The law of diminishing returns and content development

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There’s a law of diminishing returns you have to watch out for when you’re developing thought leadership and other content. “Perfect is the enemy of good,” according to Voltaire. It’s possible to work on content for too long. For example, creating a PowerPoint deck that takes for months. Or, the fact sheets and white papers that snake through endless revisions. After rounds of unnecessary and contradictory reviews, the extra work ends up being a waste. The window of business opportunity closes. Team members must rush to put out a fire on another project. The content then goes to die amongst the cobwebs of a SharePoint site.

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In defense of kindness in the editorial review cycle

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I took an interest in editorial reviews early in my career. That interest drove me to become a technical reviewer in the computer book industry for several years. I’m not sure they even have that role anymore. At the least publishers may not pay for that review anymore. Sitting through curt and incomplete document reviews made me take those extra steps because there had to be a better way. 

Fast forward to today, I’m a stickler for kindness in the editorial review cycle:

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The wisdom of youth and age in the tech industry

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Some elements of the Serpent Society workforce and corporate America try to perpetuate the myth that Generation X and 40 + workers are not up to date on technology and not able to adapt to changes. This is a pretty broad generalization. I heard this a lot during my last contract and job hunt.

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How cloud issues can trickle down to content development

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I regularly discuss with a colleague the state of the cloud and how to make cloud messages resonate with readers He’s a solutions architect. I’m a technical writer. We work in allied professions, but he sees things I don’t see. What I came to see after a few discussions with him is how corporate cloud issues have an even more direct effect on content than other topics I’ve written about during my career.

Here are three ways cloud issues can hurt content development:

1. Lack of cloud subject matter expertise

The cloud is such a fast-moving and evolving topic. I’m just not talking the latest Amazon Web Services (AWS). Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure. That news is only a part. There’s a plain lack of cloud expertise in organizations to support content development.

The cloud has its share of people who don’t belong. It happens with every major technology trend that hits the market. These are people grasping at the cloud to preserve their political stature. They can hijack the cloud message you need to communicate with your users/readers. Don’t fall for the PowerPoint slides go with people who have the right subject matter expertise in cloud topics.

My preferred subject matter experts for cloud content call themselves lifelong learners. If somebody doesn’t know something. That’s OK. We can figure it out together. There’s nothing worse than somebody BSing me they know something they don’t.

2. Constant cloud services and market evolution

The release velocity of AWS, GCP, and Azure blows past any other technology topics I’ve written about in the past ten years. It’s hard to keep up with the matter. I used to consider myself good at keeping up with technology. Now I find the cloud lapping me with the speed of new feature releases the startup ecosystem that’s sprouting up around the cloud contributes to the pace.

I’ve had the fortune to work with brilliant cloud people. By extension, I have contact with others through IDG TechTalk chats who range from the senior architect to the CxO level. They are people far smarter than me, and they each have challenges keeping up with new releases.

3. Business prevention disguised as change management

It’s no secret I’m no fan of organizational change management (OCM). Too many times I’ve seen OCM become business prevention. OCM should give business users the content and message they need to transition themselves into a cloud-first enterprise but unfortunately, they can bog users down in surveys and other feel-good strategies.

A better cloud change management strategy means:

  • Creating a direct channel with business users by elevating their representation in cloud content development decisions
  • Listening to the cloud pain points from the users themselves not through the filter of a change management team
  • Thinking in terms of frameworks, jumpstart guides, and other content that can enable your business users to start small in the cloud while feeling self-sufficient

Final thoughts

Writers developing technical content about the cloud have to drink from a firehose with or without the challenges I outline in this post. My advice to counter such challenges is to include your writer in early on your cloud projects.


My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve written for corporations and technology publications about such topics as the cloud, DevOps, and enterprise mobility. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly

5 things I believe about enterprise collaboration

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I follow enterprise collaboration both as a long time technical writer in the IT industry and as somebody who has written about collaboration platforms over the years for online publications.

It can be too easy to wreck collaboration in my mind. I’ve seen it many times happen during my career, giving me strong beliefs about collaborative cultures and technologies.

1. Collaboration takes at least 2

I’ve worked with people in the past who thought that collaboration was a coworker doing something for them. These people had a lot of dependencies on other team members. The team never seemed to depend on these sorts of people much.

It’s not to say you shouldn’t help your coworker. Working with this type of person made me remember my best collaborations. The common theme in those collaborations was a complementary exchange back and forth of information, input, and insights that benefited the project, team, and the collaborators themselves.

It’s not to say that non-technical people are at a disadvantage with collaboration inside technology organizations. They need to pony up from their own unique strengths.

In the past, I’ve said that collaboration can be transactional depending on the organizational culture. Take, for example, the time-strapped organization that’s not well organized. It’s easier to get help from somebody in such cultures if you can help them towards their project goals.

2. Collaboration platforms work for the team (not vice versa)

I’ve come across awful excuses for collaboration platforms and processes during my years as a technical writer. Sometimes, these collaboration tools were downright business prevention. Users kept using email for collaboration or resorted to sundry acts of Shadow IT to collaborate on files.

Microsoft SharePoint is a prime example where users sometimes have to work for the tool. Think of the times you’ve encountered sluggish performance, Draconian security policies, and poor user experience (UX) that added up to you and your team working around SharePoint to get your job done. No team should have to lose time due to SharePoint issues. For example, I can remember having to use my personal OneDrive account on a contract because of my client couldn’t get access to their SharePoint site for me as a contractor. There were other cases where I had to use my personal Dropbox to collaborate on files.

3. Collaboration at its best means a comfort zone

Looking at some of my best collaborations past and present, I see a comfort zone between coworkers and teams as integral to collaboration success. There needs to be a level of trust and respect amongst team members to make collaboration efforts fruitful.

Working a technical writer — an individual contributor at that — I have to find a comfort zone between me and the subject matter expert (SME) to get the information I need to write. Most often, this means writing a document draft using as many source materials as I can find. I then go to them to the SME to review the draft and patch any gaps.

For my article writing, it means having positive relationships with editors and PR people whom I’ve never met face-to-face or even over video chat. Such trust and a comfort zone come from responding to requests, clear and concise communications, and doing right by the article amongst other factors.

4. Collaboration is about culture before technology

I’ve written in the past about collaboration being about culture before technology. My recent writing about DevOps continues to drive home that point for me.

Full confession, I’m a total collaboration tool geek about SharePoint, Atlassian Confluence, Microsoft Teams, and other tools. Collaboration is a topic I miss writing about, yet I’m the first to admit that none of these technologies can fix a culture that isn’t collaborative.

5. Every employee needs to own collaboration

I often find that enterprises neglect that everybody needs to be an owner in collaborative environments. At a top-level, it means decentralizing the control of your internal collaboration sites to project teams. Major collaboration platforms have the rights settings that can enable you to open up privileges to users without harming overall compliance.

Managing collaboration platforms needs to become part of the team DNA and made easy so it works in the background. For example, a technical writer has a big role to play in SharePoint environments. They should know their document library. They can play that role at the team level. Business analysts can and should play a similar role. Project managers should be able to speak to their schedules and related project artifacts.

Final thoughts

The technologies and culture that power collaboration still fascinates me to this day. I’ve seen so many enterprise collaboration initiatives tank over my career. The initiatives I saw become successful were most often grassroots happening at the project team level.


My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve written for corporations and technology publications about such topics as cloud computing, DevOps, and enterprise mobility. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly