Global User Assistance Guideslines and Requirements

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This is the presentation that I did at WritersUA 2011. It focuses on creating global standards and requirements for documentation teams that span the globe.

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Global User Assistance Guideslines and Requirements

  1. 1. Global User Assistance Guidelines and Requirements<br />Pam Noreault<br />pamnoreault@gmail.com<br />
  2. 2. Session Goals<br />Provide a high-level description of the evolving goals of this two-year project<br />Share the process that has been used in this effort<br />Discuss on-going challenges and resolutions to some challenges<br />Share what has worked and not worked<br />Discuss guidelines and requirements that have been established<br />Share the outstanding guidelines and requirements<br />Disclose the lessons learned so far<br />
  3. 3. Global Scenario<br />Four work sites (United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, United States)<br />Four documentation teams with four documentation managers<br />Myself – Manager of the US team in the smallest office<br />Myself – Chosen to lead the global effort and work with all three other managers<br />
  4. 4. Honest Disclosure<br />Collaboration across continents, time zones, and cultures takes patience, a willingness to compromise (at times), and a leader who can bridge the differences between people and cultures.<br />Four of us have spent two+ years on this effort. We have grown to have great respect for one another. That did not happen overnight.<br />
  5. 5. In the beginning…<br />Different styles, naming conventions, and layout (14pt body text), help file types<br />Different authoring tools and publishing systems<br />Translation into 7 languages besides English and no content reuse implemented anywhere<br />Bottom Line: Documents and help systems looked like they came from four different companies.<br />
  6. 6. Two mandates<br />When I was given the lead role, I was given two mandates: <br />Get the help systems out of the dark ages of “CHM”<br />Find a way to get gather customer help usage statistics for all eight languages<br />
  7. 7. So it began…<br />My goals:<br />Build trust and respect between team members<br />Build a team that collaborates together regardless of culture, location, and time differences<br />Get together once a year to spend a week establishing goals, prioritizing them, and creating a schedule to complete those goals<br />
  8. 8. Process<br />Bi-weekly meetings via phone or video conferencing<br />Goal creation was collaborative<br />Vision creation was collaborative<br />Decisions were collaborative and sometimes they were compromises<br />Tasks were established, deadlines were given, and we tried to hold one another accountable<br />Agendas were created, meeting notes completed, and decisions documented (my job)<br />
  9. 9. High-Level Goals<br />Goal: Establish trust, buy in, commitment<br />Learn about the other sites, processes, procedures, standards, guidelines, and history (Large amounts of listening and learning without passing judgment)<br />Establish a charter for the team<br />Establish a user assistance vision for the company<br />Goal: Establish a list of achievable goals, prioritize them, and create a schedule for goal achievement<br />
  10. 10. Specific Goals<br />Migrate one site to DITA and DITA OT (Other sites were using DITA/DITA OT)<br />Implement use of a common style guide<br />Establish PDF, CHM, and webhelp layout to be used by all (Using DITA OT Builds)<br />Save all content to the same repository<br />Implement a content reuse strategy<br />Implement a file-naming convention for all file types (8 different languages)<br />
  11. 11. Specific Goals (Con’t)<br />Research competitors, query stakeholders (CTO, Marketing, Prod Mgmt, etc.), write a help strategy, and plan to implement it<br />Write a feedback strategy and fold that into the help strategy, if appropriate<br />Establish a way to measure the quality of each group’s content<br />Research user assistance trends and recommend changes to senior management<br />
  12. 12. Intangible Challenges<br />Time – Initiatives are secondary to software delivery milestones<br />Cultural differences<br />Changes must be justified, proven by research, discussed, and then implemented<br />Communication must cross language barriers<br />Countries have different standards and laws that must be adhered to<br />
  13. 13. Tackling Intangible Challenges<br />Built a schedule and adjusted it around projects as best as could be done<br />Took the time to complete the necessary research and present findings<br />Discussed, talked, clarified, and talked more (File naming took 4 months)<br />Discussed standards and laws and made decisions accordingly<br />
  14. 14. Tangible Challenges<br />Knowledge transfer to get one site migrated to DITA and DITA OT<br />Scheduling style changes within projects<br />Getting team agreement on layout for PDF, CHM, and webhelp, and then get approval (Marketing, Prod. Mgmt, CTO)<br />Implementing the approved layout<br />Implementing content reuse to accommodate eight languages effectively<br />
  15. 15. Tangible Challenges (Con’t)<br />Merging team ideas for the future of help with the help metrics mandate<br />Getting customer feedback that is ‘deemed’ appropriate and acceptable<br />Agreeing on a mechanism to measure content quality<br />
  16. 16. Tackling Tangible Challenges<br />Scheduled learning sessions for knowledge transfer of DITA and DITA OT<br />This team did their own diligence as well<br />Scheduled style changes into projects<br />Completed many discussions around layout and finally came to agreement and had one person implement in the DITA OT<br />Completed a help strategy that took months to research, discuss, query, and approve<br />Researched how to measure the quality of content and presented findings<br />
  17. 17. What Worked<br />Research, discussion, and implementation of those items that were imperative<br />Charter and vision<br />Common styles<br />Common layout<br />DITA conversion<br />Preliminary content re-use strategy<br />Moving to webhelp rather than CHM<br />
  18. 18. What Did Not Work<br />File naming conventions –Names are long and three sites did not change<br />Content reuse strategy – Implemented something which turned out disastrous<br />Content quality criteria – Researched, analyzed, and discussed, but could not come to agreement<br />Help strategy – Worked diligently to agree only to have our developers question any work they had needed to do to assist us<br />Customer feedback – Queried Support forums, Beta feedback, and our own Support ticket system and there was little feedback about content<br />
  19. 19. Guidelines/Requirements<br />Vision – More interactivity with content and more visual learning<br />Style Guidelines – Microsoft Manual of Style and a separate in-house style guide<br />Layout Guidelines – DITA separates layout from authoring content so layout is defined in the DITA OT build<br />Help (Webhelp) Strategy – Hosted and local help with automatic updates and usage statistics<br />
  20. 20. Outstanding Guidelines<br />Help Strategy – Have done away with CHM files, but it took two years<br />Content Reuse – Have the strategy, but the implementation has made our files a mess<br />Quality Criteria – Sigh<br />Customer Feedback – Very little received even though we have implemented avenues to receive it<br />
  21. 21. Lesson Learned<br />Establish respect and trust by meeting in person for a week each year and get to know your peers<br />Establish project plans and agreed upon milestones and hold one another accountable<br />Review where you have been and where you are going and update your goals<br />Celebrate progress and admit mistakes<br />Listen, listen, listen<br />Discuss, discuss, discuss, and discuss (beat the dead horse)<br />Have a sense of humor<br />Final words…<br />
  22. 22. Review of Session Goals<br />Provide a high-level description of the evolving goals of this two-year project<br />Share the process that has been used in this effort<br />Discuss on-going challenges and resolutions to some challenges<br />Share what has worked and not worked<br />Discuss guidelines and requirements that have been established<br />Share the outstanding guidelines and requirements<br />Disclose the lessons learned so far<br />
  23. 23. Contact Information<br />Pam Noreault<br />pamnoreault@gmail.com<br />LinkedIn<br />Twitter: pnoreault<br />

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