Case study – Helping HCC deal with the size and complexity of embedded systems documentation

HCC Embedded is a high tech software corporation that develops specialist software for deeply embedded systems, such as file systems, USB and networking software.

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Dave Hughes, CEO of HCC, realised that with over 100 different modules to be documented, often with inter-dependent content and frequent updates, managing the documents in Microsoft Word had become unmanageable and untraceable.

HCC’s documentation assists users developing with the products, and it plays an important role in the marketing of HCC’s products to developers. This means keeping a consistent format and brand across all this material is critical to the organization.

At the recommendation of Cherryleaf, HCC decided to move all its product documentation to a web-based documentation system called Confluence. Cherryleaf provided consultation on how to install and use the system – and it customized the setup for HCC’s purposes.

The result was HCC’s content was now was structured, organized and manageable, and the hard work could begin on creating and updating the information.

Dave Hughes said:

“The first, laborious, step was to get all the information organized into documents in a structured and modular way. As we complete the process we will want to improve presentational aspects to give a better customer and marketing experience.

We see an ongoing role for Cherryleaf as consultants who can help to get better documents out of the vast material we have added to the system. Very importantly, Cherryleaf were able to rapidly respond to our issues with the system and help us understand. We have no expertise in this and did not want to be stuck on things that experts could solve instantly – Cherryleaf were very responsive in this. “

For Dave Hughes, one of the most fundamental aspects is to have reusable content across documents – by recognizing where an element will be used by other modules (which is normally reflected in the code structure) so that if that element is updated it is automatically updated in all documents that use it.

HCC sees this development of the system as an ongoing process, but HCC can see its way to a very organized and manageable documentation system where many engineers can contribute content without having to worry about format – and others can do any “tidying up” that might be needed.

“In the long run we may make the documents directly available to our customers online for instance – there are built-in features for this, but it will need careful mapping into our general customer support processes.”

We asked Dave what he thought of Cherryleaf. He said:

“HCC are experts in their areas – deeply embedded software development – we have always subcontracted any support process not part of our core business expertise. Cherryleaf has enabled us to subcontract another area – giving us better products without burdening the engineering focus. Cherryleaf has proved an excellent and responsive partner in this respect and we would hope to keep the relationship working for many years to come.”

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