Learning by Wrote
Medidata Solutions Worldwide
Siemens Industry Software Limited
The Rockley Group
» Senior technical writer, NetApp
Presentation(s): It Takes a Village: Managing Publications with Many Contributors
Mark Forry is a senior technical writer and information architect at NetApp in Sunnyvale, California. Mark has been working with DITA since 2005 after ‘seeing the light’ at an STC conference, and he contributed to the first DITA and CMS pilot projects at NetApp. With 20 years experience in technical publications, Mark has also developed UNIX user, administrator, and API documentation for The SCO Group.
Speaker Insight [What's this?]
What does "content agility" mean to you? Why does content need agility?
"Agile content" suggests an evolution: from "documentation" -- monolithic, static, self-contained, passive structural descriptions of product as artefact -- towards information repositories -- multi-faceted, dynamic, connected, proactive and practical facilitators of product as solution.
In the life cycle of a customer's interaction with a product (and its provider), modern customers do not expect that they should know the internal organization of a company to determine whether they need a Product Update Bulletin from Sales or Screen Help from Tech pubs or a Field Alert from Support. They rightfully expect that they'll get the appropriate information exactly when they need it. Ideally, the customer doesn't even need to know that something like a "repository" exists; they simply receive the information content how and when they want it. Developing and delivering the content of such repositories is the challenge we all face right now.
For many organizations, the expectations of their customers have outpaced what their information managers can provide -- and in some cases, can even conceive of. The notion of "agile content" would thus seem to encompass several aspects: development of increasingly sophisticated information in multiple media, storing it in such a way that it is accessible and relevant throughout an organization, and designing the optimal user experience when the information is needed.
Why do you feel Congility 2011 is an event of which you want to be a part?
- This is my first experience with Congility/X-Pubs. I was very interested when Noz and I discussed the event last fall; I'm looking forward to sharing experiences with others who are interested in the broader implications of content management in an organization and not simply "technical publications" per se.
What impact do you feel lack of integration has on customers (i.e., siloed internal processes, or inconsistent and fragmented published content)?
We have had direct feedback from customers indicating that they do not differentiate between types of information they get from our company, NetApp. In Information Engineering, we are of course keen to learn what customers like and don't like about our "documentation". But for most customers, it's just information that's either useful or not, that either addresses their needs at that moment or doesn't.
I detect impatience on the part of our customers -- which I'm completely sympathetic with, I feel it myself in products I buy -- who don't want to be burdened with having to understand our internal corporate organization to find and interpret the information they need.
While it's still important to us to learn how customers use our documentation products, this realization about customer experience is starting to have a very positive effect within NetApp. Rather than having an "integrated content strategy" developed theoretically and applied top-down, our customers are demanding it of us from the bottom up. Since our customers are now demanding something that we in Information Engineering have been advocating for years, we now have much more visibility as customer advocates.
Anything else you want to tell us?
...or anything more about your talk, e.g., who will benefit from it, and what practical things they would learn to take back to their organisations?
My talk is predominantly concerned with content development and management processes. While I assume a basic knowledge of the modern XML/CMS tool set, my presentation focuses on how the modularity aspect of DITA management in a CMS can also be applied to workflow management, authorial responsibility, and document quality.
I hope that our account of how we adapted our previous workflow to the new environment will prove useful to content management professionals at any level of experience. I am also keen to share our notion of "publication architects" in the context of content architecture.