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Covid-19: The future of
organisations and technical
communications
Ellis Pratt
Cherryleaf
12 May 2020
I hope you are all safe and
well
Overview
1. The impact on organisations
2. The impact on technical communication
3. What others think
About me
About me
Director at Cherryleaf, a technical
writing services and training
company
Based near London
Degree in Business St...
1. The impact on
organisations
The impact on organisations
1. A time of rapid change
2. Big projects rapidly thrown together
3. A need to make sense of i...
1.1
A time of rapid change
Impact on company
finances
Cash and cashflow
Cash over profits
A need to cut costs or sell assets
Impact on staff
People taking sick leave to recover
from COVID-19
People taking sick leave to manage
their mental health
P...
Missing support staff
“Companies are needing to get
creative about how to replace
once reliable customer contact
centres”
...
Impact on the
market
“10 years in 10 weeks”
Big changes in market share (e.g.
Zoom)
A chance to stake a claim in a
market
...
Impact on
customers
Anxious customers
A need for operational excellence
from businesses
People are looking for expertise
https://savanta.com/view/coronavirus-crisis-shows-the-real-value-in-genuine-expertise/
1.2
Big projects rapidly thrown
together
Paycheck Protection Program
Big projects rapidly
thrown together
There can be unclear
communication to customers, staff
or stakeholders
There may be “...
1.3
A need to make sense of it all
Ian Burbidge, The RSA
https://medium.com/@thersa/the-path-from-crisis-6d3f83c96d0b
Cynefin
Cynefin - Simple
If you do X, expect Y
There are rules in place
Define and communicate best
practice
Cynefin -
Complicated
There can be multiple right answers
Although there is a clear relationship
between cause and effect,...
Cynefin - Complex
The right answer is elusive
You must explore and adapt. You
must base your decision on
incomplete data
C...
Cynefin - Chaotic
Crisis time
Cause and effect are unclear, because they shift
constantly and no manageable patterns exist...
1.4
Business models will change
Impact on industry
Review of supply chains to improve
resilience
Industry 4.0 automation?
Moving from an oral
to a written culture
“An oral culture has huge advantages in
that it’s fluid, easy to pick up, and
doe...
Moving from an oral
to a written culture
“…It means people often spend time
reinventing or duplicating things that
have be...
A move to digital-first operations
“The ability to adopt a digital first operational approach
and the potential conversion...
Halifax Bank advertisement
Change UX patterns
to reduce anxiety?
Persuasive notifications (aka
urgency)
Sensationalism
Unpredictability
Powerlessness...
“Only 1 left”
Image: David Swallow
Countdown clocks
Does your tone need to change?
MailChimp has a disable humour option
Image: TG Founder
Self-service support
Replace once reliable customer
contact centres
Working from home
Proof it can be done
Need to retrospectively establish
controls, processes and rules for
teams working f...
Working from home
How do you onboard new staff?
So many video calls
“Zoom gloom”
Virtual interactions can be extremely
hard on the brain
https://www.nationalgeographic.co...
Working from home
Less need to employ locally?
2. The impact on
technical communication
We can solve many of these business-
critical problems
1. The need for customer self-service support
2. Continuity when st...
A. The need for self-service
support
Self-service support
Replace once reliable customer
contact centres with…
Knowledge Bases
2.1
Continuity when staff are not
available
Continuity when staff
are not available
Creating internal knowledge
bases/wikis
Documenting the knowledge that
normally st...
Video walkthoughs
Walk me guides
2.2
Reducing the number of video
calls
Reducing the
number of video calls
Documenting the knowledge that
normally stays in people's brains
Creating templates/sty...
2.4
Helping communicate any changes
to the way the business works
Helping communicate any changes to the way the
business works
Process flowcharts with hotspots
Potential issues
“Time to market” will be important
Your publishing toolchain
You’ll need to take the initiative
Show something concrete
3. What others think
Cybersecurity
One trend I'm seeing now is the requirement for doc (or better doc)
about remote payments, as small business...
Work From Home
We'll probably never return to the old paradigm of co-workers located in the same office
space, interacting...
Self-Support Help
Self-service help platforms would require well organized and
indexed bases of knowledge, which is someth...
Self-Support Help
I've been blown away by the number of emails I've had from
companies imploring me to use their online he...
Self-Support Help
I am finding that off shore teams are referencing the knowledge
centre I have created to create better d...
Summary
There’s a “new normal” in business
A need to enable customers to support themselves
A demand for accurate, authoritative i...
Technical communicators can help
meet this need
Customer self-service support (Help, knowledge bases, video
walkthroughs)
...
More information
Our free mini-online training
course on leadership and
communication
https://cherryleaf.teachable.com/
p/...
www.cherryleaf.com
@ellispratt
ellis@cherryleaf.com
COVID-19: The future of organisations and the future of technical communication
COVID-19: The future of organisations and the future of technical communication
COVID-19: The future of organisations and the future of technical communication
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COVID-19: The future of organisations and the future of technical communication

The COVID-19 coronavirus is having a huge impact on people and organisations. With so many things that could be about to change, how should technical communicators respond? What’s your plan for the future?

In this presentation, we looked at:

How organisations might change during and after the COVID-19 lockdown
What that means for technical communication, and how you can come back stronger than ever
What technical communicators can do to help, and how you can deal with this crisis
How other technical communicators responded when we asked them for their views

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COVID-19: The future of organisations and the future of technical communication

  1. 1. Covid-19: The future of organisations and technical communications Ellis Pratt Cherryleaf 12 May 2020
  2. 2. I hope you are all safe and well
  3. 3. Overview 1. The impact on organisations 2. The impact on technical communication 3. What others think
  4. 4. About me
  5. 5. About me Director at Cherryleaf, a technical writing services and training company Based near London Degree in Business Studies 20+ years in technical communication
  6. 6. 1. The impact on organisations
  7. 7. The impact on organisations 1. A time of rapid change 2. Big projects rapidly thrown together 3. A need to make sense of it all 4. Business models will change
  8. 8. 1.1 A time of rapid change
  9. 9. Impact on company finances Cash and cashflow Cash over profits A need to cut costs or sell assets
  10. 10. Impact on staff People taking sick leave to recover from COVID-19 People taking sick leave to manage their mental health People taking sick leave to support relatives
  11. 11. Missing support staff “Companies are needing to get creative about how to replace once reliable customer contact centres” https://www.economist.com/britain/2020/04/04/britains-call-centres-are-overwhelmed-and-overhauling-how-they-work
  12. 12. Impact on the market “10 years in 10 weeks” Big changes in market share (e.g. Zoom) A chance to stake a claim in a market Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
  13. 13. Impact on customers Anxious customers A need for operational excellence from businesses
  14. 14. People are looking for expertise https://savanta.com/view/coronavirus-crisis-shows-the-real-value-in-genuine-expertise/
  15. 15. 1.2 Big projects rapidly thrown together
  16. 16. Paycheck Protection Program
  17. 17. Big projects rapidly thrown together There can be unclear communication to customers, staff or stakeholders There may be “grit” in the operation of the system that needs to be explained
  18. 18. 1.3 A need to make sense of it all
  19. 19. Ian Burbidge, The RSA https://medium.com/@thersa/the-path-from-crisis-6d3f83c96d0b
  20. 20. Cynefin
  21. 21. Cynefin - Simple If you do X, expect Y There are rules in place Define and communicate best practice
  22. 22. Cynefin - Complicated There can be multiple right answers Although there is a clear relationship between cause and effect, not everyone can see it Define and communicate good practice
  23. 23. Cynefin - Complex The right answer is elusive You must explore and adapt. You must base your decision on incomplete data Cause and effect can only be deduced in retrospect, and there are no right answers Define and communicate emergent practice
  24. 24. Cynefin - Chaotic Crisis time Cause and effect are unclear, because they shift constantly and no manageable patterns exist Searching for right answers would be pointless First establish order, then sense where stability is present and from where it is absent, and then respond by working to transform the situation from chaos to complexity Define and communicate novel practice Communication needs to be direct, top-down. There’s simply no time to ask for input
  25. 25. 1.4 Business models will change
  26. 26. Impact on industry Review of supply chains to improve resilience Industry 4.0 automation?
  27. 27. Moving from an oral to a written culture “An oral culture has huge advantages in that it’s fluid, easy to pick up, and doesn’t require a lot of attention to processes. But it has a big disadvantage which is that knowledge is stored inside people’s memories, or embodied in the things that are made in specific contexts. This creates problems when someone goes on holiday, and even worse when someone leaves…” Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash
  28. 28. Moving from an oral to a written culture “…It means people often spend time reinventing or duplicating things that have been invented before. Stepping back, it often means there is no single view of the system that the company is operating, (which is why so many design consultancies start with trying to map the systems that a company operates).” Will Myddelton, Local Welcome Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash
  29. 29. A move to digital-first operations “The ability to adopt a digital first operational approach and the potential conversion of back office operations to support new digital relationships using digital technologies and seamless integration” Savanta report 23 April 2020 https://savanta.com/view/ask-questions-listen-and-critically-make-decisions/
  30. 30. Halifax Bank advertisement
  31. 31. Change UX patterns to reduce anxiety? Persuasive notifications (aka urgency) Sensationalism Unpredictability Powerlessness (eg.making refunds links hard to find)
  32. 32. “Only 1 left” Image: David Swallow
  33. 33. Countdown clocks
  34. 34. Does your tone need to change? MailChimp has a disable humour option Image: TG Founder
  35. 35. Self-service support Replace once reliable customer contact centres
  36. 36. Working from home Proof it can be done Need to retrospectively establish controls, processes and rules for teams working from home
  37. 37. Working from home How do you onboard new staff?
  38. 38. So many video calls “Zoom gloom” Virtual interactions can be extremely hard on the brain https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/coronavirus-zoom-fatigue-is-taxing-the-brain-here-is-why-that-happens
  39. 39. Working from home Less need to employ locally?
  40. 40. 2. The impact on technical communication
  41. 41. We can solve many of these business- critical problems 1. The need for customer self-service support 2. Continuity when staff are not available 3. Reducing the number of video calls 4. Helping communicate any changes to the way the business works
  42. 42. A. The need for self-service support
  43. 43. Self-service support Replace once reliable customer contact centres with… Knowledge Bases
  44. 44. 2.1 Continuity when staff are not available
  45. 45. Continuity when staff are not available Creating internal knowledge bases/wikis Documenting the knowledge that normally stays in people's brains Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash
  46. 46. Video walkthoughs
  47. 47. Walk me guides
  48. 48. 2.2 Reducing the number of video calls
  49. 49. Reducing the number of video calls Documenting the knowledge that normally stays in people's brains Creating templates/style guides/standards for people to document the knowledge themselves https://about.gitlab.com/handbook/customer-success/professional-services-engineering/workflows/
  50. 50. 2.4 Helping communicate any changes to the way the business works
  51. 51. Helping communicate any changes to the way the business works Process flowcharts with hotspots
  52. 52. Potential issues
  53. 53. “Time to market” will be important Your publishing toolchain
  54. 54. You’ll need to take the initiative Show something concrete
  55. 55. 3. What others think
  56. 56. Cybersecurity One trend I'm seeing now is the requirement for doc (or better doc) about remote payments, as small businesses such as restaurants switch to a take-out/delivery model to survive. This includes the security aspects around remote payment where the card holder is not present. Cybersecurity is, of course, always important but sadly we're seeing an increase in attacks, especially phishing scams, so there's a need for comms around that. Amanda Lindsay, Content Strategist at ONLYFORWARD LTD
  57. 57. Work From Home We'll probably never return to the old paradigm of co-workers located in the same office space, interacting in meeting rooms and, less formally, in the break area or on the patio. Those interactions have long been a way for technical communicators to build collegial relationships both with each other and with subject-matter experts. Now, we'll need to find new ways to assert ourselves, demonstrate our value, and earn -- at least in the eyes of the SMEs -- our place at the table. For the introverts among us, it could be daunting. Fortunately, many of us already work with remote teams, often in different countries and time zones. We've learned skills for building and sustaining those working relationships without sharing the same physical space. Now we'll need to apply those skills more often and more intentionally. Larry Kunz
  58. 58. Self-Support Help Self-service help platforms would require well organized and indexed bases of knowledge, which is something I have been dreaming about for as long as I can remember. Imagine if users could find answers to 90 percent of their questions without agent assistance. James Hanson, Content Development and Migration Expert
  59. 59. Self-Support Help I've been blown away by the number of emails I've had from companies imploring me to use their online help rather than calling them. Preaching to the choir of course! Liz Gregory, Technical Author at tvONE Ltd
  60. 60. Self-Support Help I am finding that off shore teams are referencing the knowledge centre I have created to create better documentation, and are much happier contributing to make the guidance better than they seemed to be before COVID19 Suzanne Marshall, Lead Technical Author at Dentsu Aegis Network
  61. 61. Summary
  62. 62. There’s a “new normal” in business A need to enable customers to support themselves A demand for accurate, authoritative information A need to reduce the number of video calls A need to help communicate any changes to the way the business works
  63. 63. Technical communicators can help meet this need Customer self-service support (Help, knowledge bases, video walkthroughs) Having the right tone (UX writing, editing) Staff self-service support (knowledge bases, policies and procedures) Communicating change (process flowcharts, video walkthroughs)
  64. 64. More information Our free mini-online training course on leadership and communication https://cherryleaf.teachable.com/ p/the-new-normal Tom Johnson’s survey: The quarantine/pandemic impact on techcomm https://idratherbewriting.com/blog /quarantine-pandemic-impact-on- tech-comm-survey/
  65. 65. www.cherryleaf.com @ellispratt ellis@cherryleaf.com

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