Adrian Baniak has written an article (3 Ways to Engage with Today’s Empowered Consumer) about how brands can “cut through the clutter” and communicate with their customers and prospect. He states one of the key ways to do this is “Write Your Own Tale, Or Someone Else Will Do It First”.
This mantra was originally made by Lisa Shalett, a partner at Goldman Sachs, and the global head of brand marketing and digital strategy. Continue reading →
Research conducted by two Oxford academics (Why Your IT Project May Be RiskierThan You Think) has suggested that the private sector has almost as much difficulty managing big software projects as the public sector. It also indicated that some types of projects have put companies’ survival at risk.
Whereas government departments can experience almost permanent revolution, private sector processes, in general, remain fairly stable. So it’s depressing to learn one in six of the projects they studied was a “black swan” – with a cost overruns of 200%.
The causes include: technology that doesn’t work, the difficulty in accommodating the exception cases, managing large teams, changes to the scope of the project, dealing with legacy systems, changes in legislation, and failing to build a system that meets the users’ requirements.
The researchers recommend breaking projects into smaller, more manageable units and using the best possible forecasting techniques.
There’s an additional problem: systems that work technically can still fail. If the user does not understand how to use the system, or if they don’t understand the benefits of using it, your “successful” system can end up under-used. User Assistance (online Help, Getting Started guides, screencasts and so on) mustn’t be forgotten. It’s one of those final steps in a truly successful project.
Danielle M. Villegas has just pointed us towards a five minute lightning talk by Rick Lippencott on the future of technical communication, and its value. Rick covers in five minutes a great deal of the content I covered in my 45 minute presentation at the same conference – it’s worth watching.
He summarises the value of Technical Authors in three simple words :”We explain things”.
Rick added some notes to the description on YouTube:
The clay tablet “first example of tech documentation” is about ten thousand years old, not two thousand.
The odd photo at about the 4:50 mark (where I say any of us could have explained it better) was a hotel room layout map posted at the elevators. It gave room locations based on compass points, but there was no way for the reader to know which way was actually north. It was completely useless.
“All of this has happened before, and it will happen again” was originally from Peter Pan.
Knowledge in people’s heads – skills and tacit knowledge.
Formal intellectual property rights – copyrights, patents, trademarks, brand equity etc.
Customer-related information and relationships.
Business processes. We can include in this the knowledge and systems that comes from interacting with other organisations.
If all of these are coded and formalised, then a financial justification can be made for the value created in the company.
So how can you code and formalise these areas? One way is to turn them into software applications, and the other is to record them. Your intangible value will be recorded in the polices and procedures, in people’s knowledge that is captured and documented.
This means the better your content strategy and content management systems are, the more in control of your business’s intangible assets and intellectual property you’ll be.
The US Presidential elections have just ended, and the big winners were the “Quants” – the statisticians such as Nate Silver, who used statistical models of big data sets to accurately predict the electoral college vote results. In competition with the Quants were the “Pundits”. These were the commentators on politics, some of whom said they were using gut feel to make their predictions. Pretty much all of the Pundits failed to predict the results accurately.
It is our experience that there is a similar difference between different Technical Publications teams.
One of the graphs posted in yesterday’s blog showed the number of people searching for IPad Help.
Here is the graph:
For a product that “just works”, there is an increasing number people searching the Web for iPad Help. However, part of that increase can be put down to the increasing number of iPad sales:
What we can conclude is that even users of products as simple and intuitive to use as the iPad search the Web for Help on how to use it. If you decide not to provide that Help, then users are likely to get the information from someone else – either in a forum, a YouTube video, blog, Web site etc. Places generally, outside of your control.