2020: Omnichannel presentation

Content as a choir (a case study)

Medidata’s harmonization approach to content

Content collaboration and integration are essential in any industry. In the highly-regulated life sciences industry, it’s crucial. Medidata content strategists developed a foundation that’s successfully expanded from one product to more than 50 (with more planned!) in 20 years. We’ll explain how our approach helps us orchestrate extensive collaboration into one harmonious voice for our customers.


What you’ll learn

  • Best Practices for establishing a collaborative foundation for content development across R&D and beyond
  • How to build a supportive structure for content developers that relies on continuous learning and development
  • How to create a PR campaign to celebrate accomplishments, share information, and invite more collaboration across the organization

OmniXConf 2020 - Beth Thomerson, Nitza Hauser.m4a - powered by Happy Scribe

He was Joe. Oh, Beth, can you stop sharing your screen for a second where I can maybe I can do the. Normally, could that not work? I'm not sure. I hope that people can see me now. Can you see me? I can't. OK. And I also see that there's already a few people in the room. Welcome, everyone. I see that you're entering this room.

I hope that you can see my face.

Not that that's the most important thing that you should see in this session, because it is all about Nita Howser and Beth Thomasin today in this session. Again, welcome, everybody. Whilst you're entering this room, let me just update you or reproof you a little bit on the housekeeping. If you have any questions, you can drop them in the and function that is on the bottom of your Zoome application. So you can ask your questions there and we'll address them at the end of the session.

Good. Now, if we haven't met before. My name is Seska because that's also alights to introduce yourself. So there we go. But like I said, more importantly, who we have here is Beth Thomasin and needs to hoser for Beth with over 20 years in the technical communications industry. Beth is passionate about all things content strategy. She has been happily working at Medidata Solutions of the Solar System Company in the technical content strategy department since September 2018 needs to.

It's one of the prime innovators for Medidata Solutions in a technical content strategy department as a strong consensus consensus builder. She has worked with her management team and department to devise, drive and implement the strategic vision that resonates with internal and external customers. So I'm ready to. For you to take it away. Let's hear your talk content as acquire. All right. No. Two. There you go. Wonderful. All right. Hi, everybody. It's so nice to meet you, even if we are truly it's a credit to know Nides and his team that rather than canceling the OmnichannelX conference, they were able to pivot quickly and provide a great educational opportunity for us all.

I think a senior director of technical content strategy at Medidata and together with my wonderful partner Beth here, who is one of the managers in our team. We'd like to tell you our story and share with you our insights and the lessons we learned along the way. Next slide, please. Here we go.

We want to tell you how we successfully build and grew a team which now provides accommodation, support for products, including a eyes in a very complex, fast changing software company serving the highly regulated life sciences industry. Our content needs to reflect our platform of interrelated and integrated products. What Medidata calls the architecture of hope for the entire pharma and clinical trial industry. Our CONTENT STRATEGY team, known as PTSA Technical Content strategy, laid the foundation and developed an operational strategy.

They've helped us successfully expand in the past 15 years or one product to more than 50 with more planned. We'll explain how our approach helps us orchestrate extensive collaboration into one how? Monitus voice for our customers. Our story or Symphonie, if you will. Comprises of three movements. The first is our collaborative foundation strategy. The second is how we drive continuous innovation and encourage learning and development in the third. How and why we set up a PR campaign to increase awareness of our team and its accomplishments.

Let's start with the need for a collaborative foundation and a strategy which will drive collaboration at all levels inside the team as well as across the only organization in which we work and beyond. In the words of Ken Burns showed, none of us is as smart as all of us. Our story or song begins in 1999. Medidata was a small startup with one product. The mission statement is and continues to be very compelling as we strive to power smarter treatments for healthier people.

From the get go, Medidata was a very innovative and dynamic company, but operating in a highly regulated industry forced some process and regulatory oversight. From day one, the importance of this will come apparent in a little bit. The team was mostly co-located, which encouraged what a Coolac collaboration and customers had a direct input to the product teams and executive management. In this environment product, the commutation was easily managed by a couple of technical writers.

And here we are, a small team of writers. As we grew, the challenges grew right along many day is a company that constantly pushes the boundaries. It is a place of innovation and constant change, which makes you very successful, is what it does. But it also means a constant stream of new products and modules to meet customers needs. Growing into a 3000 employees global company. When I joined, there were about a hundred people in a single New York office ment offices all around the world.

Remote employees and some acquisitions as well. The writing team kept growing as well. And we realized early on two important things. The first is that we are much better off anticipating the need of the company than reacting after the fact. Which means developing a strategy. And the thinking is that collaboration is key for a successful content strategy to work.

It must go hand in hand with collaboration. Progress was marked by breaking down silos. Here are some examples of key challenges we had to tackle. I'm sure some, if not all, of these scenarios are familiar to you. And I'd like to talk to you at length about all of them. But in the interest of time, I'll go briefly through all of them now and then expand on only a couple of them. The first challenge was to meet.

It was the need for common guidance with each tried to working on a separate product. We must still present a unified front to the customers. Therefore, we needed a unified set of trading methodologies, clear process, a style guide and templates. I will expand in a minute. The second challenge involved company process.

Many data was a waterfall or regionally and wonderful show.

This meant the writers came in close to the end of the process and handed off a done deal to document. Correcting things like product terminology was not even an option. When NJ was introduced, admittedly done, we volunteered to helped write the SDLC process software development. By anticipating the future need and being directly involved, we were able to ensure and bake it into the process. The technical communicators have an equal seat at the table from the get go, including maintaining product terminology you call the product messaging, etc.

. We then did numerous training sessions for our writers on edge and methodology and how to use it to this to their advantage.

The third challenge common tool is a bit unique to Medidata. I think we pitch for in and actually became the business owners of the documentation platform for all of our ending. But more on this in a minute. Finally.

The challenge of common understanding, it is always tough to read to hear the voice of the customers are our users when located deep in the bowels of finding the R&D organization.

So we reached out and across to partners with other to partner with others. We reached out to customer support for feedback and common issues for which we can create troubleshooting articles for them to send customers. We collaborated with Professional Services will need early access to the latest R&D development work. Remember, we are now embedded within the agile product teams.

And in return, they provide valuable feedback on our content and how customers use being in a regulated industry and routinely audited by customers.

We reached out to our audit and regulatory compliance instinct to help them build regulatory references, explaining how the various products complying with relevant regulations to throw a few around. Just 21 CFR eleven EU GMP Annex eleven would break clinical practices just to name a few.

This helps alleviate the need for audits somewhat. So as we evolved, we expanded our outreach in collaboration to product is part of a giant 3M customer support and professional services. Let's stop for a minute about how we developed a strategy for common guidance. As many as Content strategy team will design, develop and deliver owned accommodation to our customers in the form of a site. Maybe they don't know knowledge spaces where each product or module has a knowledge base and where articles or topics, if you will, may serve as context sensitive help linked to from the product screens.

Here are some of the key things we did to develop common guidance. We created templates for various topic types like concept task references, EFIC use troubleshooting reports. We've built in instructions to Maximov to maximize efficient use. We collaborated with Marketing Notice collaboration again to agree on a common style guide in terms this ensures that customers get is consistency between the marketing material and the online health knowledge base. We developed the meditator global glossary containing all product terminology.

Not only did this help unify definitions of prosector commutation, it also helps us foster pickets or conflicting terms across products. For example, in the clinical trial industry, the term patient and subject are sometimes used interchangeably. But we want all our products to use the same term consistently. Of course, we had to research and train our team on choice and our chosen methodologies. Like every page is page one. Develop and make my mark A.. You might have heard of this one.

Minimalism. Ready for translation, etc.. By the way, when I say training in any context, it means both initial training refreshers and onboarding new hires. And finally, we set up a few editing process as well as developmental editing to enforce our style guide and ensure consistency. Look, we are now Parsley's marketing as well. The results speak for themselves. We have by now 70 acknowledged spaces, over 10000 articles, knowledge articles. We in 2019 we had over two million page views, which is a 13 percent increase from the prior year.

And the most important number, ninety five percent deflection rate or self service, which means.

Which means that ninety five percent of our users find what they need and do not go on to call support.

So. Next, lightnings. And as of. Two thousand ninety two. Since 2013. We are the largest customer channel. At many data, we even surpass the corporate. Corporate marketing marketing site. Let me next talk about the. Talking about the common tool strategy. They the. Realizing that we need common a common tool. We did our research and championed the use of a common documentation tool across all of R&D. We now authoring deliver on all airspaces on the same platform on which R&D works.

Before you ask, I will just note that we are using confluence with specialized documentation and translation add ons from case of TNT, just in case you're going to ask later.

I cannot stress enough how important this decision turned out to be. As business owners of that platform, we create workspaces. That for product teams to collaborate and that's where they store their architecture diagrams, a team meeting notes, recordings of reveals, etc.. He's actually help us do our job better. We provided guild spaces for professional groups to store their own unique tools, training processes and everything they need to coordinate their work. For example, in our own DCX deal space, we keep saying guys mythologised directions, peer editing checklist, etc.

. Product architects keep their architectural designs and coordination efforts. Gamow maintain their project, equip program management tools, professional services, keep their processes and job aid and so on. Finally, we have a knowledge engineer who administers the platform and provide automation services, which include things like document with a document wizards' which speed up the creation and production of standard documents required of as part of our regulated process. And this. Actually. The development documentation side of our platform now has over 50 spaces, over 200 architecture decisions.

Over 2000 SDLC software development lifecycle artifacts in over 400 audit and compliance reports. Oh, automation efforts save the audit and compliance team over two weeks of working here. And you can see the thank you note that we received from them. Thank you for your help. This results in significant improvements in overall reduction of effort. So overall, our content is a service strategy. It's brought it right. We did a number of benefits by using the same tool.

We become part of the same team. And we do commendation and review process are similar and operate in the same places. Everyone. Everyone else. We are truly an integral part of the development team. Furthermore, being platform owners bring us name recognition. And let us play a central role. We've been R&D, our expertise, expertise is recognized, and we now extend our content strategy services and build relationships way beyond our. In global compliance, a strategy team joined our expansion expanding network as a direct result of us offering content to the service.

And it was just the start. To summarize the first movement of our symphony, here is what we learned as we developed our strategy of continuous collaboration. You should think strategically early and plan ahead. Think big. Content is a service provider, a truly strong value proposition, and always be on the lookout and find your unique opportunity. We succeeded in giving writers a place at the table as part of the edge of the development process. We gain name recognition within our R&D and we have to go to people now for content strategy consultation and services.

Remember, don't ask for a seat at the table. Ask what time the meeting starts. Now, Beth, we introduced you to the second movement of our symphony. She will tell you about the need to drive continuous innovation and encourage learning and development in order to increase collaboration within the team and build a strong, unified and forward looking team. Thank you, need to. Hi, everyone. Firstly, we want to do is share with you the approach that we have with our team.

It's a wonderful African proverb that says if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. This is definitely the approach that we take to learning and development. We consider learning and development really an essential component of team oriented continuous innovation because our team members are dispersed within different products in agile product teams. We pay careful attention to unifying around them, establishing and maintaining our team cohesion. Now, we do that by helping writers create their personal and professional development plans and encouraging their participation in corporate products that support their plans, for example.

We also make sure that we share goals that mirror corporate objectives and developing methodologies such as EPPO and minimalism that NESA had mentioned earlier. We reinforce our team's content expertise by owning central content such as terminology and glossary entries and being featured players, so to speak, in UI development and messaging. Finally, we work with the team to develop yearly initiatives that may focus on topics such as continuous improvement or innovation of some sort. By supporting learning and development, we successfully enable writers to not only excel in our industry but also to discover additional, perhaps hidden talents that may take them to other areas of the company for continued professional development or career building, or to promotions via the career ladders that we've established in our department.

And make sure to share very transparently with our writers. Our emphasis on learning and development is really critical to attracting and retaining talent. In fact, our teams average length of service is over six years. Even with sustained year over year growth and hiring, our attrition is extremely low. Despite the challenges and sometimes chaos of acquisitions, yearly reorganizations, unexpected personal emergencies, market changes and demands and quarantines. We aim to encourage teens to think big. And look above the water on a regular basis to share their original ideas or those curated from their own reading research findings or conference attendance.

One of the things that's really unique that we've done is we have dedicated one of our managers to seeking out in-house and external learning opportunities that we can offer our team members many different opportunities to get involved with hackathon innovation, lab projects, customer facing events and outside webinars and conferences, just to name a few. This manager also arranges monthly team luncheon learn and formal team meetings at these meetings. We take that opportunity to feature product and deliverable demos, hear from colleagues across our organization to better understand how everyone it many data contributes to what we do and the success of our products.

It also facilitates a shared awareness. To our company's success and the people who make it happen, also at these meetings, we announce promotions. We recognize accomplishments, distribute rewards and celebrate various wins and things such as birthdays, work of bursaries, things of that nature. Yearly. We bring in all our team members to participate in a team building summit where we share ideas and work together on initiatives because we assign mentors to new team members. This is sometimes the very first chance.

A mentor mentoring pair has to meet in person. We believe very strongly in mentoring. And. That that not only improves teamwork and team orientation, but also it supports team members professional development. In fact, it's highlighted in our job descriptions which writers review and discuss with managers to ensure that they can easily choose their career path and clearly understand the accomplishments and expertise needed to achieve future promotions. So shared goals, goals and methodologies. We want to ensure that we are singing in harmony, in harmony with corporate objectives.

By working with our team and stakeholders to create goals that support those corporate objectives while contributing to our team mission and goals of overall quality and excellence in content. We collaborate closely with our writers to get their ideas and buy in so we can structure the goals and build our team vision and strategy together. In a regulation driven industry with the importance of consistency and standardization, we pay a lot of attention to featuring shared methodologies such as style standards, checklists and EPPO, for example, to make sure that our content really achieves a one voice tone.

We also encourage writers to share responsibilities and to learn about all the products in our portfolio, especially those that integrate with the products that they're directly responsible for. We often build goals around the concept of backup heroes who can swarm to complete urgent needs or step in to help get a release out if the assigned writer can't, for whatever reasons. We realized early on that we have to get involved in curating and coordinating the terminology used in and around our products to make sure we're all speaking the same language, singing the same song by owning glossary content, curating UI elements and messages in collaboration with you ex colleagues and working with our marketing colleagues on terms and issues.

We really do work in harmony as a team to coordinate our efforts and share information to create a wonderful, cross-linked documentation platform that really reflects and complements our product platform. Few things about yearly initiatives. This is kind of our our time line, if you will, for how we create the initiatives that we and our writers work on. We start off with brainstorming. So every year we brainstorm as a team to figure out how we can improve. Ideas may be parked in an innovation backlog from the past year or it might be proposed during brainstorming.

It's a great opportunity. Brainstorming sessions to innovate. People can springboard from others ideas or statements to come up with something completely new and different. It's a form of team building and an opportunity to work together and sometimes with other departments that really stretches all of us. The next step in our initiatives is prioritization. So the team meets to evaluate each proposed innovation or improvement idea and why its potential value. The return on investment against the time and level of effort that it's gonna take for us to implement it.

We usually end up with four or five prioritized initiatives and we will backlog's the rest. Now, how do we create our task forces? Well, we asked people to rank the initiatives that we decided upon with their top two or three. And those are the task forces. They really want to work on the most and are the most passionate about the management team. Looks at all of this on a spreadsheet and we try to accommodate as many requests as we can.

I also like to add that we do ask team members to volunteer to lead the task force and each manager takes one or more task forces as a sponsorship. And we just work with our teams as they go through the year with the work that they're doing. So the writers will volunteer to lead the task force. And that gives them a really great opportunity to develop and showcase their leadership skills and grow their professional career. Once we have our task forces and leaders assigned then begins research and innovation.

And depending on the type of initiative, the next few months are spent in a lot of research, testing, innovating, sometimes even developing a pilot and coming up with an agreed upon methodology or process or improvement in which the task force takes the lead on documenting and training the entire TCW team. Some examples of initiatives that we've done in the past couple of years include a usability test, a progressive user assistance, major rework and improvements on our style guide and creating smart diagrams.

At one final word on an issue. They can take anywhere from a few months to two years. But typically we really do try to tom time box them to a year, April to April, and we will re-evaluate multi-year initiatives every year. And sometimes the team determines when they've gotten into an initiative that it might make a lot of sense for us to to do this in phases. So as you see here, we have added this loop here. This is self care for our team.

This is what learning and development is all about. And we just can't emphasize enough how much of a difference it makes and how much it enhances the chances of success. So the reprieve, the second movement in our symphony, here's what we learned about driving continuous innovation and encouraging learning and development. What really worked for us was blending team members and professional development needs with both individual and team recognition, along with rewards for outstanding collaboration, mentoring, old growth and new ideas or initiative work areas, and outstanding efforts in corporate or team special projects.

We believe that we succeeded in cultivating and maintaining a strong, cohesive team that's engaged, product savvy, resilient, innovative and reliable, regardless of demands, crises and unexpected surprises, both good and bad. So one of our thoughts for the day here is never let a good crisis go to waste. So the third movement is all about how do we strike the right balance, the right tone in singing out about our accomplishments and collaboration. Harry Belafonte, a wonderful singer, once said you can cage the singer, but not the song.

And we would add to that it's not enough to sing it. Sometimes you have to sing it loud. You can't be humble and proud. So we realized that we needed to increase awareness across our growing company with so many new faces joining METI data weekly. We found that collaboration was more challenging and many new colleagues did not know who we are, what we do and how what we do can help them ramp up faster and be more productive, which we think is an important value proposition.

So our proposition isn't just that we help customers. We also help colleagues. We decided that we needed to take the stage to start singing our song. There was simply too much going on to leave it to chance. So we started out with a few ideas. We created a master presentation that we could customize for different audiences, for example. We created presentations for product marketing, specific product teams, professional services and so on. We had done similar presentations in the past, but with so many new colleagues and changes in departments through reorgs and acquisitions, we realized we couldn't rely on tribal knowledge to be passed along with the right highlights to the new staff at an opportune time.

So we also determined it was important to post more on our Internet about our work and how it's valuable across the company, again to customers and colleagues. From small gestures such as welcoming a new person to the company and offering to show them the customer content, the product dock for the product they were supporting to attending company events, volunteering for innovation projects or engagement councils within many data. We started to see some positive changes. Now, as we started seeing these positive changes, we started brainstorming again and we decided that we needed to really formalize our ideas by creating a formal PR campaign, including a racy matrix, milestones, goals and initial metrics to help us measure success.

A tracking spreadsheet and suggestions for how to engage our team in promoting our work and to be ambassadors for what we do in our blog posts and presentations. We highlighted not only our team members expertise and accomplishment, but we also extended collaboration by thanking colleagues who had helped us out, sharing customer feedback that we got and objective input from STC competitions, which we engage in every year. And as our compass, as our campaign goes into the second year, we're really looking forward to spotlighting more information.

So what did we learn here in our third movement? We learned that we own our messaging and we need to sing it loud and strong by focusing the spotlight on our creative engaged team and their content and accomplishments along with our collaborative colleagues. We're successfully curating our stories, our value and our relationships within and across departments. In the year since we debuted our PR campaign.

We added one hundred new followers challenged and successfully empowered our team members to be vocal ambassadors. And we're enjoying the fact that stakeholders now know who we are and they're reaching out to us early to join up to ask us to join their teams or to get our help on problems that we can solve. The bottom line is people remember that not everyone understands the value of content as communicators. It is up to us to promote that value. And now I will pass the baton to Nita as we reach the finale.

Ten minutes before the end of the session. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. So this year, the PR campaign connected us with pre-sales, the Pardners team reach out for our content as a service offering. And since we b we've just been acquired in July 2018 by dusseault system, we now also have the challenge of making any for ourselves, really, you know, our huge new parent company. So we certainly have our work cut out for us.

At the music play. We hope you enjoyed listening to our story and took away some ideas and practices you can implement at your own organizations. Don't be afraid to be bold, plan ahead and develop a strategy. Care for your team and their professional development needs. Advertise your successes. It's definitely worth the extra effort. And of course, always collaborate, collaborate, collaborate, some parting thoughts here without strategy.

Condit is just stuff and the world has enough stuff by origin and content is king, but engagement is queen. And the lady who's the house from Murray-Smith. Thank you. Awesome music to my ears. Very good. So we have one question in our Q&A. And that is one by Lisa and she asks our knowledge basis in the corporate Web site links. Yes, they are. That's a very good point. These links are also very important. Being corporate website provides actually good documentation, further documentation.

It does provide a link to our knowledge bases.

And a few other places are linked together. Yes. OK, that's very clear. I believe that there were no further questions. If they do happen to pop up and you want to discuss more, then I would suggest that you'll find each other in the linked in group for your convenience. I will now drop the link to the LinkedIn group in the chats. Should you not already have found it? I sent it only to one of you. Sorry.

There you go.

Thank you so much. Needs that. And that's for your presentation. It was very interesting. I hope everyone had a good session and will see you. Let's see. Q And and session will start at quarter to six. See there.

I you I.