No Love Lost for an SME

I have started to live with it and so has my customers. As more and more technical documentation is done in multiple locations scattered across geographies, it is inevitable that we learn to adapt. In the context of Blue Dots Consultancy Services, I see a signboard that says, “adapt or lose out”.
In my experience, the main issues besides from the documentation writing standards that may differ, there is a an Subject Matter Expert (SME)experience or the domain experts, who are located at various locations and things could become difficult while interacting with them in various time zones.

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  • The best way to source documentation is getting a face-to-face interview with an SME. With the time zone differences and locations, documentation timeline may change. SMEs may have their own line of work and getting their time to contribute may be tough.  
  • Language can be an issue at times. With all due respects, English is the second language of a many of nations and it becomes extremly difficult when you have to explain each and every question repeatedly.  A good idea would be to create a  video recording of the SME demonstrating a new feature. As more technical authors read specs and come out their documentation, the videos can be useful.
  • Sometimes, owning to time constraint, you expect the SME to provide the details quickly.  But time may be a factor stopping you from collating the inputs. Consider working with a shared review tool like Acrobat Pro X or an Author-it Reviewer. It allows you the opportunity to have real-time inputs coming straight to your documentation set.

About Blue Dots Consultancy Services:-Pioneered in the year 2014 and based out of Bengaluru (India), Blue Dots Consultancy Services is one of the agile and just-in-time Consulting startups that creates innovative solutions for solving critical business problems faced by the Content management and Documentation industry. Coupled with exceptional customer centric mindset and the hunger to create success for the ecosystem, Blue Dots believes that it can create disruption in the industry and create its niche. Hardly a few months into operations, Blue Dots has already delivered a good number of successful projects and is in discussion with a few large customers. You can read the company services here.

The Last-Minute Documentation Changes

It has happened with me a couple of times, and I am sure you must have come across it too. Yes, you are correct, I am referring to  the last-minute changes to a documentation project. Besides the angst  it also sometimes creates chaos in documentation.

Typically, the last-minute documentation changes comes from the:

  • user experience design team,
  • software development team,
  • and software testing team.

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You are in midst of a deadline. Release is happening today. Certainly, out of nowhere, there are a few changes that have arrived. What could you possibly do? what should be your approach? I have tried to come up with couple of strategies that have been tried and tested:

  • Prepare to have your content in metadata so that customers can find it in their knowledge base system and you can push out the content with the last-minute changes rapidly. Think more in the lines of dynamic help rather than context-sensitive help.
  • Set up a responsible system so that customers/users/clients can access the documentation in their mobile devices.
  • Prepare to reuse content and set up certain business rules that takes care of your documentation. Reusable strategies can be employed at regular places. Think of considering embedded topics by the help of which you can do a last-minute update of your source content and the changes gets reflected in all the other container topics.
  • Loop yourself in the projects. You should be in the chain of emails aware of any last-minute changes to the software or network application. Be better prepared lest it comes.
  • Don’t cringe : It is better to get on with the task because an annoying face will never make things right. Get into the task, document the changes, and then ensure that there is a definite process followed the next times certain situations like these arise.

About Blue Dots Consultancy Services:-Pioneered in the year 2014 and based out of Bengaluru (India), Blue Dots Consultancy Services is one of the agile and just-in-time Consulting startups that creates innovative solutions for solving critical business problems faced by the Content management and Documentation industry. Coupled with exceptional customer centric mindset and the hunger to create success for the ecosystem, Blue Dots believes that it can create disruption in the industry and create its niche. Hardly a few months into operations, Blue Dots has already delivered a good number of successful projects and is in discussion with a few large customers. You can read the company services here.

How to sell your ideas?

Everytime I hear someone say “I have a great idea”, I am both curious about the idea as well as how the idea will be transformed into something intangible. Maybe it is incorrect on my part to qualify every idea in the tangible and intangible brackets, but when you have a decision to make to provide a quality experience it matters. Over the years I have come across ideas and wondered why they never failed to take off. In this post, I’ll mention approaches to make an idea work especially if you are working in an user experience or technical writing team.

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1. Embrace change: Nobody likes to beat and come out of their comfortable zone. As a result learning new technologies could be a matter of interest but different in matters of execution. I distinctly remember couple of years earlier with the privatizaton of Telecom in India, a lot of Senior Telecom Officers recruited during the pre-computer era were put down to trainings and assignments. I could understand the agony that they went through to get back to classrooms, but when I meet couple of them now all of them say nice things that how technology has made their jobs easier and wish it were there earlier. Learning to embrace change is important here. If you get disturbed by the work that you have to do to execute an idea, then you can never make an idea work.

2. Develop a strategy: Having an idea needs a working strategy. The ultimate objective is selling your idea. Let us take an example of a DITA project. You could have a scenario that your company has piles of documentation with a lot of components getting repeated across multiple deliverables. Your idea is to implement a DITA based structured authoring process withing your organization. What can be your strategy? You can base your strategy where the tech pubs team can plan to release documents for a product in DITA as a pilot. You will employ all the necessary resuable strategies (conref, topicref, mapref and all) in all your DITA topics. Then once the company has given a go ahead to it, you can release the documents release by release in DITA formats according to their bandwidth and capability.

3. Back yourself:  Be pragmatic and repeatable. And at the same time the ideas should talk about numbers. And it should be easy to measure and report and easy to gather consistently and frequently.

4. Always be open to questions: The management while are supportive of the ideas need to rationlize their decision making. I found myself in situations while introducing usability testing to an organization the department quizzed me on several rounds. Largely the questions revolved around cost and tools and also if one is able to deliver. Failing to realize that you’ll be up against certain tough questions and competitions can lead one to certain catastrope.

It is great to listen and appreciate when someone comes up with an idea. But it is equally important to ensure that ideas are replicated with stamps of rationality and data.

About Blue Dots Consultancy Services:-Pioneered in the year 2014 and based out of Bengaluru (India), Blue Dots Consultancy Services is one of the agile and just-in-time Consulting startups that creates innovative solutions for solving critical business problems faced by the Content management and Documentation industry. Coupled with exceptional customer centric mindset and the hunger to create success for the ecosystem, Blue Dots believes that it can create disruption in the industry and create its niche. Hardly a few months into operations, Blue Dots has already delivered a good number of successful projects and is in discussion with a few large customers. You can read the company services here.

Requirement gathering is a key

I can’t possibly wear a mask and tell my students and trainees that “all’s well”. I run a business and even if it means that I should ignore certain things to get more revenue for business my instincts forbade me. One of the things that I try to acknowledge and showcase them is “tools are important but your writing skills are even more important in technical writing.” Some of them do not like when I am blunt. A few do not even call back to register for the technical writing program even when they had initially signed up for it. But I feel it is important that as technical writers we should ensure that writing addresses and becomes the the backbone of a good structured program.

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When we conduct a program on technical writing, I focus and spent a great deal of time on the basics. Generally, I ask my trainees to write a paragraph or two on a technical topic. This initial exercises without their knowledge provides me insights into their research and writing skills. I always believed in the philosophy that technical writing is spending 60 percent in requirement gathering and the rest 40 percent in putting the information in a document. The other key aspect in documentation is requirement gathering.

  • Understand the product or application to be developed
  • Gain an understanding of the domain or subject matter
  • Understand client requirements for documentation
  • Study legacy documentation and writing style guides used by the client
  • Provide content consulting or evangelism
  • Propose documentation deliverable and tools to be used
  • Prepare effort estimate
  • Propose team size and composition

Requirement gathering is a key:

  • If the requirements are incorrectly, inaccurately or incompletely specified there is little chance the solution will be what is needed.
  • Requirements are the basis on which potential solutions are assessed.
  • Requirements identify what is needed. They are not the solution, rather they provide definition of what the solution needs to address.

About Blue Dots Consultancy Services:-Pioneered in the year 2014 and based out of Bengaluru (India), Blue Dots Consultancy Services is one of the agile and just-in-time Consulting startups that creates innovative solutions for solving critical business problems faced by the Content management and Documentation industry. Coupled with exceptional customer centric mindset and the hunger to create success for the eco system, Blue Dots believes that it can create disruption in the industry and create its niche. Hardly a few months into operations, Blue Dots has already delivered a good number of successful projects and is in discussion with a few large customers. You can read the company services here.

Notice, WE just made a Sale

A not so long ago I happened to call up a prospect. We had shared our visiting cards at a networking event and I doubt if he remembered me from the thousands of folks who attended the event. I was skeptical but decided to give it an attempt for the most potent reason behind his discussion was on Cloud products.

He had been discussing with some of his colleagues and friends about evaluating a Cloud based solution. I had got relative experience on Cloud based products and with our offerings relative to the areas I thought we would be a potential match to the company.

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After the initial pleasantries I offered him a quick introduction to our offerings. He had been carefully examining couple of CRMs for his organization but wanted to understand how could we help him in the situation. It gets difficult sometimes to be obvious. The obvious fact was that we were a documentation solutions company, but that was not all we do.

We are slowly and gradually paving our feets in the areas of Cloud assessments, Big Data and Hadoop, Sales marketing, Software development and all. The client was glad to hear that.

When we got to work on the project, I must admit a few cold nerves. But the few decisions that I had made which was done in pursuit of acquiring projects had made me understand the importance of decision-making. This time, I ensured that I was with the project team right from when we started bidding to evaluation to reviews and finally delivery. The client was so happy with our service that he has given us more projects to work on.

I understand the importance of networking but it is also important to talk to the right people, say ‘no’ wherever necessary, confront the situation, provide more impetus to the projects and so on. You can always sell provided you know how.

About Blue Dots Consultancy Services:-Pioneered in the year 2014 and based out of Bengaluru (India), Blue Dots Consultancy Services is one of the agile and just-in-time Consulting startups that creates innovative solutions for solving critical business problems faced by the Content management and Documentation industry. Coupled with exceptional customer centric mindset and the hunger to create success for the eco system, Blue Dots believes that it can create disruption in the industry and create its niche. Hardly a few months into operations, Blue Dots has already delivered a good number of successful projects and is in discussion with a few large customers. You can read the company services here.

Transforming the ‘Start-up’ Way

I wrote this piece a week earlier when I got a call from a client who wanted me to advise her. She wanted to know the a few intricate details that should be focused during the onset of a startup to be successful.

When I first decide to join a start-up, I was mentally prepared to take up tasks which are beyond my area expertise. Start-ups are like joint families where everyone is required to work equally without any functional specialization. Many people have hesitation in joining start-up companies as they commonly think that start-ups are always short of projects, pay scale is relatively low, inefficient, incomparable work pressure etcetera; in some cases these assumptions are true but not in all these sorts of preconceived notions can be over-ruled.

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I too had my own notions about start-ups. I was working with a well-known multinational company when I was approached by my present company. My present company at that time  was desperately looking for someone who could nurture it and take it to a new level.  At that time I wondered how these new companies survive in the tightly guarded and tough market scenario. There must be something mystical about these start-ups. I pondered on these questions many nights until I found the reason on joining a start-up.

I think these are some of the reasons why very few start-up succeeds:

Know your customers: So many companies, several products, myriad of apps, but customers are always seeking something new, unique and different. It has been emphasized by many of the successful market gurus that one of the most important quotients in the market are the customers. Yes, if you can figure out what “different” your customers are looking for then you are welcomed in a competition.

Valuable contacts: Another crucial parameter which separates a start-up from its competitors are its sources and valuable contacts. Well it is a fact that you cannot survive if you have no contacts. Contacts are valuable assets, having which will be more than a boon to your new company. Start-ups are not easily trusted by many people, but, if you know someone from the industry then that is like a priceless possession you have. Contacts can link you and help you reach to others and this is one of the best way to reach out to other valuable assets.

Never nag: An assertive quality in start-ups is that they are usually hungry for projects. For them to grab a long-term projects takes a while but if logically devised, short-term projects can be also advantageous to them. Start-ups do not have the luxury to say “no” to clients and customers. They are ready to take up most of the work which are usually denied by big companies.  So, by saying “yes” and showing expertize in the area of interest, a start- up can possibly win many hearts and easily climb the success ladder.

Keep going: Another trick for a start-up to survive is that they need to keep going. There will be time where your patience will be tested but if you can overcome fear of closing down or your impatience, you can possibly move to busy days ahead. If you don’t have projects coming on your way, do not get discouraged. Instead of waiting for projects, work for it. Utilize your time, make contacts, study your customers and be productive.

Beside incomparable learning experiences, I also get to share theses little information which I have over the years observed and I think these are few of the reasons for which we came this far. I was wrong on assuming that certain things are mystical about new companies. Start-ups have nothing mystical about them, all they have is the ability to transform contacts into clients and free tasks to profitable projects.