Almost every technical communication professional has been challenged at some point by working with internal customers–those people or departments in the company who rely on your activities to support their roles. They can cover quite a range, like those C-level folks who believe unabashedly in your ability to “make it look pretty”; product managers who may or may not have figured out all the ways to leverage your knowledge of the products you document; developers on a project team who hate writing but must communicate; project managers overwhelmed by managing the breadth and depth of documentation that accompanies a major initiative; even your colleague down the row of cubicles just looking for a better way to phrase something.
Challenges exist in interacting with customers, both internal and external. Many technical communicators would give almost anything to get some sort of feedback from end users. At the same time, internal customers have agendas, idiosyncrasies, and conflicting priorities that make a lack of end-user feedback seem like a walk in paradise. Nonetheless, if you work in an organization with two or more people, you have internal customers. We’re curious about the culture, objectives and personalities that impact technical communication teams and how those interactions with internal customers happen (or fail to happen). We all want to produce great work no matter which customer base we’re supporting, but the ways we interact vary quite dramatically, and ultimately that impacts what we produce. And not coincidentally, managing internal customer requests presents some opportunities for improving the technical communication team’s perception among management, and improving workflow.
This week’s technical communication poll takes a look and internal customers and the channels by which you and your team manage the relationships. Is your organization large and geographically dispersed? Are interdepartmental requests handled in a highly formalized or “over the wall” way? Do you have a manager that runs interference for you? The technologies at your disposal can make a huge difference in how you communicate with internal customers, as well as the culture and policies in effect. So we invite you to participate in the poll, and add a comment to provide some insight into this other realm of customer relationships, or start a thread on the email discussion list.