Shape of a Modern Technical Communication Organization, by Sanborn Hodgkins

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Transcript of Shape of a Modern Technical Communication Organization, by Sanborn Hodgkins

Structure of a Modern Pubs Organization

Modern Technical Information OrganizationsSanborn HodgkinsManager, Information Experience

2014 VMware Inc. All rights reserved.





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Perception matters

Consider bringing in a graphic or UI designer. First impressions matter. The way customer perceive your information could matter more than the actual information you provide.



Architect it

Information architecture is one of the more critical job roles you see in writing organizations. As we increase the scope and complexity of content and need to simplify the user experience, IAs become more important.8

At VMware, we have two levels of IAs. The first level is dedicated information architects who are responsible for structuring the authoring experience and the toolchain.

Writers within product teams serve an IA role by helping to structure the content, navigation, and metadata for their content areas. We use tools such as the Information Architecture Workbench to prototype and design new content structures.9

At VMware, one significant investment we made was to develop a video program and hire a producer. The initial idea was to produce more visually appealing content, but we have since worked with the video producer to shoot internal promotion pieces, customer interviews, and prototype new ways of engaging with customers.10

Take stock

One job role or skill that is now essential is an content strategist who can help you to understand your existing content. What is it that you have? How much information? What types of information? This kind of audit or inventory can help you to draw a baseline and to identify gaps. 11

Customer satisfaction

Customer engagement was traditionally a program management job with marketing. However, CSAT is now a critical part of understanding if our writing, IA, and content strategy efforts are effective.

Hiring a program manager that is focused on customer satisfaction, engagement, and outreach programs could be the best pipeline for determining your impact to the business. This role requires understand of CSAT, NPS, survey structure, and program management.


Know your customers

Its critical to understand who your audience is and how the interact with your content. Writing organizations are increasingly using analytics to help determine the access, usage, and effectiveness of content. Hiring, training, and dedicating resource to analytics can have strategic value. 13

At VMware, we use a combination of standard analytics (Google Analytics) and customer reports to help us understand how customers use our information.

Analytics can help you determine:Where customer confusion is so you can promote content that answers questionsWhich devices customers access your information so you can optimize your deploymentWhich search terms customers are using so you can understand focus areas as they trendWhich areas customers dont access so you can shift resource to more critical areas

But analytics can quickly become complicated when you move beyond the dashboard. Some questions can only be answered by correlating data from multiple reports or structuring a data warehouse to run more comprehensive queries.



Do it yourself

You might need web or program developers to work on in-house projects or tools that are essential to your business. When projects from technical writing organizations are prioritized alongside marketing, core IT, or engineering teams it sometimes means that are our efforts are not fully staffed or supported. Hiring a developer for your own team might help to bridge that gap or give you the independence to be effective on your own timeline.



At VMware we build many of our own tools that help improve efficiencies by introducing automation or simplifying front-end authoring. This example is of our product names database.


Plan for the future

Where are you headed? What are the skills you need to grow in the team or hire to achieve your vision.19

Track the ratio

As you work to change and build your staff, be sure to track the ration of writers to the team members that support the entire department. Monitoring their capability and efficiency as you track your success can help to determine if the changes are helping to achieve your goals and can help you to justify additional headcount.20

Distribution of Writing Services StaffDevelopers 20%IA 18%Editing Editing Editing ProductionProductionToolsDeveloperVideoIAIATestPre-XML XML/CMS 2015

Technical Communications Staffing PlansWriters 84%Services 9%Mgmt 7%

Hiring plans for VMware as we adopt more strategic roles.22

Evaluate your current staff. What roles and skills do they have?Where is you want to be in 2-4 years? What skills will you need to get there?What do customers say you could improve on?What do you team members say are their pain points?What is your vision statement/mission? What is necessary to help you deliver on that mission?

Manage cultural change.Discuss changes with stakeholder teams.Prepare to justify experimentation to upper management.

Start now.23