Making The Mental Shift to Topic-Based Authoring

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  • 1. Making the Mental Shift to Topic-based Authoring and Content Management Leigh White DITA Specialist Lavacon October 2013
  • 2. This is really a presentation about 2
  • 3. Change is inevitable… Managing change is not 3
  • 4. If you don’t manage change… It will manage you 4
  • 5. Who are you? • The person responsible for planning and carrying out a TBSA* implementation     Manager Team lead Information architect ? *Topic-based, structured authoring. I will probably slip and say “DITA” but that’s not the only TBSA framework. 5
  • 6. What have you already done? • Exhaustively researched TBSA • Developed a solid business case • Sold it to the higher-ups • Gotten buy-in at all levels above you 6
  • 7. And now, the rollout… The rollout sets the tone for the whole project 7
  • 8. Have a plan • Before you present TBSA to the team, cover all your bases  Anticipate every question and opposition  Be able to communicate exactly what will happen, when, and who will be responsible: • Training • Tool selection (XML editor, CMS, etc.)* • Information architecture • Output styling****** • Legacy content conversion • Collaboration among authors* • Governance*** * These will be HUGE areas of discussion! 8
  • 9. Be honest • The learning curve will be steep • There will be extra work in the short term  Learning principles of TBSA  Learning tools  Content conversion PLUS  Ongoing work  Maybe duplicate content maintenance for a while • Be honest about what will change  Not just a move from one tool to another • Completely different approach to writing  No control over formatting and outputs  No more Lone Rangers…writers must collaborate and follow same styles and guidelines 9
  • 10. Be honest (2) • Be very specific about the rewards  Articulate the team’s pain points & note the solution • Errors & inconsistencies in documentation • Frantic scrambling near deadlines • Duplicate content in different formats • Inconsistent toolsets and processes  Articulate the company’s pain points • Customer complaints • Rising support costs • Ability to deliver innovative solutions limited by ability to provider user assistance  Base rewards discussion on the research you did to justify the move to TBSA in the first place.  If you can’t be specific about the rewards, you’re not ready to implement TBSA. 10
  • 11. Don’t get sidetracked by naysayers • Address their general concerns • But don’t get led down the garden path  “So we can’t have tables with the 3rd column of every 5th row shaded and a dotted line after rows that start with the letter G? Our clients really expect that. They’ll complain if we can’t do it.” • Stress that all conventions, especially styling conventions, are up for reevaluation  Everything is on the table.  They must be prepared to offer solid justification for their wants.  “We’ve always done it that way” is not solid justification. 11
  • 12. Enthusiasm is not necessarily contagious • Even though you explain the problems and how TBSA will solve those problems, many people will still be unconvinced  Don’t let the resistance take you by surprise • Is this the best solution? • What other solutions can we look at?  Don’t get exasperated • Lots of uncertainty and doubt associated with change • Can I learn to do this? • Increased efficiency = staff reduction? 12
  • 13. Talk to individuals • Completely open discussion • Get to the root of resistance  It might not be about the current situation at all • Previous negative experience • Ongoing life events • Set individual expectations and measurements     How will their work and responsibilities change? What is expected of them during and after the change? How they will be measured? What will success or failure mean for them and the team? 13
  • 14. Talk to individuals (2) • Everybody comes at change from a different viewpoint:  Dejuan is a writer who works on a very small, simple product with only two releases a year and only one type of documentation.  Sally is a writer who works on a very large, complex product with 3 other writers. There are 4 major releases, and dozens of patches/hotfixes a year. There are online help, user guides, and quick reference guides, each with several variations, that have to be produced for each release.  Manish is an editor who reviews the documentation, usually in PDF format, for typographical accuracy and adherence to style standards.  Nadia is an SME who contributes content, usually in Word. • Frame discussions in each person’s individual context  No one-size-fits-all approach 14
  • 15. Create ownership • Identify key people and let them help you  Every team has natural leaders outside management … people other writers naturally look up to. Involve them at the earliest practical stage and get them to help you plan.  Have them lead teams as mentors or representatives so that decisions (where practical) are made collaboratively from within the ranks instead of coming down from “on high.” 15
  • 16. Keep an open mind and stay flexible • Expect the unexpected  Things will come up that you didn’t and couldn’t have anticipated. • Personnel changes • Company reorgs/change of focus • Resistance in unexpected areas • Unexpected technical challenges • If the plan needs to change, change it  Be clear with the team about why.  If it was something you overlooked, don’t try to fake people out – (that honesty thing again). 16
  • 17. To sum up • Make sure your implementation plan is complete  Not necessarily every detail but sufficient to reassure the team that the pieces are in place and all important issues have been considered and accounted for • Be honest with the team  State the challenges up front. Don't whitewash. Be clear about the extent of the effort and its effects on everyone. Be honest about the effects on day-to-day work both in the short and long term. • Don’t get sidetracked  Resist the urge to reassure writers on every minute detail. This can turn into a sparring contest. • Don't be surprised by resistance  Just explaining the problem and showing the solution is not enough to sell the plan. 17
  • 18. To sum up (2) • Have individual discussions  Frame the change in the context of each writer's responsibilities, experience level, concerns, questions. • Create ownership  Spread responsibility for certain decisions and processes among key players on the team, not just management. • Keep an open mind and stay flexible  Be prepared to change the plan to fit changing circumstances. 18
  • 19. QUESTIONS? 19
  • 20. Available in the Lavacon bookstore and from Amazon leigh.white@ixiasoft.com CONTACT ME 20