The secret relationship between content and DevOps

Photo by Thomas Lefebvre on Unsplash

I’ve had the opportunity to be a guest on the Adventures in DevOps podcast twice now. Both times got me thinking about the importance of people and, in turn, the hidden role of content in DevOps. There’s far more than technical documentation in the relationship between content and DevOps.

Let’s take a look:

Continue reading “The secret relationship between content and DevOps”

4 reasons why Johnny can’t create messaging

Photo by Melanie Deziel on Unsplash

After years of writing about technology, hearing vendor pitches, and interviewing for marketing jobs, I’ve come to see that there’s a problem with product messaging in the IT industry. The roots of it seem to run quite deep in the industry.

Here are five reasons why companies have problems with messaging:

Continue reading “4 reasons why Johnny can’t create messaging”

How cloud issues can trickle down to content development

Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

I regularly discuss with a colleague the state of the cloud and how to make cloud messages resonate with readers He’s a solutions architect. I’m a technical writer. We work in allied professions, but he sees things I don’t see. What I came to see after a few discussions with him is how corporate cloud issues have an even more direct effect on content than other topics I’ve written about during my career.

Here are three ways cloud issues can hurt content development:

1. Lack of cloud subject matter expertise

The cloud is such a fast-moving and evolving topic. I’m just not talking the latest Amazon Web Services (AWS). Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Microsoft Azure. That news is only a part. There’s a plain lack of cloud expertise in organizations to support content development.

The cloud has its share of people who don’t belong. It happens with every major technology trend that hits the market. These are people grasping at the cloud to preserve their political stature. They can hijack the cloud message you need to communicate with your users/readers. Don’t fall for the PowerPoint slides go with people who have the right subject matter expertise in cloud topics.

My preferred subject matter experts for cloud content call themselves lifelong learners. If somebody doesn’t know something. That’s OK. We can figure it out together. There’s nothing worse than somebody BSing me they know something they don’t.

2. Constant cloud services and market evolution

The release velocity of AWS, GCP, and Azure blows past any other technology topics I’ve written about in the past ten years. It’s hard to keep up with the matter. I used to consider myself good at keeping up with technology. Now I find the cloud lapping me with the speed of new feature releases the startup ecosystem that’s sprouting up around the cloud contributes to the pace.

I’ve had the fortune to work with brilliant cloud people. By extension, I have contact with others through IDG TechTalk chats who range from the senior architect to the CxO level. They are people far smarter than me, and they each have challenges keeping up with new releases.

3. Business prevention disguised as change management

It’s no secret I’m no fan of organizational change management (OCM). Too many times I’ve seen OCM become business prevention. OCM should give business users the content and message they need to transition themselves into a cloud-first enterprise but unfortunately, they can bog users down in surveys and other feel-good strategies.

A better cloud change management strategy means:

  • Creating a direct channel with business users by elevating their representation in cloud content development decisions
  • Listening to the cloud pain points from the users themselves not through the filter of a change management team
  • Thinking in terms of frameworks, jumpstart guides, and other content that can enable your business users to start small in the cloud while feeling self-sufficient

Final thoughts

Writers developing technical content about the cloud have to drink from a firehose with or without the challenges I outline in this post. My advice to counter such challenges is to include your writer in early on your cloud projects.

My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist based in the Washington, DC area. I’ve written for corporations and technology publications about such topics as the cloud, DevOps, and enterprise mobility. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly

Airtable for content creators

While seeking out some options to manage an editorial calendar for one of my personal sites, I came across Airtable with its promises to bring the power of a database to a spreadsheet. My position on spreadsheet project management is documented so I was a wee bit skeptical at first. Besides, I’m not a believer in tools that promise to be everything to everybody. Airtable stays away from that trap while still offering a range of templates to govern some current and upcoming content project management needs of mine.

Airtable works on a workspace model that they call a base. Out of the box, there are some useful tools for content creators who are looking for a tool to provide more structure to their strategy and publishing workflows.

Content marketing management base

Even back when I was writing technical documentation, I saw the value of managing publishing as a process even if my employer or client didn’t ask for it directly. The Content Marketing Management feature of Airtable is well-presented and graphically-appealing. It’s a screen that lends itself to be projected on a screen during a meeting.

While I see Airtable for content marketing management for mature departments or teams because it offers so much out of the box for content marketers letting them manage content ideas, personas, published stories, verticals, and SEO keywords for an entire content initiative.

When you click on a publication in the Content Marketing Management table, a record appears which is fully customizable. While the out of the box solution presents some typical publishing milestones, I like a more checklist-based approach that a tool such as Asana, Todoist, or Trello offers but that’s just me. When I dug into the customizable fields, I did find a checkbox field so if you’re like me you could build out your own editorial checklists.

It’s a robust view into content marketing, you can even add new tables to the Content Marketing option to customize Airtable to your publishing workflow

Blog editorial calendar base

Managing a corporate or personal/professional blog is best done with a strategy and plan. Airtable includes a Blog Editorial Calendar workspace that works much the same as the Content Marketing Management base with the same level of customizability.

Final thoughts

The next time I have to meet a requirement to manage an editorial calendar, Airtable — if feasible — will certainly enter the discussion as a possible solution.

I do fault Airtable on the deliberate complexity of its user interface terminology. It has workspaces, bases, and tables. While I applaud the UX of the app, I did need to verify the terminology when I was writing this post.

Their iOS mobile app appears impressive on my iPad Pro and iPhone 8 Plus offering full access to all of Airtable’s features. As I am an early bird in an industry of late risers, full access from a mobile app means I can consult project information during off hours

Airtable comes with a 14-day trial of its premium features. You can choose from tiered pricing.

While Trello remains a go-to tool for me, I must say Airtable has my attention and I can see myself using it on a project at some point in the future.

I’m a technical writer and content development manager living and working in Northern Virginia. Over my career, I’ve written bylined articles for ITSearchOperations, DevOps Agenda, Mobile Business Insights, CNET TechRepublic, and others. My areas of interest include cloud computing, DevOps, enterprise mobility, and collaboration tools. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.

Using Trello for managing editorial projects

My work as a technical writer sometimes means having to manage my own projects yet communicate about them in a way that programmers and engineers can understand without having flashbacks to college freshman English. I’ve come to use Trello for managing document projects. Technical people are comfortable with the tool and I can speak to project status in terms they can understand.

Here’s how I use Trello to manage writing projects:

  • Set up a Trello board split into all of the phases (using columns) of content development including conceptualization, writing, editing, review, layout, and final publishing. I also include a project backlog columns to help me track project ideas that come out of meetings or I want to capture in anticipation of future requirements.
  • Create a card template (conveniently stashed in the Backlog column) that I use the checklists feature to map out an editing checklist I groom govern editorial quality and style. I also use the checklist to help remedy any of my usual writing mistakes.
  • Revise the project cards over time to keep my editorial checklist sharp such as when I make a stylistic decision that I don’t want to forget.
  • Use labels so I can slice and dice views over the documents I have in progress. For example, I use tags to specify audience, document type, and corporate group.
  • Display Trello on meeting room projection screens when I want to talk about writing projects that are currently in progress
  • Use the Trello iOS app on my iPhone 8 or iPad Pro when I’m at home and want to review progress on a document.

Trello helps me stay on course especially when I’m working on smaller documents in a work environment with ever shifting priorities. I use it to create a visual picture of my progress especially when I get blocked on a document because of team availability.

You don’t have to be faithful to agile project management or Kanban either when using Trello to manage projects

Another benefit of Trello is that I’ve found it easy enough for even non-technical users to understand. For example, let’s say you need to share a Trello board with your marketing department. They’ll have a minimal learning curve if at all. One of my concerns when Atlassian acquired Trello that it would be subsumed into the Jira mothership, I’m glad to see that Atlassian realizes that there’s room for an entry level tool that won’t siphon users from Jira. I’ve tried using Jira to manage writing projects on a past contract. I found it too hard to use. Then again the client in question was trying to use Jira out of the box with no customizations or extensions.

My experience with Power Ups has been mixed mostly because I’ve been using the free version of Trello. I’m happy to see that Trello’s focus on integrations continues after the acquisitions. After all, no development team or in my case solo technical writer is an island so integration with other systems is key when managing content development projects.

Are you a technical writer that uses Trello? Share your experience in the comments.

My name is Will Kelly. I’m a technical writer and content strategist living and working in the Washington, DC area. My current focus is thought leadership and technical marketing content. I got my start writing user guides, administrator documentation, online help, and later moved into SDLC documentation. My articles about enterprise mobility, BYOD, and other technology topics have been published by IBM Mobile Business Insights, Samsung Business Insights, TechBeacon, CNET TechRepublic, and others. Follow me on Twitter: @willkelly.