At the 2022 LavaCon Content Strategy conference, Zoomin held a insightful panel where three distinguished content leaders shared their experiences tackling internal and external content silos and the innovative steps they took to fix them.
Here, we share the insights from Dawn Murray, IT Group Executive at FIS, who led an ambitious project to modernize technical writing, streamline internal processes and radically improve the end user experience.
What kind of content silos were you experiencing at FIS
What challenges do these silos pose to the organization?
What did it take for leadership to decide to solve the issue of content silos?
What were the organizational or technological obstacles you had to overcome to start solving the issue?
Was there any unexpected impact from this program?
When did you start getting feedback that this was helping customers and having a positive impact?
What’s been the internal impact of this initiative?
Dawn Murray: We’ve acquired a lot of software companies over time and each one of those companies has been left as its own business. So the challenge we’re facing in terms of silos around content is multifaceted and multilayered. Pretty much every product has a different authoring tool and every business and product is storing their content in a different place, in a different format, using a different style standard. It’s a free-for-all out there among our product set!
We also have silos within our internal tools and systems that we use. For example, the knowledge articles are in a different place and not searchable by everyone. There’s lots of invisible walls between them. People are reproducing content because they can’t get to the content they need. We found a group that was recreating an entire database to feed their chatbot because they couldn’t connect their chatbot to where the content lives today! So a lot of duplication and redundancy is going on because of these silos.
Dawn Murray: We had internal users that can’t find the content they need. There’s either too much content or not enough. Some groups are producing release notes that are two pages long, and other groups producing release notes that are 100 pages long. We have no consistency.
What we’re finding as we dig into the data is that our product set which has 100-page release notes also has the highest volume of support tickets coming in. It seems counterintuitive, but I think it’s because they’re overloaded with content; they can’t find the specific topic they’re looking for. It’s too much, they have 10,-000 page manuals. People don’t want to consume knowledge that way.
Dawn Murray: Clients were beating down the president’s door, complaining about the very choppy experience they were having as clients. It wasn’t consistent, They couldn’t get the new products they bought implemented. There were a lot of issues that bubbled all the way to the top.
I work in the development organization and I’m in charge of technical writers. My boss came to me and asked “How do we modernize technical writing?”. So we went out and started doing some research.
It was eye opening understanding the breadth of complexity of our ecosystem and realizing that there was no strategy. It was just “eh do whatever you want. If you’ve got the money, document it. If you don’t, don’t. We don’t really care”. So we acknowledged there was a problem. I was supposed to solve for modernizing technical writing and I said I can’t modernize technical writing without some kind of foundation. What am I modernizing? What am I modernizing on top of? How can we start producing video guides if they’re still going to go into this black hole and be all over the place?So we came up with an ecosystem - a content strategy - and started rolling it out. Because we weren’t at the enterprise level, it was “Build it and they will come”. So we built it and they are coming! They are seeing the benefit of it.So we implemented Zoomin. I looked around at some other roadmaps for other siloed areas in charge of content and said “Hey, I see on your roadmap you’re trying to solve this problem - I think we have a solution that will help you with that.” So they’re coming out of the woodwork (as Zoomin knows!) to try to get in with us and get the benefits of that federated content.
Dawn Murray: Technological obstacles are a common occurrence. We have a highly regulated, highly risk-oriented business so connecting to anything or allowing anyone into our system is very complicated.
Organizationally it was easy. I had a mandate to modernize technical writing and was lucky that there was a funding stream that opened up that didn’t require hard savings or ROI. Hard savings means people or licenses for software, meaning I would have had to cut people or licenses. I had no idea how many licenses we had across the company and the resources that I would have been saving weren’t my own resources so I had no hard savings to give so I was lucky that a soft savings funding window opened up. We just started building and what we built people couldn’t deny was what we needed.
All these silos from MindTouch, a few iterations of ServiceNow, a lot of confluence sites, SharePoint sites, homegrown client portals; we have everything. No one had even tried getting everyone to agree on a common taxonomy before! It’s amazing what you can do across those silos when you have a good reason to do it and you have the opportunity to work through those things. This really helped FIS see there’s other ways to collaborate across these silos and we’ll be taking those lessons with us as we go.
Dawn Murray: The biggest unexpected impact was the speed with which other areas began adopting our solution. We are inundated with people coming to us with different content sources, search engines, different needs and they all want to be involved in what we’re doing for our entire content strategy. That’s exciting!
Dawn Murray: Emotionally, everyone gets it. Everyone is buying in that it was a bad idea to ignore documentation, that it’s not just an expense, that it does provide value to your products and it’s an important part of the product life cycle. You can sell a product all day but if your implementation team can’t implement it because they don't have the right documentation, you aren't going to earn any revenue. Now I'm really working on enterprise level data: saving people time, NPS scores, case deflection that shows our direct impact.
Dawn Murray: We have the problem of the whole “Build vs. Buy” concept - “We’re a software company - we should be able to build this”. But we have the culture of “Build it and we’re done, turn around, walk away”. Nobody nurtures it, nobody upkeeps it, nobody keeps up with the cool things going on in the industry. That’s been an opportunity for me to educate the company and say “Yeah we’re great at building our stuff but we don’t have the expertise and won’t have the benefit if we do it ourselves.”
I know exactly how much I’m going to have to pay each year - it’s beautiful! I don’t have to worry that they’re going to cut my budget and developers. There’s an opportunity to educate executives about build vs buy and it’s an important lesson to learn.