With the 2014 LavaCon Content Strategy and User Experience Conference right around the corner, MindTouch has reached out to Tanner Volz at iovation to get a sneak peak of his presentation “Ditching the Desktop: One Vendor’s Leap to Hosted Documentation.” As an avid MindTouch customer, iovation has been using MindTouch for about a year as a centralized self-service, success center to help their internal teams and their external customers accomplish more with their product.
MindTouch: Can you tell me a bit about iovation and your role within the organization.
Volz: iovation develops a real-time fraud detection and protection service. The way it works, essentially, is that when a fraudulent user attempts to process a transaction online on a website or using a mobile device, certain device characteristics will give that person away. What iovation does is recognize those characteristics and alert vendors that the particular internet device or account has been compromised. Then, iovation works with our customers to prevent those transactions. So that’s iovation. I was hired as a technical writer here one year ago and I came in with all my big ideas about content management and so forth and took hold of all the technical documentation and video content that we were doing and set out to build a whole new content management system. So my title now is Technical Content Manager and I think that’s pretty accurate.
MindTouch: How is iovation using MindTouch?
Volz: We are using MindTouch as a content management system, both on the back-end for storing, authoring, and organizing all of our content and on the front-end for our customers to use. We maintain a private site using MindTouch that’s locked down with a very good permission system so that only allows people who are logged into our web-based tool to open up our MindTouch site and locate the documentation that they need.
MindTouch: Who uses MindTouch in your organization?
Volz: MindTouch is used both internally and externally. Internally, our customer support team uses it to find the content that they need to help specific customers. They also use it to compile content for both themselves and for our sales team to use during the sales cycle, particularly for up-sell and renewal. Folks also use MindTouch to verify technical information about our product, so if an engineer needs to find a way to verify that something works, often times, they will go look in our MindTouch-powered site. Externally, it is primarily our customers who actively use and administer our services on a day-to-day basis that extract a lot of value from MindTouch.
MindTouch: What were you using before MindTouch and why did you replace it?
Volz: When I started here a year ago, there were a number of different tools – all desktop based – that were being used to produce and manage content. One of our first goals was to unify everything into a common source repository and do away with using all these different tools. I needed to find something that I could implement that would be editable and usable by more folks than just me and would get me out of proprietary source formats like Microsoft Word or Adobe source formats.
MindTouch: So what made you decide on MindTouch?
Volz: It was a long evaluation. I have a lot of experience with desktop publishing tools like RoboHelp and FrameMaker. I like all of these tools and think they’re really good, but for the reasons I just mentioned, they weren’t really appropriate for us. I also have a lot of experience with heavy-weight, homemade – if that’s the right word – content management solutions that use some open standards – DITA, XML, etc. And I knew that these solutions would be too heavy for us to use realistically because it would not only require a lot of programing to get things up and running, but would also require a serious investment in a back-end database that we would need to run on premises. What I needed was something that was collaborative, open to everyone, and wouldn’t require years to build. So I went looking for anything that seemed to meet those criteria.
I evaluated MindTouch last year and was immediately impressed with how easy it was to get it up and running, how well it uses open standards, and how hands-on the folks at the company are with helping me understand what their product could do. There really wasn’t any alternative once I started looking at MindTouch. There was nothing else out there that gave me all of this in a browser-based UI, which was amazing. It didn’t require me to invest in any on-premise software and it allowed me to be successful quite quickly. I was very impressed.
MindTouch: So how long did it take for you to actually see value in your organization once you implemented MindTouch?
Volz: That’s a good question. It’s difficult to quantify. I tend to quantify the value more in terms of benefits to our users’ experiences, our internal experiences, and the time saved by authors and contributors. I can’t put up an exact number for the amount of hours I saved as a result of implementing MindTouch, but it’s certainly it’s significant. And the benefit to our customers is quite significant as well. I think largely, it’s because the turnaround time to get content from writing, to delivery, to users is so fast now. When I first started [before MindTouch], it could have been weeks before a change to technical content might be delivered to users. Now it’s a matter of minutes in some cases. So, like I said, it’s hard to quantify, but I think that the sort of intangible benefits are immeasurable at this point.
MindTouch: Did you have an “Aha” moment when you first started using MindTouch? And can you share the story with us?
Volz: Yeah, there were quite a few. First of all, just the way the content is organized, structured, and presented, the extent to which I was able to customize the UI and the stylesheets was unlike anything I had worked with previously with respect to technical documentation. The fact that I could look at the styles of the presentation, change anything I wanted, move things around on the screen like search fields and relocate certain navigation pieces – that sort of thing. My eyes really opened at that point to the possibilities.
MindTouch: Let’s talk about your presentation at LavaCon. Can you give us a sneak peek on what you plan on presenting?
Volz: Yes, of course. One of the important messages for me, based on my experiences and the biases that I had coming into this project, was learning that really robust enterprise-scale content management and publishing isn’t limited to massive multinational companies that are looking to spend a whole lot of money on huge on-premise systems. I didn’t think that something like what we accomplished with MindTouch was feasible. I expected that we would probably need to continue working with desktop tools and wouldn’t have a real content management system. I figured that we would have an approximation of what we needed and would improvise using file systems and versioning. The fact that we were able to achieve something like this and have an effective content management thanks to MindTouch is a really powerful thing. So the presentation will be all about that and I will talk a bit about what I looked for and what I started looking at. I don’t want to discourage anybody who is focusing on more traditional tools or looking at heavier weight, on-premise content tools using XML and DITA. This isn’t a sales pitch for MindTouch. It is just a very strong message – that if those traditional tools don’t meet your needs, there are other options. I just really want to convey that and what I learned. I’ll talk through what it took to build the thing, working from the ground up very closely with MindTouch, and do a little demo.
To learn more, please make sure to attend Tanner Volz’s presentation “Ditching the Desktop: One Vendor’s Leap to Hosted Documentation” at LavaCon on Tues, October 14, 2014 between 10:15am – 11:15am. You can contact Tanner directly at: [email protected]