Where I work, we have a document repository. I've done a fair amount of observing and interviewing people to determine how they use the repository. The key performers spend their lunch hours browsing around, locating documents, and learning what's there. Most everyone else doesn't like it and doesn't use it efficiently. There are plenty of reasons why people don't use it, but the primary one seems to be that they need to find information quickly and the repository doesn't get them the information as quickly as they need it.
This led me to thinking, how can I get them the information they need in the context of the procedure they're performing. My thinking is that, if I can know where in the process they are, I can know the documents that will help them at that point. I know, nothing revolutionary here.
Here's what I'm suggesting we do.
I work in a process-based organization. There is a team that has documented in MS Visio the processes the audience I'm targeting performs. I'm working with them to identify the procedures and information resources required at each step in that process. We'll take the Visio process flows, link them to the supporting information (loaded in the content repository), export the Visio flows as HTML, and provide the HTML to the performers (both in training and on-the-job).
Right now, we're at the stage of linking the process flows to the supporting information. Here's a principle I think should be followed, based upon what I'm learning.
No post processing
Let me explain. The process team has, along with the process flow, all sorts of notes in the documents. The people who will follow these processes don't need the notes. I can't ask the process flow team to pull their notes. What we did decide to do, is to have the process team add a Visio layer and put their notes on that layer. This way, they can have their notes, but when we need to export to HTML, we can turn off the notes layer. This allows us to have two levels of dialogue in the document. It also means that whenever we decide to export a version for HTML, there is no work we do aside from the export.
In the past, I've had the same dilemma while using Word. How do we present the information to the user, but still allow for a discussion about the content to remain in the Word document. In Word, we did it with styles and hidden text.
This is a big effort for me right now. If we're successful in doing this, I expect we can cut down the time required for training the new processes. I also expect we will have greater conformance to the process. I also expect we can reduce processing time by getting people information in context of the process they're performing - Process Sensitive Information Support.
More to come. I'll start talking about usability in the next post.