A hi-tech software and hardware company would be well advised not to outsource its technical documentation project to an independent vendor on the other side of the world for the following reasons:
Confidentiality. Most hi-tech IT corporations have trade secrets to protect. Although a number of outsourcing vendors are reputable companies with a good track record, there is no way to know that for sure in advance for all outsourcing vendors. Documentation exactly describes how a product works, how it is installed and configured, and thus reveals all the features and benefits. If such information falls prematurely into the wrong hands, especially for a product that is brand new to the market, it can create a severe disadvantage for the marketing division of the company, if not for the developers.
Interactivity. Documenting a hi-tech product is not a solitary activity. It takes close daily interaction between a technical communicator and the management, development, testing, and marketing teams. Documentation team needs to be in frequent and easy contact with all kinds of Subject Matter Experts. When the technical writer is located thousands of miles and many time zones away from the company headquarters, there will be inevitable delays in communications.
For example, if your outsourcing vendor is located in a time zone ten hours ahead of you, when you call them during the normal working hours there won’t be anyone on the other end to take your call unless the vendor works round the clock in two or three shifts.
When you leave a message with the vendor’s “call center” it does not help either. Such call centers are usually staffed by non-technical phone operators with no authority to take action on anything. That merely delays the resolution of the issue and does not help clear the roadblocks that hold back the documentation process.
In the long run, the cost of such communication difficulties may outstrip the initial advantage of lower wages in the outsourcing country.
Accountability. In a worst-case scenario, it is much easier to account and compensate for a documentation disaster when the technical writers in question are employees working under the same roof than mostly-faceless correspondents on the Internet. Legally, it is much easier to handle in-house documentation mishaps than the prospects of dealing with faraway companies located in totally different jurisdictions, answering to different legal systems. Always consult with your legal team before undertaking any outsourcing decisions.
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