Jackie Wang, Huawei Technologies
Huawei is a global leader of information and communication technologies (ICT) solutions. Huawei’s telecom network equipment, IT products and solutions, and smart devices are used in 170 countries and regions. Huawei’s technical documentation plays an important role in helping Huawei’s business development. Delivering quality documentation in such a large business is challenging for Huawei documentation engineers. There are several pain points with regard to documentation efficiency, quality, and time to market:
- Siloed documentation development
- Documentation’s inability to keep up with product updates
- Frequent customer complaints arising from inconsistent content
- Very time consuming process to confirm and verify product data
- Failure to deliver draft documents prior to product release
In 2011, Huawei initiated the Integrated Single Sourcing innovation. The following set of metrics shows that this project achieved satisfactory benefits.
- We are reusing 8 million structured topics that are generated by more than 30,000 system engineers (SEs), product developers, marketing executives, and technical writers.
- Nearly 100 percent of several reference documents are automatically sourced from the software development environment.
- There has been up to a 42 percent drop in redundant topics using the Annotated Task List approach
- Ongoing product updates are simultaneously and automatically transferred to downstream roles, ensuring content consistency among product families, product versions, pre-sale and after-sale documents, and document types.
- Draft documentation (Feature Description of wireless products, for instance) is released in advance of product delivery, so customers can refer to the draft documentation when planning their network configuration.
Huawei’s Integrated Single Sourcing provides a comprehensive, end-to-end solution ensuring development efficiency, documentation accuracy, consistency, and on-time delivery by taking advantage of proven technical communication methodologies such as User and Task Analysis (UTA), minimalism, annotated topic lists (ATLs), modular design, structured authoring, and automated information development.
Huawei uses a well-defined process to implement Integrated Single Sourcing as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Integrated Single Sourcing process
1. Complete a UTA and information requirement analysis
The information architects (IAs) collaborate with the SEs to create user roles and task models using the UTA and Minimalism approach and then analyze the information requirements for each user role to fulfill a task. This method fully aligns documentation development with real user needs without missing critical information or retaining unnecessary information (see Figure 2).
Figure 2: Example of modular design
2. Define a complete set of information modules
Using the UTA output as the input, the IAs then define a complete set of information modules, including a responsibility matrix and reuse relationship table (see Figure 3). The responsibility matrix shows topic owners and the corresponding phases during which these information modules need to be developed according to Huawei’s Integrated Product Development (IPD) process.
Figure 3: Example of a reuse relationship table
3. Develop Automated Sourcing and collaborative authoring
Using the responsibility matrix and the pre-set reuse relationship between the source information and the target documents, the IDP-Composer, a Huawei developed tool, automatically captures structured content from external platforms such as the Requirement Management Platform and the Design Platform (see Figure 4). Content captured by the IDP-composer and stored in the content management system (CMS) can be automatically updated along with ongoing product updates.
Figure 4: Demonstration of automated sourcing
Huawei also developed the IDP-Lite tool for collaborative authoring. As with the responsibility matrix, different roles collaboratively author topics in IDP-Lite. Task management, online review, and quality check activities are also done in IDP-Lite (see Figure 5).
Figure 5: Demonstration of collaborative authoring
4. Normalize and manage structured content
Use the ATL approach to optimize reuse. The ATL normalizes similar information modules from different sources into a single module. Rules are set to regulate the use of metadata in denoting information module attributes, including applicable products, versions, features, target users, and application scenarios.
5. Reuse and assemble information products
The IAs define the information products and reuse topics according to a relationship table. This table shows the reuse of topics between the different business domains, product families, product versions, and document types.
6. Publish in multiple formats
The combination of the single sourcing process and the IDP tools maximizes collaboration between Huawei’s different business units and employee roles. It optimizes reuse, allowing not only technical writers but also other roles such as marketing, SEs, and product developers to reuse content. All the roles involved in the product development lifecycle act as both contributors and beneficiaries of single sourcing.
Improved efficiency frees technical writers from the cumbersome task of repeatedly addressing documentation maintenance issues and allows them to allocate more time to interact with customers and find new ways to meet and exceed customer needs. All these factors significantly enhance Huawei’s total information experience and increase customer satisfaction with technical documentation.