LavaCon2011 - Vasont - Business Process Strategies


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Strategies to Manage Your Business Processes for Technical Communications
The volume of content that technical communications managers must monitor can be enormous. In this session, Suzanne Mescan of Vasont Systems will discuss how managers can rely on a content management system to not only manage content, but also manage the business processes surrounding it.

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  • Introduce myselfThe volume of projects that technical communications managers must monitor can be enormous. In this session, we will discuss how managers can rely on a content management system to not only manage content, but also manage the business processes surrounding it.
  • How many people are cooking dinner next week?It’s one of the hardest holiday meals to make, because there are many dishes to prepare and try to get them all on the table while they’re still hot at the same time.Suppose you have a house full of people, say 20 people are coming
  • You may have had help from kids in the past, but they now they are grown up and live out of town.They won’t arrive until the last minute.
  • Your mom and mother-in-law, who hate each other, will be there to help you, along with an aunt.You plan the menu and go to the grocery store to buy the food, but it comes out more expensive than you planned. How can you manage the costs?Ask everyone to bring something so you have fewer items to buy; ask the remote people to bring wine or something they can pick up along the way without cooking and trying to transport itFind shortcuts – buy a ready-made pie instead of all the ingredients to make one from scratchYou plan a schedule, but obviously you can’t do it all at the last minute in order to get it on the table while it’s still hot. What can you do?Work ahead – make some items the day before or early that morning that can be refrigerated (cranberry salad, pies) so you can work at a more relaxed pace and don’t take shortcuts that may result in poor quality food (lumpy potatoes!)Put mashed potatoes in a crock pot to keep them warm while you work on the last minute itemsAsk for help - Assign tasks to the MIL, mom and aunt to get things done and get them to work together (or keep them apart!) Have MIL fill water glasses in the dining room while mom makes gravy in the kitchen
  • Dinner is just about ready. Your hubby is supposed to be carving turkey, but he is too engrossed in a football game and forgets to do his duty…How can you set his priorities?Change the channel and hide the remote!
  • So, preparing a Thanksgiving dinner has many of the same challenges as managing a project at workHowever, at work, you’re not just managing one project at a time.You may be managing large volumes of projects at any given time.For example, …
  • Motorola = 83 different cell phones!
  • Multiple channels:PrintWeb (2 formats – HTML, PDF)CDEbook (3 formats – Nook, Kindle, IPad)Mobile app (2 formats – IPhone, Android)Mobile website
  • That’s a lot of projects to manage!You can see how multichannel publishing and international business can boost a technical doc department’s workload dramatically!So, you’ve got a lot of work to do, but…
  • ChallengesLess staff – layoffs leave you short staffed, but same (or more) workloadDinner – less help since daughter moved away
  • ChallengesHow to find content to update for new releases – too many storage spots on people’s hard driveson the network, but where?On a home computerOn removable media – flash drive
  • ChallengesFinding the right content You might find the content, but there’s too many versions…which one is the most current? Just like finding the white golf ball, but the wrong brand – not yoursHas the right content been coordinated and updated in all the proper places? Or is your content/messaging inconsistent?
  • ChallengesWhat are people working on? priorities – are they correct? Or are they working on stuff that they shouldn’t be?Some people only want to work on project they like, and not things that are the priorityDinner - Hubby watching football instead of carving the turkey – wrong priority
  • ChallengesAre projects on schedule? ramifications of late docs – missed product releases or releases go out without docs
  • ChallengesAre all the steps in the process happening? what if QC or testing is missed? People taking shortcuts to make datesWhat if people are doing things differently? Following different processes?Dinner – mashed potatoes lumpy? Gravy not smooth? Due to shortcuts to meet deadline
  • ChallengesAre people working effectively?Are they collaborating and coordinating efforts, duplicating work that someone else already did, or are they working in silos?Will you be profitable or will you lose money due to inefficiencies? Spending too much time on a projectDinner - Working together or crashing into each other or helping?
  • ChallengesAs new releases/products are created and working simultaneously with other releases/products, are they being properly coordinated?Small example: Suppose you have 4 releases running at the same time. (run through flowchart branches and merges) Dinner - Multitasking, simultaneous projects – getting everything done and on the table while it’s still hot
  • ChallengesCoordinating staff around the worldContent reviewers and SMEs may be located anywhere in the world – different time zones and countriesHow to make assignments and maintain a schedule?Dinner - Include the remote guests
  • ChallengesCost of translations – the biggie – thousands, even millions of dollars spent each year – this is an area with a potential for big savingsAvoid paying for duplicate translationsTake advantage of translation memoryWithout sacrificing qualityDinner – how to stay within budget at the grocery store?
  • Project management is the process of planning and organizing resourcesThe volume of work is highYou’re pressured to meet schedules, budgets and quality requirements (BETTER, FASTER, CHEAPER)Stress levels are highYou just can’t track and manage it all on Excel spreadsheets anymoreGood strategies for improving project management for tech docs is upfront managerial planning and technical solutions to help you balance the loadLet’s look at some managerial planning techniques
  • As a manager, you need to:Build a strong core teamPut someone from each area on the team (IT, writing, production)Pick people who are knowledgeablePick people who are enthusiastic and willing to changePick people who will be capable of learning quicklyPick people who will be able to train and lead others – respected by others – the go-to people
  • Plan a process that works for your scenario – create a blueprint for your processesKeep it simple – too much detail can bog you down – detail can be increased later as you progressIdentify the roles needed – categorize staff into roles for simpler maintenanceIdentify areas where automation can replace busy workYes, you can implement tools to manage your processes, but they will only work as well as the process you put into it.
  • Gather input from staffCommunicate with them on progress – keep them in the loop so they feel like a part of the processTrain the staff at the appropriate time (not too soon or too late), and provide ongoing trainingMotorola story – sent out a weekly newsletter just for the changeover project with one tidbit a week to get people excited and keep them informed about the upcoming changes
  • When implementing new processes or technologies, you need to measure your progress/improvementWhat stats will you need to report your success to upper management?How will you measure it?Take measurements of your current process for a baseline to compare against later after you implement the new process – management will want to know that their investment in new processes and technologies is paying offHow do you measure success?Defects: This includes conformance to standards and guidelines, inconsistencies, outdated content, spelling errors, incorrect values, incomplete data, duplicate information, and translation errors due to writing methods.Usability: This includes the accessibility of the content (is it readily available in the right formats?); the organization, navigation and design (is it easy to find the information needed?); and the clarity of the content (are there definitions, tutorials or other helpful context that make the content easy to understand?).Measurements may include:Quality of docs:monitor the call volume to technical support/help desk: Ask the customer if their issue is due to confusing or incomplete documentation.Measure the time it takes to find information: Test a focus group of people on the usability of the content and see how long it takes them to work through it. Process:Count the number of steps it takes to complete a processMeasure the time and/or cost to produce a doc or do translationsShow where redundancies have been eliminatedGE story – put in a new process…working well….took measurements…but forgot to take measurements of the old process, so they had nothing to compare against to show the progress
  • Technical solution:What’s the cost to buy multiple tools? (scheduling tools, business process management tools, production tools, review tools)Cost to integrate multiple tools to make them talk to each other?Is it even possible?Will you end up doing manual input from one tool to another to get the info you need?
  • You need tools to support your processesUsing a CMS to manage Business ProcessesMultilingual Content, at the component level if you have a CCMSBusiness processes (workflow, collaboration, review, translation mgmt)Project management All in one place for easier PM
  • Obviously, a CMS manages content.Maintains quality and consistency with content reuse and terminology managementManages multiple simultaneous releases with branching so you know which version is whichStores all content – multilingual, documents, content components, multimedia – all in one spot Powerful searching and easy retrievalProvides an audit trail with tracked historical records
  • But did you know that a CMS can also manage the business processes surrounding your content?Extend the use of the CMS by taking advantage of more features (depending on the CMS you select, features may include):Integrated Workflow manages the project tasks and schedules, at the module level in a CCMS – content and workflow are directly linked – take your blueprint of your processes and implement it using the CMS’s workflowWorkflow prioritizes workload automatically by due dates for staffWorkflow ensures all steps are occurring in the process – no one is skipped, no shortcuts are taken to meet schedules and sacrifice qualityAutomates processes – find areas of busy work and let the CMS do the work (when content is approved, workflow will kick off an automated translation or publishing process) – this can lessen the workload of your staff, especially if your staff was cut and is now doing more with less
  • Integrated Collaborative review Manages internal and remote contributions from SMEs and reviewersProvides notification of assignmentsEnforces schedulesProvides remote collaboration between reviewers and prevents people working in silosAutomates updates to the contentTracks suggestions, accepts and rejects for managing the review process and for an audit trail after the review
  • For companies dealing in international business, translations are a huge management issueA CMS with translation management capabilities can:Track and coordinate updates to translated contentManage translation project schedulingManage translation reuse in the CMS when translations are stored thereManage translation costs since only reused content is sent outMonitor costs – compare and analyze costs charged by each vendorManage vendors – tracks who translated which content for future use, TM purposes
  • Notifications provide information for users:Alert staff when important events happen (ie, when new release is started, when a project is approved, etc)Automatic communications: Keep staff or mgmt in the loop without chasing people for infoAccurate info: no mis-info due to forgetfulness or confusion
  • TRACKINGof entire projects and its sub-projectsBy date – are we on schedule? When is it due?By user – who is working on the project? Who performed previous tasks?By task – which task are we on; where are we in the process?Great information for project status meetings and daily management of projects and sub-projects
  • PROJECT STATUS & PROJECTIONSA good CMS alerts you to late projectsBetter yet, alerts for potentially late projects; before they become an issue, you can address it and get it back on track – how? [next screen]
  • ADJUSTMENTSProject management functionality in a good CMS provides flexibility to reassign users or reschedule projects as needed.If Sandy is backlogged with work, her tasks can be reassigned to Linda, who isn’t as busy.If a project is just plagued with problems that should not be released, then reschedule the project so it doesn’t go out the door as a mess.On-the-fly flexibility to adjust projects as needed.
  • DETAILED REPORTINGAdvanced CMSs give detailed project information that is sortable and filterable for reportingInformation that will give guidance for future decisions – provides enlightenmentSort information to analyze:Which tasks always seem to run late or become a bottleneck?Which employees or teams seem to always fall behind? Or always get tasks looped back to them for rework/poor quality?Which content gets updated most often?
  • A CMS archives historical project and process informationBy datesBy staffBy contentBy processIf you work in a regulated environment, a CMS’s project management tool can provide the detailed audit trail required.
  • In summary:Strategies for better project management of tech docs include:Forward thinking managerial planning+ Smart choice of technical solutions= easier, integrated project management without adding cost or additional manual work
  • LavaCon2011 - Vasont - Business Process Strategies

    1. 1. Strategies to Manage Your Business Processes forTechnical Communications Suzanne Mescan Vasont Systems
    2. 2. Happy Thanksgiving! Or is it???
    3. 3. Happy Thanksgiving! Or is it???
    4. 4. Happy Thanksgiving! Or is it???
    5. 5. Happy Thanksgiving! Or is it???
    6. 6. The Reality of Publishing• 1 product = 1 user guide
    7. 7. The Reality of Publishing• 1 product = 1 user guide – X 30 products = 30 user guides
    8. 8. The Reality of Publishing• 1 product = 1 user guide – X 30 products = 30 user guides – X 10 media channels = 300 user guides
    9. 9. The Reality of Publishing• 1 product = 1 user guide – X 30 products = 30 user guides – X 10 media channels = 300 user guides – X 20 languages = 6000 user guides
    10. 10. How do you…Do it with halfthe staff youused to have?
    11. 11. How do you…Find files in the vastsea of networks andhard drives?
    12. 12. How do you…Find the right content?
    13. 13. How do you…Know whatpeople areworkingon…really?
    14. 14. How do you…Know if yourprojects are onschedule?
    15. 15. How do you…Know if your projects are beingproduced thoroughly?
    16. 16. How do you…Know if your staff is workingeffectively?
    17. 17. How do you…Coordinate simultaneous releases?
    18. 18. How do you…Coordinateremotestaff?
    19. 19. How do you…Manage outside costs?
    20. 20. Project Management is…• Planning, organizing and managing resources to meet your goals• Measured by quality, schedule and budget parameters• Need managerial planning and technical solutions
    21. 21. Build a strong core team Experience+ Enthusiasm+ Adaptable+ Smarts+ Leadership= Strong team
    22. 22. Plan an organized process
    23. 23. Communicatewith your staff
    24. 24. Determine what youwant to measure
    25. 25. You can use multiple tools tomanage it all…But what’s the cost?
    26. 26. Content Management System: It’s not just for managing content! Manages multilingual content Provides Manages project business processes CMS management tools
    27. 27. Multilingual content management• Quality and consistency• Version control• Consolidated storage• Easy retrieval• Audit trails
    28. 28. Business process managementin a CMS Workflow
    29. 29. Business process managementin a CMS Collaborative review
    30. 30. Business process managementin a CMS Translation management
    31. 31. Business process managementin a CMS
    32. 32. Project management in a CMS Project tracking
    33. 33. Project management in a CMS Project status and projections
    34. 34. Project management in a CMS Adjustments
    35. 35. Project management in a CMS Detailed reporting
    36. 36. Project management in a CMSHistorical projectinformation
    37. 37. Smart managerial planning+ Relevant technical solution= Easier, integrated project management
    38. 38. Thank you!Suzanne Mescan Vasont Systems