Halloween is a time of year when it can be fun to pop some popcorn, cuddle up in a warm blanket and scream at the TV while you watch a scary movie…
Don’t open that door!
Don’t answer the phone!
DON’T GO IN THE BASEMENT!!!
Being a technical information manager during the transition to a new system or specification can be scary, too, especially if you find yourself in a nightmare scenario with a bunch of unknowns lurking around every corner.
JANA helps companies navigate (and survive!) the transition to new specifications and software environments. Here is a list of five things that we would be yelling at our TV as we eat our popcorn and watch your movie unfold.
Don’t train your writers without a plan!
As hard as it can be for managers to transition to a new
specification or information management system, it can be just as
difficult for their staff of writers. Often times the transition
requires writers to not only write in a different way, but to think
in a different way as well. For some this change comes very easy – for
others, not so much. To make sure that everyone is ready to go when the
scary music starts, it is important to lay out not just an overall
training plan for the group, but an individual training plan that takes
into account the strengths and weaknesses of each writer.
Also, take the time to ensure that each of the people on your team truly understands the reasons behind the changes, as well as the methodologies behind the new spec or software – this will go a long way in driving acceptance and innovation. Once they begin to grasp the new concepts, your writers will start to recognize for themselves where the bones are buried and how to take full advantage of the new tools in their arsenal.
Don’t oversell the value to upper management!
Everyone understands that if there is no promise of return on the investment in new software or a new approach there is not going to be an investment at all, but be careful not to oversell the return or its benefits. Not only can it be very difficult in most cases to identify, monitor and/or report on the ways that your efforts are saving the company money, but very often it will be years before the transition begins to show positive dividends and begins to pay for itself.
Don’t try to manage content reuse without a component Content Management System (cCMS)!
Identifying opportunities for reuse is a relatively simple exercise, but implementing and managing a corporation-wide reuse strategy over a long term is exceedingly complicated. If you have a writing and information management staff larger than one, utilizing a cCMS is a must (you might want to consider it even if you are a group of one). Additionally, implementation of a cCMS is a much easier proposition at the beginning of a transition process than it is in the middle or near the end.
Don’t promise to implement a new technology stack in six months!
It takes time to implement a new technology stack, and it is not something that you want to rush. From developing a content strategy to installing the software and configuring it to your organization’s needs to migrating content and training your staff, there is an awful lot of effort that takes time to do correctly. All the while, your ‘regular’ workload doesn’t go away, so your overall workload has practically doubled and forced you into working two jobs. Our experience is that implementing new technology requires twelve to eighteen months at a department level – and sometimes as long as twenty-four months for company-wide implementations. You’ll have enough stress during the transition, so don’t make things worse for yourself by creating unrealistic schedule expectations.
DON’T PURCHASE TECHNOLOGY TOOLS WITHOUT FIRST UNDERSTANDING YOUR NEEDS!!!
Companies are often convinced that choosing the right software can actually solve their data problems, and, of course, this is an idea that software companies and vendors will gladly reinforce and perpetuate. The idea that there is one perfectly suited software package that can take all of your ‘problem’ data and magically transform it into a harmonious and easy-to-manage data set is so enticing that it’s hard not to at least want to believe. I mean, it sounds plausible, right? But if we’ve learned anything from watching scenes like this one play out, it’s that these enticing options are almost always too good to be true. Taking a good, hard look at your data before you purchase software will pay big dividends in the long run.
Related janacorp.com Blog Entries:
Eight New Year’s Resolutions for Technical Information Managers
A Metadata Primer (and why you should care)
The Digital Disruption of Technical Publications
Before You Begin
Related janacorp.com Webinars:
The Top 5 DITA Conversion and Authoring Pitfalls (and how to avoid them)
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