Keep the Control in Your Hands

Although I’m writing about S1000D, the same philosophy applies for transferring DITA, Docbook, and XSL/XSL-FO knowledge to your staff:

Our goal is to provide expertise to help customers grow to proficiency. We find that companies rarely need an expert on-staff. Expertise is expensive, especially when used for tasks that go beyond that initial expertise need. Experts are doubly expensive when paid to do tasks that do not truly require that proficiency. For example, why pay an expert on S1000D to write about airplanes just because the format is S1000D. A writer, who is an expert on airplanes, is much more competent to do the writing; the writer (significantly less expensive than the S1000D expert) just needs some training in using S1000D; they already have the subject matter expertise to do the actual writing task. In addition, the a writer, now trained in multiple doctypes, is a much more valuable, and flexible resource for you in the end.

As a result, our approach has been to provide the expertise and skills to companies who need intermittent expertise or who want a long-term relationship with an expert who can be available when necessary and who goes away when they’re not. Intense training, implementation, and knowledge during the early stages of a project that helps our customers get customers.

We can participate as a de-facto member of your team and:

  • Participate as a de-facto member of your team. We would participate as a technical expert in early project calls with your customer, lending you our credentials and experience so you have a better chance winning over your customers.
  • Assist in implementing PTC’s Arbortext products. We are an authorized PTC reseller and have more than 8 years implementing the PTC Arbortext product line for publishing.
  • Mentor your staff. We assume that our customers do not want to be dependent on us. Part of our culture is to teach our customers to do everything necessary to do the current project and all similar project they undertake in the future. We truly act as mentors, teaching staff not only to do the work, but how to think about how to do the work, so they will be able to do the same kinds of projects independently in the future.
  • Provide a jump-start for your staff. We provide a project-ready foundation, not just basic training. Our training and mentoring is always centered on your project. We help develop the work-product for your customer during the initial stages of the project while your staff continues to comes up to speed. This way, your customer sees immediate productivity and your staff has a usable basis for the ongoing product that they used to learn on.

In short, as a retainer-based consultant, we provide all the benefits of having an expert on staff without incurring the cost of having that full-time expert on permanent staff. We:

  • Give you S1000D productivity immediately, giving your staff the time and space to come up to speed
  • Train your staff in understanding, learning, and developing content that is S1000D-compliant
  • Teach your staff to analyze and implement customer business rules in general
  • Discover serious gaps in the any business rules you have received that will impact your ability to deliver content to them and drive resolutions to your customer
  • Provide long-term on-call expertise, allowing you to amortize the cost over the length of the relationship and bill to actual need

Although expensive, the expert consultant is available over the entire project lifetime, and the cost can be amortized over the length of the project. Costs are billed only as used and have a guaranteed, built-in cap that corresponds to the proficiency of your staff–your ultimate goal. This method provides a guaranteed mentor and long-term resource for staff members to query and learn from, as they come across particular tricky or rarely-used content models over the lifetime of the project.

We typically propose a intensive training period at the beginning of a project. We us your data (or your customer’s data), so your staff learns and produces at the same time.

Our retainer-style mentoring and training program stretches over the lifetime of your project and has a possibility of coming in well below the estimated costs. Final cost is completely based on your staff’s progress and feelings of proficiency. By working with us, and amortizing your cost over time, you have the ability to improve your profit margin. The faster your staff progresses, the sooner your need for us ends, and the lower your final cost will be.

The progress your staff makes is completely with their own control. The more they work with the technology, the better foundation they start with, the more comfortable they’ll be, and the sooner they’ll stop feeling the need for an on-call expert to assist them.

The control remains in your hands, rather than ours.

And we like it that way.

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Author: Liz Fraley

Liz Fraley has founded two companies, sits on the boards of three non-profits, and is constantly coming up with new ways to share knowledge in the technical communications and content industries. https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethfraley/