30 August 2012

Business Development

This week I’ve been looking a bit more at the business development function within Clearly Stated. In the current economic climate it’s probably more important than ever that the business continues to grow rather than stagnate or shrink. We now have two full-time authors (Alison and me) and we like to stay busy.

I’ve done business development before, and in that post I've been a “business development manager” with a fairly broad remit which took me to assorted trade fairs, networking events and cold calling (or at least luke-warm calling) various potential clients. In a smaller organisation, business development is often an also-ran alongside other duties. The secret is to take just enough time away from current work to ensure that there will be more work to do a few months down the line. It is a difficult balancing act: spend too much time finding new contracts and the current work suffers, whereas spend too little time and sooner or later the work is going to dry up.

The ISTC works very hard to ensure that the profession is recognised, and most of our clients seem to have a clear idea of what they want from their documentation – even if that subsequently changes and adapts – and actively seek us out. I am aware that there is still a lower recognition threshold in wider society as mentioned in an earlier post. I won't be cold calling in this job. Rather, business development means a few things that it might not in a different industry and is very closely tied to CPD.

We prefer to work on projects that enable us to develop our industry experience, to stay current and continue moving forward. For example, much of the software we currently document is based on a traditional keyboard and mouse operated computer. I’d love to start working with anything that uses the new touch and motion sensing technology that’s out there, as within software documentation, this will involve a volte-face in the way the actions of the user are described. Instead of left and right click, we’re getting “tap”, “drag”, “draw” (and possibly “flick”, “glide” and “massage” depending on future developments in the technology) and a whole wealth of other language that will gradually become standardised to explain how highly tactile, multi-contact point touch screen devices are used. I have some experience in this as I trained colleagues in a college environment on the uses of interactive whiteboards, but if anyone out there is writing an app, or porting their existing system towards the newer interface systems, I’d love to come and compose your documentation for you (which may or may not be “writing”, there are all manner of equally cool options available through Robohelp, Captivate and a wealth of other packages).

The second part of the business development game is the education of the individual communicator, and that doesn’t mean just learning software packages (although that’s essential) or taking an MA (although that starts in the new year). It means reading widely and well so that we are able to parse the world into chunks we can communicate about. Later on I’ll be including a whole range of book reviews in the blog, partly out of interest, and partly to showcase some of the things we’re encountering and learning here at Clearly Stated.



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