Mobile Content in the Telecommunication Industry: A Survey
Smart phones and tablets are used by more and more people. They have transformed the reading habits and customer requirements in the telecommunications industry. What mobile content do customers want to see? When do they view this content?
This article is based on face-to-face surveys of 100+ telecommunication industry customers around the world, which took place over the course of a year.
To understand customer requirements, I began this survey at the end of 2012. Results have become clearer. Up to 74 percent of surveyed customers said they have used or will read product documentation through mobile devices. To provide mobile content is a must for telecommunication product vendors.
Among those surveyed, 8 percent were managers and 92 percent were engineers. An overwhelming majority (87 percent of managers and 73 percent of engineers) agreed that they would use or have used mobile devices to view product documentation (see Figure 1).
Most customers would like mobile content, especially managers. Acceptable mobile content must be brief, concise, and easy to access through mobile devices.
What Are Managers’ Requirements?
Managers are concerned with configuration limits, product quick view, alarm clearing, technical specifications, documentation news, and product release summaries (see Figure 2).
- Configuration limitations.This area is the most important from a team member perspective. Teams usually spend a lot of time with configuration troubleshooting. They know how to use the Network Management System (NMS) well, but are not familiar with configurations they have never performed. When performing configurations on the NMS, they can refer to another screen on their mobile devices for configuration limitations. This flexibility increases the likelihood that configurations will be done correctly.
- Product quick view. It’s not always necessary for managers to know every product in their network in detail. But the key message of the product is important. They need to be able to share their opinions about a certain product with supervisors and team members, but don’t have a lot of time to read the manual every day. They need condensed and convenient content.
- Alarm clearing. When team members encounter an alarm they have never handled, their first reaction is to refer to the related documentation. Some use the NMS screen to diagnose, and some head into the office. Mobile content can help them search the alarm-clearing suggestion quickly and conveniently.
- Technical specifications. All product specifications aren’t always necessary. Team members sometimes need only key and common-sense specifications. Other times they may need to know a certain specification in a technical discussion quickly. This requirement can be met with mobile content.
- Documentation news. Documentation is continually being improved according to customer needs; more and more customers are aware of what’s new in documentation. This appreciation of documentation value is a positive change for the information team. Sharing documentation news with customers through mobile devices will enable a more collaborative relationship.
- Release summary. Version changes and enhancements are big news. Mobile content makes this available immediately.
What Are Engineers’ Requirements?
The required content is the same, but the priority is different (see Figure 3).
- Technical specifications. The specifications are the most important for engineers. Specifications aren’t easy to remember but are frequently used. When designing the network (for the planning engineer) or troubleshooting (for the O&M engineer), the engineers need to search and find the correct values quickly.
- Configuration limitations. A lot of time is spent troubleshooting configurations. Knowing limitations helps to finish tasks smoothly.
- Product quick view. If engineers are already familiar with the product, they don’t need such content. What they do need is content for newly released products. They can then discuss the new product intelligently and compare it with different products from different vendors.
- Documentation news. This benefits engineers in the same way that it does managers.
- Release summary. Engineers don’t need detailed information about each released version. When there’s something new, they only want a general statement about the version.
- Release summary. This benefits engineers in the same way that it does managers.
Build Mobile Content
After understanding customer requirements for mobile content, I discussed the scheme and asked them to verify the draft. I found that minor adjustments in the original xml file for the web environment and creating a new map for mobile content are all that is needed. That means there is a single source for mobile and web environments, and the mobile content will satisfy customers.
Product Quick View is used here as an example.
When customers want to learn about a product quickly, they search for the following information.
- Appearance. 3D and photos are better than figures so the customer feels like he’s holding the real product. Some small tables (less than 5 rows and 5 columns) or an item list and sub-item list also work well.
- Highlights. Only provide key capabilities and features of the product in condensed form.
- Application. Use figures instead of a lot of text to show how the product will be used in the network and how the product will meet customer requirements.
- System architecture. Customers are familiar with “tutorials” as an introduction to architecture. It could be useful to include a simplified architecture and overview of the interconnection/bus structure including bus capacity and how different cards interconnect with each other. With a good top level understanding, it would be easier to “dive” into the details in later reading.
- Slot distribution. Figures with different colors to indicate how the slots are distributed would be better for quick understanding.
- Cards and their basic functions. Provide a list of all cards and describe the basic functions of each card in less than two sentences.
Because mobile devices have much smaller screens than PCs, large figures, tables, and paragraphs are inconvenient for mobile reading. To ensure a better mobile reading experience and keep a single source for mobile and web, adjusting the original xml file is a must. The main principle is to split large figures into separate parts and arrange them logically. For tables, minimize content in each cell.
In the telecommunications industry, mobile reading is an obvious requirement. Vendors can discuss requirements with their customers and ask them to join in designing and verifying mobile content, for increased efficiency, convenience, and satisfaction.
About the Author:
Hebe Hui He
Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.
Hebe manages the Transport Network Information Architect team within the Fixed Network Information Dept. at Huawei Technologies. Co. Ltd. Hebe began her information development career at Huawei eight years ago. Before joining Huawei she’d worked as an optical network maintenance engineer and planning engineer in China Telecom for more than five years. She and her team are dedicated to improving documentation by focusing strongly on customer tasks, concerns and difficulties in their work and helping technical writers to understand customers well so that they work more efficiently.