photo by Kathleen CavalaroAngel Candelario recently posted a poll and discusssion on the LinkedIn group Documentation and Technical Writing Management asking the question, “If traditional documentation ‘goes away,’ what new technical communication media will take its place?” There was an interesting discussion, and most agreed that it depends on the nature of the product, even for software. B2B will differ from B2C, since business users have different support and user assistance needs than consumers. It also depends on the nature of the business software; in some cases support requests need to be maintained as private to protect trade secrets or confidential information.

I do see a clear trend emerging for “software as a service (SaaS)” business applications. I personally use a number of SaaS business applications – (CRM), Act-On (marketing automation), Zuora (subscription billing), ZenDesk (support), MindTouch (knowledge base and help). All of them have integration of their documentation and training with their support ticketing system (and except for Salesforce they all use ZenDesk for support). This gives you some important capabilities.

  • First, if a user submits a ticket for something that was already documented (whether in the documentation, training, public forums, or support tickets), the support agent can “reuse” that content in addressing the ticket. This maintains the authority of that “best” answer – there is “one source of the truth”.
  • Second, it puts everything in one place where end users can search it. So now one search box can query everything about the product – doc, training, video, forums, support responses, etc.
  • Third, the content is searchable with web search engines. More people look for answers with Google than with the search box on your support site.
  • Fourth, we can track the traffic on our documentation site with Google analytics and with our marketing automation software.

Of course easyDITA is SaaS, and we’ve made our documentation public. We use MindTouch to deliver our content so that users can comment and rate it, and we can analyze what’s valuable and what’s needed. We’re putting all of our available resources into MindTouch so that everything is searchable in one place, and we’ve integrated MindTouch as the knowledge base for our ZenDesk support system. We’ve still got some work to do to improve the look and feel of the integration, but for us it is mission-critical that we maintain one source of the truth with best-in-class search that spans support and user assistance. Context-sensitive help in the app is next.

What are you doing differently with your content? How do you see the future of content delivery? Please Comment and let us know! We want to help you get there.

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