Just the business when things get technical

Opportunities in the global market exist not just for firms that are developing the technology that is changing our world but also for the companies that can explain these new technologies to those who are using them.

Just the business when things get technical

Cork start-up company Technically Write IT is actively pursuing these opportunities with a team of 30 technical writers and project managers producing user manuals, technical guides, training, and e-learning material for companies in the IT space. Now providing services for 10 customers, including two multinationals, the company aims to increase the staff size to 50 by the end of next year.

“Our turnover for this year is close to €2m and we are aiming to double that in 2014,” says founder and CEO Patrice Fanning.

She says the growing use of technology means the services of technical writers are very much in demand. Providing documentation which makes products user-friendly and easily understood can generate increased sales, and provide companies with a competitive edge. “If companies don’t provide good documentation then they will have huge customer support problems and be unlikely to generate repeat business,’’ says Ms Fanning.

The market for technical writing is growing apace with advancements in technology. According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, there were 48,900 technical writers employed in the US in 2008, with that number expected to grow by more than 18% by 2018.

Technically Write IT is targeting both multinationals with in-house teams of technical writers and smaller technology companies which need to outsource some or all of their technical writing needs. “The demand from multinationals is huge since they can often have hundreds of different products in development and maintenance, all of which legally require technical documentation,” says Ms Fanning.

The opportunity for the Cork-based company to compete internationally in this field is boosted by the fact that English is the most widely used language for technical writing.

“It is cheaper for companies to write all technical material in English and have it translated into other languages, because English translators are more widely available,’’ says Ms Fanning.

A graduate in Applied Languages with Computers, Ms Fanning taught technical writing in the University of Limerick and also worked for SAP in Galway before setting up her own company.

“While I was working for SAP, we used external writers from Germany and the US, as well as an internal team, and I saw an opportunity for a business in this area,” she says. “There were a small number of technical writing companies in Ireland and I felt there was space for another.”

In Apr 2011, she enrolled in the 10-week PINC programme for female entrepreneurs in the Rubicon Centre at CIT, researched the market, and signed up for the year-long Genesis Enterprise Programme

She registered the company in Nov 2011, operating initially from an office in the Rubicon Centre. “I learned about finance and selling, developed a business plan, carried out market research and got a lot of practical support,’’ she says, adding some of her first customers were other companies at the centre.

To start with, Ms Fanning got other freelance technical writers to work with her but in early 2012, when she landed some bigger contracts, she progressed to employing staff on a contract basis. This year, she began employing staff full-time and aims to make all 30 staff full-time by the end of the year.

“My strategy was to get in the door of a multinational company for a small project, get positive feedback, and then to go after bigger assignments that we could manage in-house,’’ says Ms Fanning, who approached SAP’s head office in Germany in 2012.

She started by doing small projects for the enterprise software giant and has since provided services for its operations in New Zealand, the US, Germany, China, India, and France. This month, Technically Write IT became a preferred supplier worldwide for SAP, something Ms Fanning sees as a key milestone.

Some 85% of work now is with customers located outside Ireland. Other clients of Technical Write IT include EMC in Cork, Galway-based IT services company Metalogic, and Folens Publishing.

Ms Fanning is in talks with another multinational and wants five multinationals as clients by the end of 2014. In August, she moved the company to a 3,000 sq ft premises at Carrigaline Business Park to facilitate expansion.

Now recruiting two more project managers, the company is aiming to establish itself as a leading supplier of technical writing services worldwide within five years.

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