Telecom Information Conference 2000
In early March, the CIDM hosted the first annual Telecom Information Conference at the Four Seasons Resort in Irving, TX. The conference was attended by more than 60 managers and staff members from the nine telecommunications manufacturers that took part in the 1999 Telecom Benchmark Study. Participating in the Benchmark Study were Alcatel, Cisco, Ericsson, Lucent, Motorola, Newbridge, Nokia, Nortel, and PairGain. Individuals joined us from Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, France, and the United States.
Over 30 divisions and more than 100 individuals in these nine companies took part in the investigation. Drs. JoAnn and Bill Hackos presented study findings at the conference opening focusing on: organizational structure, process maturity, cost control, quality metrics, customer satisfaction, audience and task analysis, tools and technology, design innovations, and translation and globalization. The study results establish a baseline of current practices as well as trends for the future. The study also identified a large number of industry best practices in the 70-page study report that was distributed to all conference attendees.
Conference Presenters Highlight Industry Best Practices
The conference speakers highlighted the best practices that the study team identified in their organizations. The Tools and Technologies panel members discussed how they are using database publishing systems to deliver customized content to customers and looked at how information might be chunked to promote accessibility.
The Translation and Globalization panel speakers demonstrated how their organizations have established effective methods to control and reduce translation cost-one through outsourcing and the other through a combination of in-house and outsourced activities.
The Customer Initiatives panel showed how teams used detailed task analyses as well as broad survey techniques to understand customer needs.
We learned from senior managers how they effectively track their projects, maintain detailed project histories, and use the data they’ve gained to get the resources they need for upcoming projects. Other managers explained how they have reduced the sometimes enormous volume of information by using minimalism principles. Still others focused on the repeatable processes they have established to gain efficiencies, reduce costs, and focus on the information most needed by customers.
Teams Present Innovative Practices in an Evening of Poster Sessions
In addition to the contributions of the panel speakers, another 20 participating teams presented posters of their best practices. Tuesday evening was dedicated to poster sessions with a display of a comprehensive information model, the results of detailed customer studies, descriptions of new job functions, the evolution of an innovative new documentation design, maps of a variety of organizational structures, and more.
Collaboration Among Competitors Created a Stimulating Atmosphere
As exciting and informative as they were, the presentations, panels, and poster sessions didn’t do justice to the spirit of collaboration evident during the three and a half days. This conference brought together information and training managers from fiercely competitive companies. Yet, the attendees found themselves focusing on common problems, the need for innovative solutions, and the need to share information that will contribute to making everyone more effective.
The managers at the conference told us time and again how effectively and powerfully they will be able to use what they have learned. One said, “My senior management will be incredibly impressed when I can explain exactly what the competition is doing. It will make my job of promoting (and finding funding for) innovation and best practices so much easier.”
Another participant explained the need for collaboration: “Our customers want to be able to move easily from documentation produced by one company to documentation produced by another. The customers are mixing equipment and software that comes from all of us. If we don’t find ways to present information with a common structure, the customers will mandate a structure for us. This conference enables us to form a coalition to develop standards.”
Significant Industry Initiatives Emerge from the Conference
Several initiatives emerged from the conference that will be sponsored and facilitated by the CIDM. The first is an initiative to develop a common terminology bank for the telecommunications manufacturing industry. Common terminology with industry-accepted definitions will assist customers in understanding documentation more easily and quickly.
The second initiative focuses on methods for gathering customer information. A common methodology will assist everyone in making effective use of opportunities to meet with customers. All the participants are serving the same types of customers, and no one has sufficient resources to study all of them. The CIDM is considering ways in which we might gather industry-wide information about users that could be widely shared among the CIDM telecommunications members.
The third initiative involves a standard document type definition (DTD) for the dissemination of information, perhaps using XML as a standard. Again, the CIDM is investigating how a standard might be created by members who are information-development professionals.
Telecom 2000-An Example of the Power the Center Brings to Its Members
The Telecom 2000 conference is a great example of what the CIDM can do for all members as we continue to grow. Remember, however, that initiatives and benchmark studies need your participation and funding. Please help us continue to recruit new members so that we can achieve a critical mass of about 100 members. And, be sure to take part in the upcoming benchmark study.