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Comtech helped Cisco’s Ethernet Switching Technologies Group (ESTG) prepare for Cisco’s enterprise-wide move to DITA by analyzing ESTG’s content and determining how it fit with the Cisco enterprise information model. Findings were delivered in a recommendations report to enterprise project stakeholders. Comtech also delivered minimalism training to ESTG and worked with the group to develop DITA best practices for managing its content.

Training

Comtech customized our standard minimalism and structured authoring workshops to include Cisco’s corporate DITA strategies and tools. Rather than deliver each workshop in our typical two-day format, we broke each one into 2.5 hour sessions to be conducted remotely over six weeks. Each session consists of lecture and demonstrations and concludes with a homework assignment to be completed over the next week and presented in the next session. Comtech is conducting each course a total of eight times during 2011 and 2012 to train Cisco’s worldwide documentation teams.

Information Model

Working primarily from Cisco’s DITA templates and XML writing guidelines, Comtech created a Cisco DITA information model to describe how DITA content is developed, maintained, and managed at Cisco. The model lists the information types used at Cisco and the templates associated with each type. It explains when to use each template, describes the structure required by each template, and reviews the specific block and phrase elements used within each type. The model also discusses the use of maps and bookmaps at Cisco, reviewing each available template and its use. Finally, the model lists the topic- and map-level metadata that authors must provide and highlights the reuse and single-sourcing strategies in place at Cisco.

Usability testing

In a series of related projects, Comtech has assisted Cisco in starting up their in-house usability lab. In the first project, Comtech helped Cisco define the types of usability tests they would offer to their internal departments and the costs of each test. In the second project, we facilitated focus groups and conducted on-site visits with Cisco customers to determine the qualities and features that are most important to them. We used this information to create a set of usability metrics that Cisco will use in future usability tests to ensure that their products meet customer expectations. In a third project, Comtech assisted in planning, observing, and analyzing the results of a usability test that assessed the effectiveness of a new employee orientation packet.

Process assessment

Comtech conducted an internal study for Cisco of its information-development processes as part of an attempt to standardize the delivery of electronic information to the Web. This study was commissioned by the head of the Web development team at the company. We worked with representatives from all the information-development organizations within Cisco to understand their processes. We also reviewed examples of their documents and conducted a heuristic evaluation of the documents and the Web site.

The study resulted in extensive recommendations for new processes to ensure that all the electronic documentation presented the same look and feel to the customers.

For more information, visit our Information Model and Usability design pages.

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