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What's New: Streamlining release content for product admins

COMPANY

MY ROLE

Cisco

Content Strategist

CONTRIBUTIONS

Discovery and Planning

Analysis and Insights

Stakeholder Management

Challenge

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Each month, the Webex team delivers new features and updates to suscribers across multiple apps and platforms. To track and manage these changes, enterprise admins rely heavily on our What's New inventory, which includes things like release notes, What's New pages, and in-product feature announcements.

 

However, our admins told us that while they value this content, it isn't easy to find or use.

 

To learn more, I led discovery and research for a cross-team initiative to streamline and improve this inventory. My role was to manage the project from needs assessment to initial kick-off.

 

The work included interviewing admins and internal stakeholders, framing the problem, presenting recommendations, and aligning cross-functional teams on backlog, roadmap, and strategy.

Doing discovery
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To know what to do, we needed to understand the bigger picture. How were people using this content today? What were they trying to do or find out? How did they access or discover the content? What were the top tasks, needs, challenges?

 

To answer these questions, I followed these steps: 

 

  1. Interview customers: Our user research team had valuable research for the full range of Webex product personas. Building on these findings, I worked with a researcher to conduct more informal interviews with enterprise admins, to better understand the pressures, goals, and informational requirements for this specific audience.

  2. Interview stakeholders: Interview product managers, customer success managers, and other internal partners who currently use or reuse our What's New content to drive awareness, usage, and adoption.

  3. Audit the content inventory: Itemize all existing content types, teams, and touchpoints to understand depth and breadth of content used to announce new and improved features, fixes, and other impacting changes. Then, do a high-level content audit to assess its effectiveness.

  4. Synthesize findings: Analyze, consolidate, and present findings to content leadership team. Then, cut through priorities, list solutions, evaluate tradeoffs, and summarize recommendations for broader group of stakeholders. 

Our researcher took lead on the first activity, and I led the rest.    

Understanding core needs
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As a content team, we'd hear that admins, in particular, struggled to find and use our release content. We had too many articles, many of which written for a mix of business and technical audiences. Other content teams were publishing competing What's New pages on their own sites, resulting in a fractured search experience.

 

We needed to set aside our own assumptions and hear directly from our admins. Working with a research partner, I helped shape and participate in a round of interviews with this audience.

 

Among other things, we wanted to know:

 

  • How do admins become aware of impending new features and other impactful product changes?

  • What information do they need to decide whether to roll out new features? To train and support users? 

  • Does relevant information appear when and where they need it? Or do they have to hunt for it?

 

While my research partner was synthesizing findings from the user research, I met with internal teams who maintained feature roundups and competing What's New landing pages to understand:

  • Why were they creating this content? Who asked for it?

  • Who was the intended audience?

  • What gaps were our partners trying to fill?

  • Could we consolidate all content on our support site, which would reduce confusion for customers, make it available globally, and free up internal partners for more strategic work?

Conducting a content audit
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To understand the current state of our What's New content, I conducted an inventory and audit. Timing was tight, so I kept the audit tightly scoped and directional. 

 

The audit revealed a mix of writing, design, and governance issues: 

  • Discrete articles, but no roll-ups 

  • Unfocused, one-size-fits-all articles

  • Inconsistencies in voice and tone

  • Inflexible authoring templates

  • Inconsistencies in titling, terms, and metadata

  • Inadequate site navigation and design

To provide a more cohesive, trustworthy experience for customers, we would need to fill gaps, retire duplicative, outdated articles, standardize on content types and terminology, and fix usability problems on our Help Center site. 

 

I proposed an initial set of prioritized recommendations. Content and site owners would use these to agree on priorities, timelines, and solutions. Fixing everything would take time. But the path forward was clear.

Visualizing the future
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Our admins struggled with our existing "one-size-fits-all" articles, which were too long and too general. Admins are busy; they don't have time to pore through articles, hunting for relevant bits of information. 

 

To deliver more specific, personalized content for customers, we needed a new approach. Instead of continuing to write long-form articles, I recommended we create and tag individual announcements. 

 

I helped stakeholders imagine what this might look like. At this early stage, I wanted to show the user benefit, not design the solution. But textual explanations weren't enough; people needed a visual. 

 

As luck would have it, I found a product manager who was exploring ways to automatically surface more relevant, personalized content inside different Webex products. His goals dovetailed nicely with ours. In the spirit of "better together," the product manager and I agreed to partner on next steps, including building a lightweight prototype to stress-test the idea.

Outcomes

The outcome of the discovery work helped stakeholders across the organization:

  • Understand priority needs and gaps.

  • Validate suspected pain points with real users.

  • Agree on a short-term roadmap for consolidating and improving What's New content.

  • Gain support for a future move from publishing web pages to writing more granular, tagged announcements, to support future personalization and customization goals.


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