Headshot of a smiling woman with shortish hairTrish Grindereng, Comtech Services
September 15, 2023

In the ever-evolving world of technical documentation, some CIDM members are at the forefront of a significant transformation—automation. These members are seeing a profound shift in the way their companies are approaching content creation and delivery.

In a recent roundtable, members discussed the importance of automation in the technical documentation. They shared challenges in their current content management workflows and discussed potential solutions and best practices for addressing these challenges. Integrating content processes to reduce manual efforts and improve efficiency was a common goal for many of their organizations and some were already in the process of developing these automation systems.

The importance of effective collaboration between different teams, such as information architects, product managers, and writers, was emphasized. Coordinating content planning and assignments was seen as critical for success. Most member’s organizations used various tools including Jira, SharePoint, Airtable, and Big Picture. These tools were used to centralize content requests and as a system of record to reduce the reliance on email. The choice of tools depended on the specific needs and preferences of the teams and unique identifiers were used to connect different systems and keep track of content projects across various product lines. These processes helped streamline content planning and management.

Content governance was a key concern for members, especially when dealing with a large volume of content. A systematic approach to managing content was discussed, including the need for records to track content expiration, reviews, and updates. They emphasized the need to have both a system of record (permanent data storage) and transient records (temporary data) to efficiently manage content creation, assignments, and publication.

Many members expressed the hope that automation could provide users with personalized content. Instead of offering generic documentation, the goal is to leverage AI to understand a user’s context and past interactions to serve them with precisely the information they need.

One member described a scenario where a software user is guided through their journey with content tailored to their unique needs and prior actions. The member acknowledged the complexity of personalization, noting that it required collecting and analyzing user patterns. Tools like Penda were mentioned as potential solutions for extracting valuable data streams that can inform content recommendations.

However, the true challenge is to align this user data with the content itself, and they emphasized the importance of tagging content and using knowledge graphs to create a content assembly process based on user behavior patterns. This approach promised a more dynamic and user-centric content ecosystem, but it also highlighted the need for efficient content management. Other members acknowledged the significance of content taxonomy and that a well-structured content taxonomy is crucial for categorizing and organizing information effectively.

To create on the fly a set of related topics links. Instead of having to be writing to create a set that would be generically helpful, but the step created by the AI would be specifically helpful to that user.

Additionally, they discussed the concept of “micro-content,” which involves creating smaller, more focused pieces of content that address specific user needs. This shift reflects an understanding that users seek quick, targeted answers rather than sifting through extensive documentation. One member discussed their efforts to automate the creation of customer journeys, both at a macro and micro level. A macro journey map provides an overview of a user’s journey through a product, while a micro journey map delves into specific scenarios and tasks within that journey. The aim of this automated approach is to simplify the process of mapping content to user interactions, streamlining the creation of comprehensive content plans.

Throughout the conversation, the importance of integrating various systems and tools emerged as a critical aspect of automation. One member described a content portal that they had created to act as a central hub that connects content planning, translation, analytics, and more. Integrating these functions not only reduces manual effort but also allows for more streamlined content operations. Another member shared insights into their own automation journey, mentioning that accessibility and trademark checking are already areas where automation has been successfully implemented and demonstrates how automation can address common challenges in technical documentation.

When it comes to implementing automation in technical documentation, members acknowledged the need for resources and expertise. Three areas were mentioned as being vital:

  • Having an in-house development team
  • Collaborating with external partners and consultants
  • Fostering collaboration between vendors to build integrated solutions

One member stressed that a collective demand would encourage vendors to see how important automation is to many companies and develop the necessary tools and integrations.

Bringing vendors together and saying you’ve got a market opportunity here if you do this, you’re going to have a lot of customers that will benefit from it.

While the journey towards full automation may take time, the benefits in terms of user-centric content and streamlined operations are promising. Members agreed that as technology continues to advance, they can expect to see more innovations in this field, ultimately enhancing the user experience and making content creation more efficient than ever before.