Last year we had the chance to hear from Jim Turcotte about his experiences with agile content development. As the SVP Business Unit Executive at CA Technologies — a $4.5 billion software company and an Acrolinx customer — it’s an area that Jim knows well. In fact, in his current role he oversees a team that supports approximately 3,000 developers, creating technical content for global audiences. The Q&A below is adapted from Jim’s participation in a panel discussion on agile content development that Acrolinx hosted at the 2015 Intelligent Content Conference.
Acrolinx Team: Let’s start with the basics, Jim. What does agile mean to you?
Jim Turcotte: Agile is all about rapid planning, development, and release. Most people tend to think of agile in terms of software development, but it actually has a much bigger application. In today’s world, you’ve got to think more holistically about how your entire company can be agile. It’s got to be an enterprise-wide endeavor that covers every aspect of the business — including your content development — helping you to work faster and become more efficient across the board.
AT: You mentioned doing things faster. Why do you think velocity is so important?
JT: If you think about it, we live in an application economy. Every company’s digital and mobile presence has become a big part of their brand loyalty. Just consider companies like Uber or any of the banking applications that have emerged. They’re driven by software and they’ve practically appeared out of thin air to disrupt the marketplace. I think velocity is important because things are moving so quickly as those examples illustrate. As a business, you’ve got to do everything you can to keep up. That’s where agile comes in, but, to my earlier point, it can’t just be your developers using agile. Your whole company needs to embrace it.
AT: How does velocity and being agile change the way that content gets created at CA Technologies?
JT: We’re moving toward what I call an Uber approach to creating technical content. Basically that means that anyone in the enterprise who has knowledge can contribute to our technical content in some way, whether by actually writing, updating existing content, or simply doing QA. Meanwhile our writers are now effectively serving as content curators, all of which has greatly improved our velocity.
Plus, we’re moving toward continuous content. My writers don’t stop once the product goes out the door. That’s because we’ve built analytics into the doc ops platform. What we want is real-time analytics. In fact, we’re in the process of integrating machine learning so we can take analytics to a whole new level.
For example, we can look at every search a customer is executing and what UI screens they’re executing those searches from as well as any issues they’re encountering along the way. That allows us to create an instant heat map so that we can go in and take immediate action. That’s really key. You’ve got to be able to recognize where customers are struggling and be able to take quick, tactical action to address their concerns.
AT: What has the reaction been at CA Technologies to your adoption of agile content development practices?
JT: We’re definitely getting positive feedback. From an external perspective, the reaction has been great because our customers like the functionality that we’ve added, such as linking our technical content to our products contextually and making it language sensitive. Plus, folks like product management are blown away by the analytics because they’re suddenly getting greater insight into their customers. And marketing is now using technical content as another pool in which to fish for customers. That’s because our content is optimized for search and it’s almost all open to the public. People are finding it and, as a result, finding their way into our sales funnel.
AT: Sounds like you’re doing great things at CA Technologies, Jim. Thanks so much for sharing some of your experiences.