New case study – Creating an operations manual for a medical service provider

You’ll find a new case study on the Cherryleaf website, regarding a project we carried out for Affidea.

Affidea Group BV is a company that offers premium diagnostic imaging, cancer detection and cancer treatment services. It focuses on delivering prompt, thorough diagnoses and high quality treatments by working only with state-of-the-art technology and experienced medical professionals.

AffideaAffidea operates a network of Diagnostic and Cancer Treatment Centres in 14 countries across Europe. The company employs over 3,000 professionals, of which more than 750 are medical doctors.

Affidea required us to produce a so called “Blue Book” of company operations. Some of the material for the Blue Book already existed and had been documented; other material had not been documented. The existing material had been written by non-native English speakers and/or non technical authors, because of this there was a lack of consistency to the existing documentation. The information required for the new material was largely not documented anywhere and subject matter experts (SMEs) were based throughout Europe.

The project involved re-designing/writing existing content, interviewing SMEs in order to get the information required for new content, putting together new content and finally assembling all the information into the Blue Book.

For the full case study, see:

Case study: Creating an easy to use Listener Guide for the Samaritans and the Prison Service

Through its Listener Scheme in prisons, Samaritans  provides  emotional support to prisoners who are struggling to cope, are self harming or are feeling suicidal.

Guidance for Samaritans volunteers that run and support Listener schemes was contained in a hard copy manual (the Guide to Prisons) which was cumbersome to update, difficult to navigate and not in a format that made it easy to share with prison staff. As a result, over the years, volunteers referred to it  less and less frequently meaning that consistency in delivery of the Listener scheme across the prison estate was being compromised.

Cherryleaf were tasked with converting the manual to a fully searchable, easy to use, online resource that would link to other relevant information on the Samaritans intranet and could also be made available on the Prison Service intranet. The new online Guide to the Listener scheme means that both Samaritans volunteers and prison staff have access to the same, up to date, comprehensive set of guidelines and information.

Maria Foster, Samaritans’ Prison Support Officer said:

“For Samaritans volunteers, having the information available on the intranet rather than in a manual in their branches, means they can find out what they need to know at any time; the search facility and page style ensures that information can be located and read quickly and easily.

For prison staff, this is the first time they will be able to see all of the Samaritans guidelines for running the Listener scheme; this will help to further develop their understanding of the scheme and will support them in facilitating the operation of the scheme in their prison.

Samaritans is delighted with the result of the project;

Cherryleaf understood the brief and very quickly got to grips with the subject matter, turning a cumbersome manual into a streamlined user friendly resource.”


The Samaritans provides confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress, despair or suicidal thoughts. You can talk to them, any time, on 08457 909090 (UK), 1850 60 90 90 (Republic of Ireland) or .

The guilty pleasure of writing policy and procedure documents

We have a number of projects running at the moment that involve us improving organisations’ policy and procedures documents. It may not seem likely, but these projects are enormous fun.

The best analogy I can find is that it’s like rearranging someone else’s record collection. Or in a more modern setting, it’s like creating a playlist from someone else’s mp3 files. Everything ends up in order, or as Hans Christian Anderson said, “everything in the right place”.

The trick with policy and procedures documents is to break them in to small chunks of information, each of them preceded by a heading that describes the topic. The key factor is: each topic must only contain the information described by the heading. This activity results in the equivalent of a big bag of lego bricks – giving you, as your next step, the pleasant task of connecting and arranging all these topics into the right order.

To work in this modular, object, based way it’s best to avoid tools that take a more linear approach, such as Microsoft Word. We’d recommend, instead, you use a ‘modular’ authoring tool that enables you to generate a Word or PDF document once you’ve finished.

Information Development

I’ve just finished reading JoAnn Hackos’s book, “Information Development”. It’s very good – probably the first book that a technical author should buy. Indeed, we’re making sure all our in-house authors have access to a copy of it.

At 624 pages, it covers a lot. However, I felt it could have done with covering in depth: (a) the behaviours and motivations of team members, and (b) real-life advice when you’re faced with a organisations that are at Capability Maturity Model levels 0 (Oblivious), 1 (Ad hoc) and 2 (Rudimentary).

Whilst we’d all like to deal with stable, well organised organisations, it’s a fact of life that there are many start-ups who are at levels 0-2.

There’s mention of XML, but little of Web 2.0, which is in some ways understandable.