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Giving 100+ technical writers new skills in UX content

After experiencing substantial growth in its design team, enterprise software provider ServiceNow aimed to give 100+ technical writers a major skills upgrade.

Rapid growth can be exciting, but it can also create significant challenges. Team members with different levels of experience and training can come into conflict when making decisions without any set of shared principles.

This is exactly the situation ServiceNow found itself in with its talented technical writing team. With such substantial growth and a fast-paced product environment, the organization needed to make sure everyone had the skills to contribute to writing UI text.

“We also had a huge new UI rollout for our product that was very different,” says Lisa Hultman, Senior Director of Product Content at ServiceNow. “We needed to make sure we were on the same page.”

As Director of Product Content Lelani Prévost explains, the technical writing team was focused more on longer-form content. They still wanted to retain that core skillset, but add something new as well.

“What happens is that when the user interface comes together, it can have a mishmash. We have to make sure that the writers at least follow the baseline,” says Lelani.

Why the UX Content Collective?

Although ServiceNow considered internal training, it soon began looking for an external provider with the expertise to train large groups – particularly one that had expertise in what it means to be in and run a technical writing team. 

ServiceNow approached the UX Content Collective after discovering the UX Writing for Technical Writers curriculum. Lisa Hutlman, Senior Director of Product Content, says they were convinced by the fact there was training that spoke directly to technical writers’ knowledge and challenges.

“I was super excited to bring in an outside agency.. You showed that you had the knowledge in that area and that was perfect,” says Lisa.

Additionally, the UX Content Collective was able to alter and customize training for the ServiceNow team, including creating exercises and content that was specific to the company’s own UI.

In order to properly benchmark the sessions and make sure ServiceNow would be able to measure improvement, a set of goals were determined to measure success. After the workshops, ServiceNow aimed to see the following goals among its technical writing team:

  • Increased confidence in knowledge of UX writing
  • Increased confidence in deciding what information needs to be retained in user interfaces
  • Retained ability to help designers work on dialog text

The solution

The UX Content Collective scheduled a series of sessions with the 100+ member technical writing team. 

While there were definitely some logistical challenges in training a global team, the UXCC’s global reach and high training standards meant we were able to have multiple experts teach the same curriculum (approved by ServiceNow) across countries and time zones. 

Additionally, the workshops were able to occur during business hours, and around public holidays, to avoid disrupting team members’ daily lives.  

“It was really smooth,” says Lisa Hultman. “We do have a global team, which means we need to support a number of time zones…I was very happy to hear that could be accommodated.” 

“Once we knew that that was an option, we worked out a reasonable schedule that allowed us to combine some geographies. It went really smoothly.”

“We don’t often find a vendor who’s willing to accommodate international times so easily.” 

The results

After conducting several workshops to train the 100+ members around the world, UX Content Collective surveyed participants to measure against the three goals agreed on during the preliminary engagement. 

These surveys showed the workshops exceeded expectations, and employees felt more confident in all 3 of the baseline goals we established before the sessions:

  • Increased confidence in knowledge of UX writing
  • Increased confidence in deciding what information needs to be retained in user interfaces
  • Retained ability to help designers work on dialog text

For ServiceNow, seeing the investment pay off in renewed confidence among designers meant they could now rely on technical writers to help in other aspects of design – speeding up the entire process. 

“When we’re making pretty big decisions, the writers now have the capability,” says Lelani Prévost. “We’re talking about something that could actually be an experience as opposed to just text.”

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