If you are producing technical documentation for the hardware industry, building technologies sector, or any other industrial sector, the users that most need your technical content are probably not sitting in offices. Instead, they are undertaking the installation, the operation and the maintenance of your products. They are most often field service engineers from your own company or technicians working for service partners.
And they are out in the field.
Does your documentation keep up with these mobile workers? Do they use it, and does it support them and help them do their job right wherever they are?
If the answer to those questions is ‘no’ or ‘I’m not sure’, you can turn it around. Here are the four steps to unlock the adoption of your tech doc in the field and improve the efficiency of your field service teams.
(Spoiler: we will also tell you how you can securely answer ‘Yes’ to our first two questions).
1. Make it accessible
The best technical documentation is next to useless if we cannot access it when and where it is needed.
For field technicians, remote access to technical documentation is a must. Having the right information on hand means fewer truck rolls, fewer escalations to internal resources, and a better quality of service. But that same need can be a major technical challenge. Most organizations produce and store their technical documentation in multiple systems and repositories. Granting access to all these different systems, in particular beyond the internal network, is a headache – not to mention a security nightmare. It’s a primary reason why technicians have only partial – if any – access to technical content when offsite, but it can be overcome.
What is needed here is to make it simple, while maintaining the highest security standards. This is what Content Delivery Platforms (CDPs) enable. CDPs create a single knowledge hub from all existing doc sources, centralize the administration of access rights, and securely deliver the content to the users as they need it.
Everybody wins here: content producers, IT admins, and field services, too. While reinforcing security and easing administration, a central knowledge hub provides technicians with a single easy-to-access place for all technical resources.
2. Enable Offline Work
Accessibility is one thing, but if you rely on a network connection to power that reading, you’re asking for trouble.
Oftentimes technicians find themselves in situations where they need their documentation but are not connected to the internet. Elevator shafts, rural locations, cellular dead spots, or overloaded networks can all make the needed tech content suddenly inaccessible, leaving them unsupported.
Your documentation must remain available both online and offline. When connected to a network a technician should be able to sync either specific content or all of their content on their device. When offline, they should then access and search the same content, and read with the same ease they can when online. Connect again and the tech content is live again.
Offline availability means field technicians can confidently approach any service call or maintenance intervention knowing that they always have the needed technical resources with them.
3. Improve Search
Getting access to your tech doc under all circumstances is a big step forward. But finding the right product content is as important – and if your tech doc can’t be found it’s almost as if it doesn’t exist.
Finding technical information in a break-fix situation must be fast. If finding the right product information from your resource center takes more time than diving into the good ol’ printed manual (a risky alternative) or escalating to a senior expert (a costly alternative) then the technical documentation is missing its objective out in the field.
This is why you can’t rely on just an average enterprise search engine. It must reach the standards that the best web search engines have accustomed us to. It needs to be semantic and understand the request as it is formulated. It should be smart, recognize the context of the request, point to the most relevant answers and filter out the noise produced by thousands of similar documents on different products or versions. In the end, the quality of the search will make a huge difference with reductions in search time of up to 75%* in the field.
*Source: Fluid Topics Customers, 2020
4. Read on any device
Even if everything else is perfect, the successful adoption of your technical content by mobile workers will rest on whether they can easily read it or not.
Today’s technical documentation comes in a variety of formats. There’s text, of course, but there are also images, 3D models, augmented reality files, audio, video, and more. This technical documentation needs to be readable on the mobile device that your field technicians use which means delivering all of those formats in a responsive and device agnostic manner. Your documentation needs to be readable on 12-inch tablets and 5-inch mobile phones and rugged field laptops. Technicians are opening multiple documents on a smartphone screen, tapping to navigate between sections, and moving from window to window. No matter how the technician accesses your technical documentation, readability counts.
The teams in charge of producing the technical content can hardly handle the rendering and experience with all types of screens and devices. However, documentation portals built into a CDP can, with a reader adapted to mobile navigation, a responsive interface that adapts automatically to the size of the screen, and perfect rendering of that formats used for technical documentation (including interactive SVGs and 3D images).
Getting Content Delivery Right
Your technical documentation is just one short step away from being a great driver of productivity for your Field Service teams, and that step is all about content delivery. Getting your content delivery right and ensuring that your technical documentation is securely accessible, searchable, readable, and available offline is the key to a massive adoption by technicians, who will find great support for lifting their efficiency.
Achieving this transformational content delivery is possible with a CDP. CDPs offer the deliverability and usability that your technicians need from your technical documentation, no matter how complex your current Tech Content infrastructure might be, and without disrupting your writing tools and processes.
And there is a bonus that CDPs like Fluid Topics bring to the game: analytics. With the ability to track all interactions with your content, built-in tech content analytics shed the light on content usage and user behavior. You’ll have all the data you need to answer a firm, clear “Yes” next time you wonder if your content is supporting your field teams.
Want to learn more?
These ten points, and much more information on Dynamic Delivery, are detailed in a white paper Dynamic Delivery: What it is and Why it Matters.