Years of collaboration
2020 – 2022
Context: A leading SaaS solutions supplier
Apptio is a Seatle-based company founded in 2007. They develop SaaS solutions designed to help organizations analyse, plan, and optimise their IT operating model. Over 60% of the Fortune 100 use Apptio tools, and the 1,000+ staff serve customers worldwide.
Aim: A complete strategic review and redesign of the contribution of technical writing to the business
In July 2020, Apptio decided to outsource their technical writing (User Assistance) to 3di to modernise and improve their comprehensive Help Center content. Their highly configurable suite of tools are used by a 10,000+ community of users and super-users around the world.
However, the Help Center was not showcasing the extensive product functionality to the user, to help them get the most from the product. Apptio wanted a lighter set of content, that more directly addressed user challenges. They also wanted documentation that could be localized efficiently, and reused within both the product UI and other document outputs.
Challenges: Content migration, redesign, and a new technical writing service model - all at the same time
There needed to be a complete migration of the Help Center content to MadCap Flare – a far more flexible and robust help authoring and publishing tool. This was given added urgency by the imminent ending of Apptio’s legacy tool licenses.
Apptio wanted to start improving their content straight away. New and legacy content needed to be lighter, more user-focused, and reflect the modern cloud-app styling of their products.
With about 10-20 new releases a month, Apptio needed a technical writing service that could keep pace with product and feature update launches. The 3di service also needed to adapt to reflect the timezone differences with most of Apptio’s stakeholders based in the US, while 3di’s team was in Europe.
Solutions: A design-led strategy refresh, alongside a new technical writing team
3di provided a team of technical writers using our proven workflows and tools, to ensure the Apptio product teams could have the content they needed to support their releases. Alongside, we led a strategy review that had four key components:
Delivering a multi-stream Roadmap
- Break a highly complex project down into manageable pieces..
- Track progress, and identify stalled workstreams.
- Communicate with stakeholders in a structured way, both about progress on different workstreams and about relative priorities.
- Ring-fence time for workstreams that might otherwise always slip to the bottom of the to-do list.
- Structure our project planning and day-to-day task management (in Jira).
Redesigning the content structure
- Initial migration of current content.
- Identify and prioritise the user information needs that that must be met.
- Design a repeatable structure that meets these needs.
- Identify the set of priority content, or Minimum Viable Product (MVP).
- Move existing content into the new structure, using the MVP to identify the minimum gaps to fill per product.
- Apply the new model to new products, starting with MVP.
Evolution of the Help Center frontend
Because the Help Center site was live with content being created and published almost daily, the front-end evolved over a period of 6 months to adapt to the following requirements:
- Evolving Apptio branding.
- Changing product names and structure.
- Reflecting the new content strategy.
- Improving the site’s usability.
Communicating the value to Apptio
Although we worked with a small subset of stakeholders directly, the work we were doing impacted widely across the whole business. Keeping everyone on board with the changes, and engaged with our strategy was challenging.
Our solution was to produce a series of quarterly internal communications, which we distributed via channels such as team newsletters, targeted updates to important groups of stakeholders, and publishing on Apptio’s user assistance Confluence space. These needed to be brief and highly engaging, but also informative and useful.
An award-winning service
‘A very impressive design process; clear and logical, well thought out and implemented. The road map and detailed plans show how much care and consistent work was applied.’
Find out more about the merit award for Excellence in Technical Communication, given to 3di at the UK Technical Communication Awards 2022.
Result: More effective help content and a modern, flexible new strategy in place
Apptio now has a modern Help Center site that reflects their evolving product suite and more directly addresses user information needs. The solid foundations of MadCap Flare, managed within a Git environment with daily new builds, provides the tools and workflows to ensure the Help Center keeps pace with product releases. The 3di technical writing service uses Jira and clear MVP content mix expectations to keep on top of priority content needs from the business. It can also adapt to include new technical writers from 3di and Apptio, working as a flexible, global team. The Help Center and the underlying MadCap Flare content assets will provide the flexibility to support specific market localization, and make it easier to embed help content into the product user interfaces.