Juhee Garg, Adobe Systems Incorporated

Technical documentation is a critical part of an end-user’s digital experience, both post- and pre-purchase. While doing product research, it is becoming standard for buyers to look at the technical documentation of products to find out if the product meets their needs and if it will be easy to configure and maintain (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Buyer research process example

As buyers navigate through a web site looking for information, it is important that they have a consistent digital experience. A consistent experience has been proven to directly influence customer acquisition, retention, and satisfaction (see http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/retail/our-insights/the-three-cs-of-customer-satisfaction-consistency-consistency-consistency). On the digital front, this would translate to a uniform look and feel, integrated messaging, consistent branding, unified search, and so on.

However, marketing content and technical content are typically managed on different platforms. While a Web Content Management System (WCM) is used for managing marketing content, technical content is typically managed in a Component Content Management System (CCMS). Delivering a consistent experience across technical and marketing content requires extensive IT effort to build synchronization between these systems. IT must build processes to keep the content and publishing templates in-sync for a consistent look and feel. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Gluing systems together is not foolproof. Some things are bound to fall through the cracks and it requires significant effort to make it run like well-oiled machinery. There should be an easier way to deliver consistent customer experience seamlessly, and that is by bringing marketing and technical content on the same platform. The platform will enable end-to-end workflow for both marketing and technical content. It will provide a shared publishing engine so that a consistent user experience can be delivered to the end users across all content.

But a common platform does not mean a common authoring format. Marketers and technical authors should be able to continue authoring with their preferred tools. Technical authors should be able to reap the benefits of structured authoring, while marketers should be able to interweave content with design and layout.

This approach eliminates the need to keep the content and templates in sync. Any content update is instantly available to be pushed to the web site, increasing content velocity. All template updates are immediately applied across all content, irrespective of its origin. This approach reduces errors, reduces costs, and improves efficiency.

This approach also delivers higher return on content. It enables sharing and reuse of content between marketing and technical teams. Marketing pages can reference technical specs, and technical documentation pages can reference marketing assets, without the need to make multiple copies of the same content.

When different teams use different systems, it can be challenging to implement a unified content strategy. A unified content platform makes it easy to have teams march in unison. Percolating content guidelines—whether it is terminology, taxonomy, or process workflows—is seamless across all content producers (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Blended Publishing

Adobe has launched XML Documentation Add-On, which enables Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) to manage both marketing and technical content. AEM is a market leading enterprise content management system which is used by companies all over the world to manage and host their marketing web sites. With this solution, it is now possible to manage and publish technical content on the same platform.

The solution supports the end-to-end workflow for technical content which covers authoring, collaboration, review and approval, version management, taxonomy management, project and user management, digital asset management, translation, reporting, and multi-channel publishing. The solution provides seamless integration with Adobe Creative Cloud & Adobe Marketing Cloud which has tools like Adobe Target (for delivering personalized content), Adobe Analytics (for gathering usage data), and Adobe Livefyre (for getting user feedback and comments).

Add-On also provides some unique features like mixing technical and marketing content blended together on the same page. For example, if users are browsing an older version of the technical documentation, they can be shown marketing offers for the latest version of the product. Or, they can be shown relevant technical FAQs on the product’s marketing pages. The possibilities are limitless.

We have come a long way in recognizing that technical content is relevant not just for the post-sales context. It is very critical for buyers as they make their purchasing decisions. Now, the next step is to make the end-user experience seamless. Presenting a cohesive picture to the end-users will not only improve brand perception, but also improve marketing ROI by delivering higher conversion rates from higher value customers.