What is a Documentation Manager?
Whether you sell physical products or digital services, you need a way to keep tabs on t specs, measurements, and technical details. It’s not always feasible to do this on your own — especially as a growing small business owner — which is why hiring a documentation manager could make the most sense for your brand.
The documentation manager is truly a class all its own, requiring tireless efforts to keep good records for your brand. A few of the documentation manager’s most common responsibilities include:
- Updating user guides with more relevant information.
- Creating support docs for both technical teams and general users.
- Managing technical writers to turn specs into helpful and valuable content.
Documentation managers are a staple in SaaS companies, but have become increasingly common in other industries as well. It’s not uncommon to see them working for B2B and ecommerce brands, or even HR departments in larger corporations.
Keep in mind this just scratches the surface of what a documentation manager can do. Whether you want to become one or hire one for your team, you should know what to expect before getting in over your head.
This guide explains everything you should know about the role and work of a documentation manager. After we define the expectations and responsibilities of the job, we describe the characteristics you should look for in a well-suited professional.
Thinking about hiring a documentation manager for your team? We also list off some hiring triggers and explain how to find the right one for the job.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of these topics, beginning with the first and most foundational question:
What is a Documentation Manager?
Documentation managers are responsible for creating, managing, and maintaining the documentation of a company’s products or services. This includes everything from user manuals to API documentation, as well as troubleshooting guides to help customers diagnose problems.
The role of a documentation manager is threefold:
- To manage compliance. If your products and services aren’t up to code, you may be running afoul of the law. This becomes an even more serious problem when facing lawsuits or customer complaints.
- To keep tabs on documents. Tracking down and organizing your documentation is anything but a thrilling task. However, the right documentation manager can manage it all on your behalf. This includes organizing existing documents, as well as updating old documentation to match current needs.
- To facilitate a better understanding of your offering. Great technical documentation can help salespeople and end clients make more informed decisions about your product, service, or platform.
Documentation managers do perform different tasks depending on their industry. Healthcare documentation managers work with sensitive HIPAA documents, for example, and may need to secure patient files and track doctor’s orders. Working for a B2B SaaS, on the other hand, likely requires curating support docs or creating technical written work.
Speaking of written work, documentation managers are the primary professionals in charge of your other technical writers. Although they can (and do) create content on their own, they’re more likely to work alongside others to boost content production and increase workflow speeds.
The documentation manager typically takes a senior position within a company. They may work alongside a head of content to update or refresh specific content. They may also coordinate with your head of growth to create documentation for new products and services.
Either way, you should look at your documentation manager as a member of your senior team — not an entry-level employee reporting to higher-ups.
Characteristics of a Successful Documentation Manager
Documentation managers are organized individuals who are well-spoken and detail-oriented. Although there’s no such thing as a degree in documentation management, they should have a portfolio of written technical documents and at least some experience working in your industry.
A few other must-have characteristics include:
- A strong understanding of your product or service. The best documentation manager has the perspective of your customers and unique knowledge of your niche or specialty. Knowing what you offer as a company (as well as what your audience is looking for) can help technical content connect better with clients.
- Excellent writing and editing skills. A documentation manager is a good communicator above all else. In addition to creating tutorials for customers and organization systems for your brand, they should be able to catch missing information and fix inaccurate details in existing documentation.
- Ability to work independently and as part of a team. Documentation managers should be able to operate remotely and stay self-motivated while finishing projects. However, they also need to assign work to other technical writers and answer any questions posed by members of the team.
- Experience with compliance and management. Legal, healthcare, and financial businesses may need to follow strict rules to stay compliant with the law. Other organizations, including SaaS and VoIP, need to communicate legal compliance guidelines to their users or subscribers.
- Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously. The larger and more recognized your business becomes, the more documentation you need to write. You need a documentation manager who can juggle more than one project and prioritize tasks in order of importance.
Keep in mind you also need technical writers who share many of these skills and attributes. Hiring like-minded individuals makes running your business easier, as well as more efficient for your documentation manager.
Trying to find a technical writer for hire? We wrote this complete guide to get you started.
When do you Need a Documentation Manager?
Hiring a documentation manager comes with all sorts of benefits. That said, it may not be the best idea right now. Not only are they expensive to vet, hire, and train, but they may require you to hire additional freelancers to support future projects.
The average salary of a documentation manager starts at $97,294 — six figures per year when you factor full-time benefits. Plus, hiring freelance technical writers to support your documentation manager may cost you several hundred dollars per project (depending on experience levels).
If you don’t have the capital to support a long-term documentation manager, or if you’re not creating enough content to keep them busy, you may want to temporarily pass on a hire and settle for a freelancer.
But let’s say you do have the capital to hire a documentation manager. How can you know if you’re ready to bring someone on board?
It largely depends on:
- If your company is developing new products, services, or expanding into new markets.
- If you are experiencing rapid-pace growth and need to scale your documentation team.
- If you want to ensure that your documentation is high-quality and up-to-date.
- If you have a specific business niche, structure, or model that requires an in-house expert to write documentation.
- If you don’t have any in-house techs writing and updating product documentation.
- If you work in a restricted or heavily monitored industry where incorrect documentation may result in catastrophe.
- If you need someone to lead your team of technical writers and assign, correct, and strategize new content for your site.
- If you want a pro to prepare for the worst with audit trails and business continuity planning.
- If you need a full-time professional to coordinate with product managers and write documentation for new updates, changing features, and future releases.
- If you manage a remote team that needs a better way to manage, access, secure, and distribute its documentation.
Remember: not every company needs a documentation manager. There are multiple workarounds and out-of-the-box solutions (like technical content agencies) you can use to fill in the gaps. But if your business is scaling quickly or serving lots of technical customers, it may be time to hire a professional of your own.
Finding the Right Documentation Manager for Your Team
The documentation manager is an indispensable role for any documentation-heavy field. Whether you’re looking to create more technical content or spruce up the support docs on your site, these professionals can kick-start a strategy that pulls your brand to new heights.
It’s true that not every business is ready to hire a full-time documentation manager. However, many are ready to start making technical content. If you need a temporary bridge between freelancer and full-time hire, you can turn to Draft.dev for high-quality content aimed at software engineers.
Build a Blog that Software Developers Will Read
The Technical Content Manager’s Playbook is a collection of resources you can use to manage a high-quality, technical blog:
- A template for creating content briefs
- An Airtable publishing calendar
- A technical blogging style guide