Editor’s Note: this guest blog is authored by Tanner Corporate Services, who recently delivered 3 thoughtful eSeminars around online Help project issues with RoboHelp.
Has an SME ever said this to you? Maybe another writer has said it, but what about an SME? Maybe in response to something you developed from their print source material? Specific RoboHelp functions help us at Tanner Corporate Services elicit this response. And, yes, we’ve heard it more than once.
Tanner’s consulting work focuses on developing performance-support knowledge bases. Understandably, our SMEs want to retain control of their content, because they are the experts. However, they often feel removed from the development process because they don’t get the last “touch” on their content before we publish it. Combating this feeling by providing convenient paths for input and feedback results in cooperative and responsive SMEs. The RH functions we use to alleviate these feelings are:
- PDFs for Review and Printed Documentation. SMEs add their comments and feedback as part of the development process. For SMEs that are not regularly online, we use printed documentation generated from RH — an “old school” method for comments and feedback.
- Metadata. We assign SMEs to topics using metadata so we can sort by SME for quick access to all the content they are responsible for.
- Forms Central. SMEs easily access input forms and guidelines, and upload related files for development.
We use these functions in different ways, depending on project requirements, cultural situations, and the personalities involved. In addition, as in any strong partnership, thoughtful, regular communication with our SMEs is critical for success.
PDFs for Review and Printed Documentation
PDFs for Review export RH topics into a PDF format that enables us to import SME changes directly into RH. SMEs use the PDF mark-up tools they are familiar with and work in a file that looks like the published content. They see their changes in-place and have a record of them. Because changes import electronically, we spend less time transferring changes, proofreading, and correcting human error. RH provides the chance to review the feedback before we import it.
For SMEs who can’t review and comment online, or don’t want to, Printed Documentation from RH is an alternative. SMEs work in a file that looks like the published content, and we know they are working from the published version – not an “old” file they had on hand. They can walk around, test procedures, and make notes on the printed documentation.
You never know when to expect a change to a performance standard or procedure. Sometimes an SME needs to make changes quickly. Tagging topics by SME (sometimes by multiple SMEs) allows us to provide all the current topics requiring change. And, we can do it more quickly than the SMEs can in their work files or email. Additionally, they have the added assurance that we found all the topics and references that need updates. RH delivers demonstrable value in time and accuracy. The combination of meta-tagging with PDFs for Review offers a slick alternative that SMEs can’t replicate on their own.
For new procedures and standards, SMEs complete input forms designed to help them provide all the information required by the approved format. It helps them originate content so we can publish it exactly the way they wrote it. Through Forms Central, they also upload associated files, like images and forms. The SME stays in charge of the content. We have electronic versions of all the assets needed for publication.
RH functions enable us to customize the development process, accomplishing two objectives: SMEs retain control of the content and we retain control of the publication. We build iterative, collaborative solutions with SME partners. So, instead of hearing, “Who are you to change what I write?” “You are wasting my time!” we hear, “This works!” Use RH to support your development process, so you too can hear, “I changed my mind when I saw it online!”