Bill Gearhart, Comtech Services, Inc.

The Center for Information-Development Management (CIDM) presented its 2014 Rare Bird Award to Huawei Technologies’ Dynamic Content Publishing (DCP) solution at the annual Best Practices Conference in Stevenson, Washington. The Plano, Texas based team is led by Farhad Patel, who submitted the innovative, state-of-the-art-system that allows Huawei’s customers to locate and assemble information objects dynamically. The information objects may be large manuals, small standalone topics, videos, and user generated articles. This flexible design puts the information directly into the hands of the customer regardless of their platform. It has received overwhelming support from customers and internal stakeholders, as evidenced by the well-documented efficiency and customer-satisfaction metrics.

The DCP solution allows Huawei to improve its customer focus and increase customer productivity and efficiency in these ways:

  • Improving the customer’s ability to quickly find the content needed to perform tasks. The DCP’s multi-faceted search capability increases search performance and relevancy. The findability of information has traditionally been one of Huawei customers’ biggest pain points. Strict adherence to the DCP process has led to a more accurate, task-based deliverable through multi-faceted searching.
  • Allowing customers to choose the device and the format that is most convenient for them (Bring Your Own Device).
  • Delivering customized content in unlimited iterations based on customer preferences at no extra cost to the company or to the customer.
  • Creating customized solution documentation based on customer’s equipment configuration.

Based on a cost savings study for documentation customization requests done by Huawei’s IMS business unit, Huawei estimates that the DCP solution saves the IMS documentation team $72,000 per year. The initiative more than paid for itself in just under 2 years.

To get the go-ahead and funding for the project, the Huawei DCP team convinced leaders from several different product lines, technical writing teams, IA teams, IT teams who were competing for the same funding. The DCP team provided research and analysis of how DCP could improve customer experience and customer satisfaction. The DCP team demonstrated how implementing the DCP solution would give Huawei an edge over their competition and set a benchmark for other technical publishing departments to follow. Their research and persistence paid off, and the team got the go-ahead for the pilot.

Huawei started by conducting a user analysis and task analysis to fully understand what information the customers needed, when they needed it, and how they preferred to receive it (PC, tablet, smart phone etc.). Based on the outcome of the customer meetings, they developed multiple customer personas to ensure that all types and groups of customers were appropriately represented. The team focused on customer usability by taking customer terms and frequently used product names into consideration when defining the taxonomy they used for the metadata.

The first phase of the DCP project was a pilot that consisted of content from one of Huawei’s business units. The team demonstrated the DCP prototype to a few key Huawei and to other technical communicators throughout the industry. The feedback received in both cases was overwhelmingly positive and encouraging. They also followed up by asking customers to complete a Likert scale survey. On a scale of 1 to 5 (with 5 being the highest score) the DCP project received all scores of 5 (Strongly Agree) and 4.5 (Agree).

In phase two of the project, the team replicated the DCP work flows, project guidelines, and standards developed in phase 1. The next phases will spread the DCP approach to more product lines and business units, with an aim to have all teams adopt it.

Other Rare Bird Award entries included:

Citrix RENO—Release Notes Demystified, Citrix Systems, submitted by Archana Maheshwari
The Citrix documentation team delivers comprehensive release notes with every release. Their earlier process was very manual and iterative, often taking up to 4 weeks and yet not guaranteeing that all issues were captured. The release notes were created using static html files.

The Citrix team envisioned the need for a dynamic database of content that could be queried to generate release notes for all Citrix products from a single location. Project RENO transformed the way Citrix creates release notes:

  • From person-dependent to an automated framework.
  • From multiple interfaces to a single interface for all tasks in creating release notes. The one stop shop removes redundancy and frustration for not only the writers but all stakeholders.
  • From receiving issues at the last minute to real time addition of issues to the database, making it easier for writers to plan their work.
  • From cramming writing of descriptions in the last two weeks to spreading that effort across days. The quality of descriptions significantly improved.

Huawei—Adopt a UTA Approach to Improve Customer Experiences , Huawei Technologies, submitted by Hebe Hui He
Huawei has three platforms to connect with customers: the support web site, the support-mobile application (App), and social media. By adopting DITA, most of the content is single-sourced but can be grouped in different information maps, so it is possible to satisfy customers with great efficiency. Such grouping requires knowledge of the customer and their preferences, and Huawei initiated a project for adopting a User Task Analysis. The initiative was based on 300+ customer survey results.

The roles-tailored and experience-tailored documentation received excellent feedback from customers. After the Huawei Tech Support App completed its formal release, over 27,000 users installed it, with many commenting on the relevance and ease of use of the information.

The UTA practice is spreading to many other Huawei products. Now, each Information Architect (IA) interviews customers and works with them to design the documentation. The related technical writers are trained by the IAs to interview customers and to show their new documentation to customers and collect feedback face-to-face.

IBM—Development and Delivery of Interactive Models, IBM Corporation, submitted by Shawn Benham
IBM developed Interactive Models to deliver content using a layered, progressive disclosure, approach to communicating concepts, tasks and task/concept combinations. The Interactive Models increase the efficiency of communication in terms of screen space, user interaction, and time-to-comprehension. Pictures that illustrate concepts contain more pictures that illustrate sub-concepts, or supporting concepts, which are revealed based on customer interaction. This ‘just-in-time’ communication or ‘on-demand’ information supports efficient comprehension and learning.

Early and repeated user testing with customers showed that static graphical illustrations of important concepts and procedures were insufficient to hold the customer’s interest and to communicate the complexities of important concepts and tasks without themselves becoming overly complex and daunting.

The Interactive Models developed by IBM are content, task, and technology agnostic; allowing any organization to visually communicate important concepts and tasks related to their products. The language for developing Interactive Models, IMXML can be learned quickly and easily by most anyone. Information developers in the organization have learned IMXML and created their first Interactive Model with 2 days.

Interactive Models have given IBM the ability to deliver complex content in new ways, efficiently synthesizing disparate elements (text, graphics, and animation) for significantly better user comprehension. This advancement was critical to the overall division business plans: IBM has made a strategic decision to be a leader in complex, data driven technologies, such as real-time streaming analytics, so it was imperative to find ways to more quickly and easily explain product concepts and their value proposition.

In particular, the IBM Technical Sales teams really like the Interactive Models, offering these quotes:

  • “Nice. I wish I had this at <large_financial_institution>!”
  • “I would use this in a presentation. I would email it to POC users so that they could reference it as needed. Slides do not convey how neat this is!”
  • “Let me tell you this is fabulous! I really applaud you guys for going through the trouble to make it.”

Management Concepts—Project DICoRe Course eReader & Delivery Platform, Management Concepts , submitted by Larry Walters
The Course eReader & Delivery Platform hosts, secures, and distributes digital training content worldwide. The platform includes a virtual “bookshelf” that works across mobile devices, allows for online and offline access, is easily searchable and presents highly interactive and engaging course material that was previously distributed via print in three-ring binders.

Before the solution, Management Concepts spent over $2M a year on paper alone for the 48M pages of training documentation needed for in-person classes. Though the eReader & Delivery Platform (EDP) was just recently launched, they have already cut their paper, printing, and shipping costs dramatically, including taking one industrial printer offline. They plan to shut down another printer by April 2015 and cut their print volume in half. These changes will save Management Concepts over $1M annually in paper, technology, and labor. This represents a 100+% return on investment (ROI).

In addition to cost savings, the EDP solution has enabled Management Concepts to generate new revenue. They are selling an Extended Learning Premium version for specific courses, students can purchase lifetime updates for previous courses, and a new ecommerce application, MC Press, acts as a fourth added revenue stream. The possibilities continue to grow as Management Concepts converts more of its printed materials to engaging digital applications.