How Tonkean Enhanced Efficiency with Content Reuse and Structured Content

May 13, 2024
image shows person working on tech docs on computer

Company overview

Tonkean is an intake orchestration platform for internal service teams, including procurement and legal, headquartered in Palo Alto, US. It intelligently orchestrates the intake, triage, and resolution of requests and approvals and is the automation platform of choice for many innovative F500 companies.

Technical documentation challenges

As Tonkean grew, it found it had challenges maintaining technical documentation. The company realized that it couldn’t be product managers, developers, and technical writers at the same time. It needed a dedicated resource and a better way to manage its technical content.

So, it hired Cody Deitz as its technical writer and tasked him with evaluating the company’s documentation needs, defining a content strategy, and selecting a tool to help it manage its documentation.

Deitz said that when he was first hired, the company was using inSided, a community forum tool that could publish articles, as its primary tool for sharing documentation. It also tested out ReadMe, an API-focused tool that ingests JSON and returns API documentation, among other things. Both of these tools had their merits, but didn’t quite meet ‌the needs of the growing company with a rapidly expanding knowledge base.

Deitz came to Tonkean with a background in MadCap Flare. He was an API and developer documentation writer at a previous company, where he grew to appreciate structured authoring and content reuse.

And I knew that’s where we needed to be, especially if it was going to be me as a sole writer. You need all of that content reuse and all of that power as a force multiplier to make it work.

Why Tonkean Choose Paligo

The Tonkean knowledge base was growing rapidly, with a lot more ground to cover: setup and configuration articles, how-to guides, reference material, etc. Deitz knew they needed structured content and content reuse. They also needed a cloud-based solution to support their remote-first workplace.

We were looking for something that had content reuse, that was structured authoring. It needed to be very flexible in terms of options for publishing and distribution and for hosting. And we also had the need for it to be cloud-based and accessible via the browser.

Deitz had come across the Paligo CCMS a few years earlier when the company he worked for was evaluating new tools to replace Adobe Framemaker. When he started his research for Tonkean, he remembered Paligo and dug back into the research to help determine if it would be a fit.

And being familiar with XML-based authoring, I was immediately impressed with Paligo. I was able to pick it up quite quickly. I think within a week, I had a site up and running and a bunch of content in there already, and I was already messing with styling and theming and playing around with it.

According to Deitz, the implementation and onboarding process was super easy. Tonkean had a lot of content, but it wasn’t in a state that could be directly imported into Paligo. Most of their content came from a rich-text editor, and nothing was structured. They had to rework and rewrite a lot of it, enabling them to create a structured content model and taxonomy that worked for them.

He said Paligo’s customer success team was very helpful and responsive as he learned to use the CCMS and onboard Tonkean’s documentation.

The Paligo Features That Support Tonkean

Deitz spends 3-4 hours daily in Paligo working on user guides and technical content. The features he uses most revolve around structured content development and content reuse. Tonkean has more content reused than not—about 60% content reuse. He also regularly uses the XML Tree View to help him move content around easily.

I love being able to completely restructure the content in a topic without worrying about cutting/pasting. I don’t have to worry about structure validation or anything erroring out. I’ve reworked rather long and complex topics simply by clicking and dragging blocks around in the Tree View.

Collaboration is another capability that Deitz uses regularly. Tonkean has five review seats that they use for subject matter expert review. Deitz uses the Planner feature to send content out for review, and the SMEs come in to review and comment on content before it is published. He added that recent improvements in the contributor view have made it especially useful.

Supporting Tonkean’s Documentation Website

Tonkean produces many types of technical documentation, including product documentation, getting-started content, tutorials, reference material, configuration guides, and more.

This technical content is published to their documentation website using the HTML5 publishing layout in Paligo CCMS.

image shows Tonkean doc page

Tonkean publishes its technical content on its documentation website, though it employs a unique approach. Paligo content builds are pushed to Github. Tonkean then uses its own automation platform to retrieve the content from Github and publish it to Amazon S3, where the website is hosted. The entire publication workflow is kicked off through a command in Slack.

We definitely have the benefit of Tonkean automation and workflow orchestration as a way to simplify the publishing workflow, but Paligo’s native integrations with Github and S3 make this workflow super easy.

Deitz said they have fully customized their website using Paligo’s Theme feature, plus a thoroughly customized stylesheet. He uses the Element attributes a lot, creating many custom attributes to apply styling to certain elements. In addition, Deitz said he also uses taxonomy to show and hide content conditionally. The taxonomy feature is especially helpful as a means to quickly adapt and remain agile when documenting the complex features of a prolific engineering team, Deitz said.

Another feature that Deitz appreciates is Paligo’s version control. He says it’s nice not to have to use Git for version control on top of the CCMS like you often do with a locally installed application.

Overall, Tonkean now spends 30-40% less time managing technical documentation monthly compared to previous processes.

The best things about Paligo, in my opinion, are the user-friendly UI and authoring flow, the robust content reuse, and the many options for integrations. Most of my experience with structured authoring comes from Madcap Flare, but if you need a structured authoring tool on a SaaS platform, it’s incredibly hard to beat Paligo.

It’s clear they’ve thought through the optimal workflow for authoring and prioritized the day-to-day functionality that most writers will frequently use. Without having used the tool at all before, I was up and running in just a few days with a customized site, reused content, and the info architecture I wanted.

Advice for Others Looking for a CCMS

Deitz offered this advice to others who are looking for a component content management system to help them manage their technical documentation:

The trick is finding a tool that really works for your specific use cases and your needs. Do you need robust content reuse? Do you need to publish variants in different media? No tool has it all, but it’s important to find something that prioritizes the same functionality that’s most important for your team. And I feel like for us, Paligo was just the perfect intersection of those features and functionality that we needed.

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