With over 300 retail locations across 29 states, Dillard’s is one of the nation’s largest apparel, cosmetics, and home furnishings retailers. In addition to maintaining high volumes of data, Dillard’s IT department is responsible for communicating technical information to a broad audience; the IT staff is faces daily interactions with management, internal customers, and external users.
Dillard’s IT department depends on clear, concise documents to keep daily business running smoothly. Clearly written Help documentation keeps end users from inundating customer service with phone calls, while well-formed proposals are vital for justifying new IT projects and purchases. In addition, developers depend on IT business analysts to write easy-to-follow instructions in order to successfully complete tasks.
Hurley Write, certified women-owned business, develops and teaches customized writing courses. As the IT training manager for Dillard’s, Sarah Gipson ensures that the IT department receives the necessary writing training to achieve the company’s goals and serve the business as a whole. “I did extensive research online before contacting Hurley Write. I also spoke with several references that Pam provided to ensure that the writing course could be geared toward technical writing,” says Gipson.
Dillard's asked Hurley Write to develop a customized two-day technical writing course and a one-day course on effective oral presentation skills. Prior to the onsite writing course, Pam Hurley, Ph.D., president and founder of Hurley Write, Inc., asked for writing samples from the Dillard’s team. Using these samples, Hurley developed a workshop-style writing course and workbook that used specific examples of common writing issues, and then worked with the attendees in small groups to revise these examples. “The class and Pam were able to give immediate feedback on the revised versions,” notes Gipson. This approach provided targeted feedback and allowed attendees to gain hands-on experience identifying and correcting the issues that they were most likely to confront.
Hurley Write’s customized onsite course helped Dillard’s IT staff develop a reliable and repeatable writing process for producing clear technical documents. Gipson knows the importance of each individual having confidence in his or her writing. “I will not always be there to support what has been written, so the writing needs to be clear,” she says. “The best thing about the Hurley courses is that she made the effort to use examples of our writing that were submitted to her. The individuals who took time to submit samples received the most benefit from the course.”
The course also helped Gipson improve her own writing. “The most important thing that I took from the class was to be concise. Extra words can be confusing to the audience,” says Gipson. She also learned the importance of good proofreading and revision. “Just because it is typed, does not mean that it is a final version,” she explains. Now, Gipson puts “a lot more thought” into her writing. “I want to make sure that what I have written is what I am trying to convey.” With the technical writing skills gained in the Hurley Write course, she and the Dillard’s IT team are well on their way.