Is your support content withering on the vine: Six ways to keep it healthy

Support content is a living and ever changing part of business. Changes can be generated from a multitude of initiatives, goals, and overall enterprise growth. Determining what content needs to be edited vs. created vs. expired is a necessary step to supporting any change. Bottom line – static content can’t serve the needs of the industry, business, or the customer.

Here are a few tried and true methods to help evaluate and scope content/knowledge impacts as a result of business goals, growth, and competitive edge.

Content-Project-Chutes-and-Ladders

Cross-functional meetings

In most cases, weekly meetings can provide insight to the contacts, documentation, and timeline for upcoming changes. Reading support material, highlighting key elements, and asking questions increases understanding. Requesting a group or individual demonstration of changes, when applicable, is also valuable. Be an active participant in discussions, and advocate the importance of content to support the big picture and greater good of a successful change or launch.

Validation

Enhancements to systems, processes, paths, UIs (user interfaces), or functionality are best understood in the form of validation. Walking in the customer’s shoes; seeing and experiencing what they do is essential to assessing content impacts. Using test environments to complete a common customer task allows a step-by-step account of actions to be documented. When test environments are unavailable, wireframes can be used to approximate the customer experience. Wireframes are typically screenshots taken at every step of the process to statically simulate the flow. Regardless of how validation is completed, it is a crucial piece to delivering content that supports the business’s change and the customer’s ability to adapt and accept that change.

Searching

So how do I figure out which content is impacted? Well, for some niche editors it can be a matter of just knowing the knowledge base and their area of focus. For others, perhaps using:

  • Global search tool – conducting a series of customer language keyword searches.
  • Existing taxonomy – drill down by topic (product, region, task, etc.. ) to see all related content in a consolidated list by category.
  • Back-end knowledge base searching – tools or content management systems that offer a function to search based on keywords, properties, metatags, and search terms.

Once a list is compiled, read each piece of content from a customer’s perspective and compare it to the overall change. This fine-tunes the level of effort and scope of content impacts.

Timeframe

Is the change time sensitive? Some content changes can be made after the actual functionality or UI change, for example, while others require the alignment of the content to be in unison with the change/launch. It is just as important to assess the level of effort and time required to make edits, create, or expire content.

Working backwards

To determine when to get started, try working backwards from the change/launch date. To help stay organized and on track consider creating a mini-project plan.

For example:

Task or Activity Date
Launch Date 4/1
Testing & Review: Cross functional reviews, testing, in staging environment, etc.Required 10 business days before change/launch 3/19
Working time (Level of Effort): Impacts 12 pieces of content; Edits estimated to take 4 hours each:

  • 12 x 4hrs = 48 hours
  • 48 hrs (LOE) / 8 hrs a day = 6 uninterrupted days
3/11
Work Reality: Leave time for email, other deliverables, last minute changes, and urgent requests.Account for holidays, time off, and vacation. 3/6

Variables

Oh, the variables. While forecasting for a smooth launch is admirable, roadblocks can and will come up. Some edits will need to be re-edited and some people will go on vacation. Talking to subject matter experts, developers, and other key resources is part of the process. Staying fluid and flexible are important factors to scoping, assessing, and delivering. When applicable, communicate progress and ask for assistance when facing a challenge. Expect some setbacks and celebrate the successes. As I said earlier, support content is a living and ever changing part of business.