Broken Silos: Destruction for the Sake of Your Clients

LavaCon Session Summary: Content Strategy Track

Presenter: Rhyne Armstrong, RouteMatch Software

SessionSummary-broken silosRhyne Armstrong used humor and Halloween in his LavaCon 2013 presentation (Broken Silos: Destruction for the sake of our clients), to describe how his company, RouteMatch Software, implemented a customer support site in WordPress that was backed by the CEO, embraced by customers, and turned the technical documentation team into rock stars.

Rhyne Armstrong, Director of Documentation at RouteMatch Software, an advanced transportation logistics company, puts on a presentation that is an experience worth the price of admission. If you’ve ever been to a Rhyne Armstrong presentation, you know I’m not selling him short—his sessions are more like attending a show, and not just because he incorporates great slides and humor. No, it’s also because he uses actual examples from his experience at RouteMatch to teach new skills and bring steps in a development process together. He even did a live demo and it did not break.

Rhyne was quick to point out that, even though this version of the presentation was the Halloween Edition, it was also the only edition. The Twitter love that went on during this session borderd on creepy fanatical, and I started to worry that I might get trampled by the mob storming up to get his autograph at the end.

Using his typical style that combines humor and a factual business story, Rhyne described the problems RouteMatch faced and displayed scenes from various scary movies to match his Halloween theme. RouteMatch’s siloed departments tended to launch information over the fence to other departments and hoped there was a net ready to catch it. While each department still needed roles and a reporting structure, the silos separating creating inefficiency and confusion needed to be removed. Ignorance was wasting time and money. Hidden information led to uninformed clients.

So how did they solve the problem? As Rhyne described, it was not easy, but he had a secret weapon, one we should all be so lucky to have in our organizations.

The CEO.

Yes the CEO, combined with a technical solution which involved creating a customer support site in WordPress with a customized theme. The prototype was ready within a couple of weeks and the site was beta tested from April 2012 to April 2013. The official site was then launched at the company’s user conference.

An interesting outcome of the customer support site was an increase in support calls. Normally this would be viewed as a bad statistic and demonstrative of a fail, but in this case, it was an indicator of all the new users that were generated. Currently, the site has 1500 registered users with 207 unique visitors (not including administrators) per day.

The product development team typically gets all the buzz at a user conference, but in this case, the technical documentation team got all of the praise. So often, people in tech comm or anything related to content feel like the last on the totem pole, but this solution is a great example of how a good idea, some backing from a CEO, and follow through in design and user input benefit everyone related to a company, its products and services.

Additional plans for the site include rebranding the tips area with the personality of the guru who knows everything about the products and creating an intranet that actually gets used.

The live demo gave the audience a nice glimpse into the final design and types of documentation/training content available for customers. Rhyne noted that the most popular areas include the landing pages, documentation, and support staff pictures. The site offers various learning and media, such as flipbooks and training videos.

Rhyne’s session provides a great example of how a technical documentation team can improve the user experience and the company bottom line, and his attention to detail and sense of humor were icing on a very satisfying cake.

 

Jill Parman

Jill is the owner of ForWord Consulting, LLC, which provides instructional design, technical communication, and business analysis services. She is a master of useless trivia, has a slight obsession with Pilot fine tip pens, and spends her free time chasing around a toddler and two dogs.

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