Sabine Ocker, Comtech Services
March 1, 2020
If you already have the attention and support of upper management for your DITA migration project, then you can pat yourself on the back and stop reading this article. But if you are still working on gaining traction in your organization, then here are three suggestions on how you can increase the value of your content strategy.
First, write it down. This seems obvious, but it is especially important if your current content strategy has evolved organically over time to meet your changing business demands.
You won’t be able to properly influence your organization unless you have a slide stack to share with your team, your stakeholders, and most significantly, your management team. The content strategy document should clearly outline your vision and contain at least these sections:
- Goals: Specifically, what are you trying to accomplish? Some examples of content strategy goals:
- Increase content reuse by 35%.
- Achieve consistency in content structure and look and feel across product lines.
- Increase the percentage of content that goes through the Editorial or Technical review process, as well as the percentage which is completed on-time.
- Define concrete progress your organization will take to move away from documenting features and functions and instead target content towards specific users based on what tasks they need to complete in their current role.
- Decrease translation costs or timeline.
- Decrease the amount of time it takes writers to create content.
- Metrics: If you make your goals very concrete, they can be measured. It is especially powerful if you can contrast the current state against projected future state improvements. Mark Lewis wrote an excellent book called DITA Metrics 101, and he provides useful equations for calculating content creation time costs, content reuse and translation time cost savings, among other things. I recommend purchasing a copy if you need any help in gathering metrics.
- Strategies: Include a short, concise description of how reuse, metadata (or better yet taxonomy), and better user experience will support and enable your content strategy goals.
- Processes: Creating a visual representation of your current processes in addition to showing how those processes will be streamlined during the execution of your content strategy is a sure-fire means of getting attention. These processes could include:
- Project Planning—how writers work closely with developers, user experience and product managers to determine what to document and at what cadence.
- Content Creation—the process writers follow to create content, including more complex structures such as conditionalization, reuse, metadata application, and keys and variables.
- Collaborative Review—details on what writers do to ensure content is current, technically accurate, and meets all Style Guide and editorial requirements.
- Publishing—how content gets delivered to an internal or external company site; improvements to the back-end pipeline such as publishing automation, search improvements in the form of facets or filters, or content targeted to a specific audience are often components of a content strategy.
Second, focus your content strategy slides to a target audience. Many organizations who are working to get buy-in and traction for their content strategy will create several versions of their goals and vision slides—one set for stakeholder organizations such as Engineering, Product Management, or Support, one set for other Technical Product Documentation Managers (if you are working in a distributed environment), and a 15-minute version to show C-level executives. Different levels of granularity are appropriate for each audience. In addition to getting funding for any infrastructure or tooling changes you will need to enable your vision, another important outcome of sharing your content strategy is to build buzz. Buzz can take the form of getting a seat at the table for providing input to your Enterprise Taxonomy, incorporating user experience, or making a pitch to extend product content to include Community, Support or Learning and Training. Turning your stakeholders into evangelists can only help expand your visibility and circle of influence.
The third thing you can do to help your content strategy is to align with any enterprise or organizational mission statements, adopting the same terminology and showing how your goals and strategies will support the larger corporate vision. At one company I worked for, our VP of engineering, who was responsible for redesigning the company’s product experience, defined the vision as “delivering the right content to the right people at the right time.” The mapping between content strategy and organizational mission was very clear—to deliver the right content we had to ensure our processes were supporting the identification of what content our users needed, and then being able to associate important information about that content, such as what product, product version, and high-level task it was associated with via metadata. The right people meant we had to have a solid understanding of our users—who they are, what role they are in, and what they need to do. Beginning with the User Personas created by the User Experience group, we were able to get a good start, but doing user testing was instrumental to our ultimate success. The right time meant we had to gain insights into the customer journey, to ensure the content would be available, findable, and at the right level of granularity when it was needed. The details of the content delivery for each piece of the corporate vision were goals in the Content Strategy and helped us build a strong business case for the tooling and infrastructure changes we needed to best instantiate those goals.
No matter if the road to your content strategy becoming a reality is long or short, there are many resources available to help you along the way, including content strategy training or consulting from Comtech.