One of the biggest hurdles facing software vendors is the difficulty of explaining the technicalities of a complex software solution to a non-technical audience, even in B2B settings. Large-scale information management needs at large corporations entail a large decision-making process, and software vendors will frequently find themselves in a room filled with stakeholders hailing from diverse backgrounds. Not everyone at the table is an IT expert, nor do they necessarily want to be.
Because of the massive scope of ZL’s Unified Archive solution, we often find ourselves in this situation. The job titles of our users often span Compliance Officers, Record Managers, Corporate Counsel, IT Systems Administrators, as well as regular employees. They all have different abilities and concerns. So much like a software deployment itself, explanations of software are not one-size-fits-all. And to effectively communicate the benefits and features of a highly-technical product to non-technical stakeholders, it is often necessary to adapt explanations in ways that are sensitive to individual backgrounds, workflow procedures, habits, and needs. That’s where I come in. My job on ZL’s documentation team is to take highly-technical concepts and translate those ideas into terms that are relevant to the intended audience.
In this regard, sometimes a programming background is NOT the Holy Grail for software company staff. There comes great power in diversity of employees, especially when you offer a product which has diverse functionality and diverse users. Sometimes you need an eclectic mix of experiences and expertise to best connect with customers, and ZL Technologies has long recognized that as a cornerstone of adaptable customer support and sales. I am an example of that philosophy, and frequently draw upon my non-technical experiences to translate a vast corpus of technical material into digestible (and meaningful) documents. I’d even like to think I do a pretty good job at it.
Before working at ZL, my academic and professional experiences revolved primarily around economics, marketing, and operations management. What could be construed as a weakness — my lack of formal IT education — is actually what allows me to excel at my job. The term “layman” often garners a bad rap, but the fact is that we are ALL laymen at heart when it comes to certain subjects. You wouldn’t expect a corporate lawyer to perform cardiac surgery, or even perform an IT health-check. Explanations require context and understanding. So who better to translate highly technical concepts into layman’s terms than an actual layman…or laywoman, as the case may be? I have found that what is more important than the prior knowledge I brought with me to ZL is my enduring thirst for knowledge while at ZL, as well as my desire to continuously improve my work output and myself.
So yes, technical experience is still a core component of software documentation and writing. And needless to say, ZL Technologies has a foundation that is rich in such individuals. But the addition of unconventional backgrounds to the mix can certainly make for better overall communication, especially in technical fields where it is often unexpected. The software wilderness is made of many types of individual trees, and seeing the big picture “forest” requires recognition of everyone’s strengths. Doing so makes for a stronger company, and stronger product.
Too bad it still doesn’t help me communicate what I do for a living to my mom!