tekom - Europe

Competence Requirements in the Digital Age of Technical Communication

Daniela Straub

Digitalization, Intelligent Information, Artificial Intelligence: Current technologies and methods are much discussed in technical communication; there are new media and many trends – developments are rapid. What do these developments mean for the everyday work of those working in the field of technical communication? 

Perhaps you are wondering to yourself, “What level are my knowledge and competences on? Am I up to date? What new things can I learn and what can I do to further develop myself?”

The expert committee of the tekom education and training committee asked themselves the same questions. Their goal is to map technological developments in the tekom competence framework. Since 2015, the tekom competence framework has described job descriptions and potential job profiles in technical communication, defining competences and required knowledge in a practical and action-oriented manner.

A survey on new competence requirements made it possible to identify trends and obtain answers to the question of what one should know these days. Substantial changes have come from the continually growing significance of software and software development in technical communication, whether this involves creating help systems in software products or even in the traditional sectors of technical communication such as machinery and systems engineering, where integrated software systems control product usage, for one, but also make user information available. 

The trend is toward replacing, or at least supplementing, text with digital user assistance. Digitalization is the buzzword and the “disruptive” trend    . However, it isn’t just information products changing in the sense of increasingly providing electronic documentation instead of “printed documentation”, or that digital user assistance is replacing paper and PDFs. Even the ways of creating it are changing. Current methods include agile product development instead of the previous “waterfall principle”. Additionally, instead of using simple access concepts in creation, “User Experience Design (UX/UXD)” is being implemented, and metadata models (iiRDS, VDI 2770) are being used, made possible by intelligent content delivery in various media, whether apps or chatbots. 

The expert committee has reviewed new competence requirements from the ground up, formulating them in the tekom competence framework for technical communication.

What is new? To be up to date requires knowledge of:

1.    Content Strategy: Knowledge of the specific requirements for electronic information products, e.g. the integration of context-sensitive help or embedded help in software, and the connection of the product to a LAN/the internet.
2.    Methods for product use analysis, e.g. use case analysis, task analysis, observation, context interviews, customer journey, touch point analysis
3.    Storytelling and storyboarding in three-dimensional spaces
4.    Principles of User Experience design: e.g. media design, interaction design, user story and conversation design, user interface design
5.    Media options, e.g. voice bots, virtual reality, artificial reality and esp. the limits of technologies 
6.    Methods for information architecture, e.g. topic design, DITA, book design, MicroDocs, microcontent
7.    Metadata, incl. taking standards such as, e.g. iiRDS, VDI 2770 into account
8.    Project management, e.g. agile development methods and their effect on content development
9.    Information flow between technical communication and product development, e.g. joint use of requirement and bug reporting systems
10.    Organization of update processes, e.g. in the form of sprints in agile project methods
11.    Data management and handling: data migration, data transfer, linking of data sources
12.    Foundations of data protection and data security (e.g. DSGVO/GDPR), as well as secure retention
13.    Output media and formats, data exchange formats, e.g. iiRDS, VDI 2770, software-as-a-service
14.    Publishing in information portals, digital provision of content, e.g. online help, websites, apps, displays, ebooks, HTML5, PDF, data glasses, social media, videoblogs (vlogging), podcasts, video platform, options for soliciting feedback on information products, e.g. social media channels, blogs and methods of web monitoring and use of web statistics (e.g. click rates, ranking, rating)

In tekom’s education and training system, the competence framework plays an important role in the qualification consultation, the accreditation of training programs, and the qualification of training participants and, in particular, is the basis of the tekom certification examination. The tekom competence framework is of use for managers and human resource departments of businesses, for educational institutes and training providers, including universities – meanwhile, there is a separate competence framework for this with TecCOMFrame. For those interested in the profession and in training, it serves as an orientation to the requirements of the workplace and to which competences are important for it. The updated competence framework will be published at the end of 2022.