5 ways product documentation contributes to innovation
As technological advances are continuously made available everywhere, businesses are presented with both opportunities and challenges. While the former pertains to the many new solutions that improve operational processes and help achieve business goals, the latter refers to the large increase in competition in an already rapidly, every-changing market.
We all know what happened to Kodak, and to some extent Nokia (handsets). This is precisely the reason why innovation (among other factors such as company culture) matters. Innovation enables businesses to keep up with latest industry trends, evolve and offer better products and services that address consumer demands, set themselves apart from competition, and ultimately, maintain relevance, competitiveness, and growth.
- When PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) asked about what is more important to the success of the company, 64% of global CEOs consider both innovation and operational effectiveness equally important. In the same study, 51% of CEOs identify innovation as one of their strategic priorities.
- Deloitte revealed that 52% of board professionals think their managements invest enough to achieve the company’s long-term growth goals that are fully aligned with innovation goals.
- A Nielsen survey found that 63% of consumer respondents say they like when manufacturers offer new products.
- In a similar way, 84% of Lab42 survey respondents say it is somewhat or very important that the company they buy from is innovative.
However, simply being innovative is not an easy task. In fact, the same board professionals from the Deloitte study consider lack of insight (47%) and lack of organizational design to handle radical innovation (46%) as the two dominant barriers to innovation.
Product documentation is not only a beneficial tool for consumers (when they look for answers), but is also a rich source of information for companies, providing them with consumer and industry insights. Here’s how product documentation can contribute to innovation:
- Stays close to customers. Except for customer support instances, product documentation is often the first contact your company has with potential customers (especially those who are looking for answers to problems or researching products that are related to yours). What this uncovers is the actual and present need of the market which your company may or may not address yet, giving an idea on how to improve your existing product or develop a new one.
- Streamlines feedback from stakeholders. Providing feedback and sharing tools and features improve the product documentation process and allow easy follow ups with subject matter experts (SME)’s and customers’ feedback. A more streamlined process makes it easier to identify the right solutions for the team which promote an efficient working flow, as well as faster discovery and management of customer pain points and market trends.
- Surfaces latest trends. If your product documentation allows technical writers, SMEs, and other authorized stakeholders to add comments, tables, or images into documents, as well as leave comments and debate changes before changes are implemented, not only is it easier to deliver updated and relevant contents to customers, but it is also quicker to unveil latest industry trends. Emerging technologies or even just the latest technological concepts, like information, travel almost fluidly today from one industry to another. Your product documentation, which most likely resulted from the best minds in your company and industry, enables you to keep up with the changes, and eventually, tackle innovation.
- Creates a culture of collaboration. Being a point of contact, product documentation can integrate and communicate all the data and feedback from the customers to the relevant departments within your company. In fact, Vicki Huff Eckert, Global New Venture leader at PwC, noted, “The collaborative approach is remarkably effective at building consensus, increasing levels of motivation and participation, pulling teams together, and coaching more junior members. It provides a fertile ground for experimentation, resulting in more innovative results.”
- Paves the way for wider implementation. If more departments are integrated into using a single platform such as your product documentation portal (receiving the same customer feedback while collaborating with colleagues), it is less challenging to cultivate and implement innovative ideas or get buy-in to adopt a new approach from the whole organization.
For innovation to work, sometimes more than anything, it is an institutional willingness to transition into the somewhat unfamiliar and different—but armed with data-driven strategy and real-world insights. Make use of your product documentation to collect the data and insights you need to spearhead innovation within your company. And what you would get in return is a competitive advantage every business needs in today’s disruptive digital world.