CAN be done, and for less than you think. The time for a move is now.

Reprinted by permission