Moving technical writing to the cloud has major appeal for compelling reasons, including lower up-front costs, the immediate availability of software tools, easier collaboration among coauthors, seamless content reviews, and varied storage options. So, as we transition to a cloud-driven world of collaboration, let’s look at the potential advantages of cloud-based technical writing, which are especially compelling for enterprises that are operating across distributed locations.
Benefits of Cloud-Based Authoring
In an era when enterprises have global footprints and their workforces are distributed across disparate locations, the power of cloud computing can enable distributed teams to work together effectively. The ability of technical writers to collaborate virtually, around the clock, in the same authoring environment, helps enterprises to hire the best talent—transcending geographical boundaries—and deliver quality output with significant cost savings. Some compelling reasons why an enterprise might want to embrace authoring in the cloud include the following:
- significant cost savings—Instead of having to purchase authoring applications for high licensing fees that may exceed your organization’s approved budget for software applications, you can subscribe to cloud-based applications—typically for a reasonable, monthly fee.
A subscription model reduces the up-front costs that are associated with procuring authoring tools. It also ensures that an enterprise always has the latest version of the authoring software rather than needing to perform upgrades periodically, with their associated costs. Using applications in the cloud also eliminates the need to pay an implementation specialist to come on site to install and maintain a software package. For small- and medium-scale enterprises, which are often constrained in adopting new software solutions because of cost concerns, cloud computing is a potential boon. Technical writers can focus on content development instead of getting caught up with licensing, installation, and configuration.
For enterprises, choosing between a hosted authoring solution in the cloud and a software solution that requires a download from the manufacturer’s Web site, then an installation process, the decision is often no contest. There is an awareness that companies that leverage the cloud-computing model effectively in the technical-writing market may emerge as winners.
- varied storage options—Switching over to a cloud-based authoring environment offers the flexibility of saving versions of documents either on a technical writer’s local hard drive or in the cloud. Multiple options for document storage and retrieval ensure the availability of backup copies and access to other content assets. Enabling shared access to files in the cloud provides a viable and attractive solution for teams that have a profound need to collaborate. Content assets are kept up to date and ready for use by anyone who needs them. The broad usage of Google Docs has revolutionized online editing.
- teamwork and collaboration—Using a cloud-based authoring environment fosters the seamless integration of new technical writers into a team, without the wait time that software installation and configuration typically requires. A cloud-based solution facilitates collaborative authoring.
In a typical staff-augmentation scenario, where a customer’s in-house staff work hand-in-hand with a service provider’s staff, it is easy for that service provider’s people to sign into the enterprise’s authoring environment and contribute to the content development and update process.
Of course, an alternative to this approach in a typical client-server scenario would be to use a check-in and check-out model across a number of authoring solutions. For example, a technical writer could check out a topic from a Help project, work on it, then check it back in. However, a limiting factor that still exists for experts who advocate cloud-based authoring is the licensing fee for the Help authoring solution.