Publishing structured authoring to 13 Zendesk Help Centers

July 4, 2022
image shows computer keyboard

A flexible system to meet the needs of your church: Planning Center is a set of software tools to help you organize information, coordinate events, communicate with your team, and connect with your congregation. Founded sixteen years ago, Planning Center’s love for the church, their team, and their products keep them on track moving forward.

Company growth goals required a scalable documentation solution

Planning Center’s growth plans are to grow each department by 30% in the next 5 years. Planning Center has 30+ support agents, and their customer success goal is to answer all support tickets within one hour. They knew their existing documentation technology could not support these growth goals, and so began to research alternative solutions.

Additionally, their existing solution was not a great authoring experience. The whole process centered around managing documents and variations in ScreenSteps write the content, publish it, and the content then exists in a single standalone Word document. This led to a tremendous amount of duplicate effort every time information needed updating in all the relevant documents. This is both time consuming and prone to unintentional errors.

The team tested an array of technical writing software solutions, but onboarding and usability was a huge barrier with these solutions. Simply put, the investment in learning how to use these other tools was too much for a team without a strong background in using advanced tools for managing technical content.

An OS agnostic solution was best for their technical writing workflow

An additional barrier was that many tools only work as standalone apps in Windows. That meant that using a standard help authoring tool (HAT) requires virtual Windows OS working on a Mac. To say the least, this is far from ideal. The clear preference was for an OS agnostic platform. In today’s world, that means a solution that works directly from a web browser.

When a colleague with previous experience in structured authoring recommended Paligo, Jessica and her team were initially quite daunted by the prospect of trialing another complex and confusing tool. However, they were ultimately driven by a strong conviction that if they did not transfer to a component content management system (CCMS), they would not be able to scale to meet the company’s growth goals.

We tried Robohelp, but the customer service was way too difficult to even learn the product, so we didn’t have a lot of confidence. When we found Paligo, we were impressed with the case study from ShipStation, and we liked what their docs looked like. We also appreciated the initial conversations we had with our salesperson.

Once Planning Center’s technical writing team had narrowed down what they needed, with the most critical feature being an excellent integration with Zendesk, the list of possible solutions was basically down to a handful of products.

Planning Center required a robust Zendesk integration due to the high number of Zendesk help centers. There are 13 Zendesk help centers that all share about 20% of the content between them. Any change in the source content needs to be propagated efficiently to all the affected help centers. This was the main driver for change and needed to be resolved in any future solution.

The large number of Zendesk help centers is due to their customer support strategy – there is a dedicated help center for each of their thirteen products. Users on the main help center “homepage” can search between all the different help centers, or they can select a specific product help center. Each specific help center has its own specific search experience, without searching across the full suite. So on the one hand, the help centers are all connected; but on the other hand, they are all unique. Their focus on a high quality customer experience means it is a must to deliver the specific content that each product combination offers.

Essentially, Planning Center were looking for a CCMS that could successfully author, publish and manage documentation at scale, specifically pushing that content into Zendesk – and Paligo was the clear answer to these needs.

Other requirements included:

  • Collaboration with support to review the content
  • Easy to cross reference other articles with protection against broken links
  • Text and image reuse
  • Revision commenting
  • The authoring solution also needs to manage Zendesk labels, often known as taxonomies in other systems

Embracing content reuse and committing to technical writing industry standards

Jessica and her team have saved significant time managing their 13 help centers in Zendesk since switching to Paligo.

Paligo has not changed my workflow immensely, it’s not a brain teaser. It’s pretty easy for me to use.

Not only does Paligo publish the content seamlessly into Zendesk Sections and Articles, but it also offers Zendesk Preflight. Preflight provides full control over mapping where Paligo topics are mapped into which Zendesk articles. This is particularly significant during migration as Planning Center could keep the same URLs as before meaning no broken links from inside or outside of their content world.

The team at Planning Center can now add, remove, update, and even set the status and ownership of content in Zendesk directly from Paligo.

Learning how to use variables has changed two of their help desks entirely.

We went from managing at least 50 articles to now 25. It literally cut our workload in half.

A really quick win rolling out content reuse (both graphics and text snippets). It was a game changer.

Due to the continued growth of the company, more demands are being placed on the documentation team. They can leverage Paligo’s single sourcing capabilities to great advantage. For example, updating product images in one place when the product changes without the need  to manually change the image in each occurrence in each help center. This single example of image reuse significantly speeds up their workflow.

The team has also successfully implemented text reuse and variables. For example, many of Planning Center’s introduction/getting started articles use a similar “Get Help” section. They can now reuse those sections and customize them with variables when needed. What was previously 13 different articles in Zendesk can now be originated from a single topic in Paligo.

Here’s an example for you. We had to change the top bar navigation of our app. And typically, what we would have to do is go to each article and update every image in all of the articles. And so that would probably have taken four hours, literally half of the day – finding all of the images, making sure they are updated, and so on. With Paligo, it took me 30 minutes. Overall, making changes takes only a quarter of the time it used to.

Paligo works to an industry standard in structured authoring. While that may have sounded daunting and scary at first, because historically this has been scary with other CCMS offerings, Paligo has made structured authoring now approachable for teams, even not of experienced technical authors. Planning Center feel that the structure and robustness of the standard has paid dividends with consistency and confidence in the written content. Despite the initial learning curve, Jessica firmly believes now in doing it the new way (Paligo) rather than doing it the old way.

I would be so mad if I was told I had to go back to the way things were. The fact that I can see all of my topics in whatever way I choose to organize them – that in itself means I’ll never go back.