Over the last 16 years, I’ve helped many companies through software-related challenges. Here are a few of them.
My client developed customized software implemented by state government agencies and used by people throughout the state. They needed user assistance for two user groups: the state agency staff (software administrators) and end users (located remotely) who need to use the software with little assistance.
I developed a library of user assistance materials for each software module rollout that included:
- Getting started guide that provided new users with a conceptual understanding of the application, identified related business processes, and highlighted user benefits.
- Online help systems (one for each user group) that provide conceptual, business process, and software operation procedure topics.
- Training program materials including a training curriculum, instructor guides, and training manuals for agency-led training sessions.
- Reference manuals for software administrators that provided in-depth information about how the four different applications worked together to coordinate data, how to maintain critical data tables, and how to open and close new data years.
- Job aids that explain how to access and use the help system features for remote users.
In addition, I provided:
- Content of the help system as a Word document so the state agency could reuse it in ongoing user support
- Screencasts of the most common user tasks (both user groups) for software demo at trade shows
My client developed customized software and needed a way to document software operations and cross-train their technical staff. Because they used contractor labor, they continually had a knowledge transfer challenge.
I developed a library of technical notes from video taped staff presentations, developer interviews, and status report team meetings. The documents described the business analysis, technical analysis, data flow, and algorithms used to create the software.
My client was rolling out an enterprise-wide faxing solution across employees in four states over three months. They had no user training budget, so they needed an online resource that would explain the individual user setup process and software use.
I created a training website for their intranet that provided conceptual overview, project implementation schedule, user profile setup, and software operation instructions. I organized the site to be effective for a staggered implementation just-in-time training, and as an ongoing application reference document.
In addition, the content had these features:
- Shortcut path through content for technical users.
- Browser sniffer that provided the correct computer operating system instructions.
My client provided information to teachers, school district personnel, agency employees, and the public through their website. They needed to reorganize their website to provide an organized way for these different audience segments to quickly find the information they wanted. They also needed development standards and guidelines for individual agency departments who were responsible for the addition and maintenance of their own information on the site.
I conducted a thorough analysis of the existing site, met with the agency IT operations staff, coordinated my project with the executive steering committee and delivered two documents.
- Site redesign document that covered the site organization, navigation, page layout, and maintenance processes. The agency used this document as the core of its RFP to select a website developer to create the new site.
- Site development guidelines that provided direction for individual agency department for approved technology, universal navigation and layout standards, and site content submission and maintenance procedures.
To create these documents:
- Conducted an analysis of the website user logs to determine the most common destinations within the site and used this information to develop a quick access menu.
- Analyzed website traffic logs to determine the range of operating systems and browsers used to access the site, and determined the threshold browser support level for all site content.
- Reviewed the technologies currently in use within individual department areas of the site, and reviewed performance issues with the agency IT team to eliminate technologies with slow or unreliable performance across users who meet the threshold browser requirement.
My client had a customer service department impacted by a vendor-management inventory module of an enterprise supply chain management system. They needed to understand what information and tools that department required from the new system for optimum business operations. They also needed customized training for a team of 30 people.
I conducted a job/task analysis for each customer service position and provided a detailed report to the implementation team. I created a weekly project newsletter for the impacted department to share information on coming operational changes and build enthusiasm for the project. I worked with key department personnel to develop a training program using a train-the-trainer strategy. I created instructor and user guides that supported the rollout training, ongoing reference, and new employee training.
My client was a product manager with a prototype of the next major release of their application who needed programming specifications for their development team.
Using the prototype, I wrote a programming specifications document that explained the new features, their operation, and the user interface for the upcoming release. I included screen captures to illustrate the user interface whenever possible.
My client needed a combination training and reference manual for field engineers solving customer problems throughout the state. They needed instruction about how to connect their laptop to the internet with their cell phone, how to find new issues assigned to them, and how to report on closed issues.
I created a simple help system that provided instructions for the most common tasks and provided diagrams of business processes to string together individual procedures. The help system included photographs of the cell phone tethering and other equipment operations.
My client was automating their customer service department by scanning requests for customer account changes. They needed a training program that explained how to scan documents, how to pull up scanned documents, and how to attach the documents to the customer account when the action was completed. Their business operations meant that staff from three different departments needed training to complete this business process.
I designed a 4-hour elearning course that provided detailed instructions for each user group on their tasks, and provided an business process overview for department management.
- The equipment operation lessons included photographs of a user performing tasks, and came with a printed job aid showing the steps for equipment operation as a reference for each scanner.
- I developed a printed job aid for operating the elearning coure to attach with a reusable tape button to each employee computer monitor.
My client needed an organized strategy for maintaining their company blog with multiple writers.
I worked with the client to develop a list of appropriate blog topics organized into categories that appealed to the target audience. I created an editorial calendar to schedule post publication on a monthly basis to ensure that all categories and writers were represented. I wrote a blog guideline document to help writers understand how select appropriate topics and deliver blog posts that met the company writing standards. I also wrote blog posts for selected categories.
My client provided a third-party report writer with their application. Their customers were unable to find a non-technical training course for the report writer, so they expected my client to provide this training.
My solution required the development of three separate tools.
- Training course outline (goals and objectives) for non-technical users, an instructor guide with valid examples and class exercises, and a training manual that could be used during the class and in the workplace as a reference manual. The manual included report definition forms to help the organize their report writing tasks to make the task less challenging.
- Detailed file structure for the application, including field names, data type, length and an description that explains the field contents to non-technical users. The company did not have this level of documentation, so I worked with their database administrator and key developers to create the field descriptions
- Example reports that provided information that the customers would want to use. With something as technical as custom reports, dissecting working reports provided customers with practical learning experience, as well as providing a starting point for new reports.