Content management/strategy and the business of tech comm were my two focus areas during the tekom/tcworld conference in Wiesbaden, Germany, last week, and I will summarise some of the sessions I attended in several blog posts.
(For a general overview of what tekom is like, refer back to How German is tekom and tcworld? UK tech comm consultant Ellis Pratt and I have been commissioned to sum up this year’s event for an upcoming issue of ISTC’s Communicator magazine.)
Paul Perrotta on change management
Paul Perrotta from Juniper Networks offered two sessions on change management in tech comm. He reported on his unit’s journey from siloed, bickering, intransparent groups to a more efficient Information Experience (iX) organization.
Part of the problem is that we in tech comm are often pretty bad at saying what we do and what value we provide to the company and to customers. Instead, “docs happen” frequently in a black box. If you measure how well-regarded each unit is by their budget increases, a black box is not a good place to be in, because it won’t get you better funding. Executives don’t know (and don’t need to know) how tech comm works. But they need to know whether it’s successful and how it helps them be successful. And whether 8 dollars spent on it will increase their bottom line by 10.
So make tech comm more business-like and make managers’ worries your own: How can we increase customer satisfaction? How can we contribute to increase market share? Address these challenges to show the value tech comm contributes and how you can help the business to deflect some of the threats, such as:
- Doing more (work) with less (resources).
- Deferring costs to a less certain future.
- Offshoring tech comm.
Here’s what you can do specifically:
- Define a vision and mission for tech comm to clarify what they do – and what they don’t do. (See also “Why you need a tech comm mission statement“.)
- Make improvements manageable by chunking them up into strategic initiatives.
- Dissolve the documentation siloes by architecting and governing all content as a whole.
- Improve content to make it complete, searchable and findable.
- Connecting tech comm with marketing, sales and support to contribute to and benefit from the same content.
- Rebrand tech comm as information experience to emphasize its contribution to the customers’ experience.
- Focus on users and engage with them, for example, via user satisfaction surveys, feedback, social media.
- Install an iX customer advisory board which meets regularly.
- Seek out managers with the power and money to help you and map out your allies throughout the organization.
- Make tech comm measurable and operationally efficient:
- Link tech comm to development metrics where possible.
- With proven competence, you can aim for 5% of R&D spend which is industry best practice in IT.
- Ask how much of the product price tags the documentation is worth.
- Show what (else) you could do with X more money.
Some of the results that Paul found:
- Many customers are happy to offer feedback if they find they get heard, and tech comm improves as a result.
- An ongoing discussion with users builds trust and customer loyalty.
- Commonly governed content becomes more reliable and more easily findable for employees and customers alike.
- Managers will support you because your success is their success of you demonstrate competence and that it’s easy for them to help you.
- If you map your projects to executives’ objectives, you can clarify what you can and cannot do with available resources.
- Achievements require focus to reap their full benefits – and then advertisements to make sure executives realize that you can work like a business…
- To measure their achievements, tech comm quality metrics are not enough; you need customer engagement/experience metrics as well.
- As a side effect, you will have to abandon an implicit ethos that treats tech comm as special, as an art that creates books.