Focus On: Collaboration

October 9, 2023
image shows clip from collaboration video

Get ready for the next chapter in our ongoing interview series on Component Content Management Systems (CCMS). In this insightful interview, Roger Gelwicks takes us on a deep dive into the world of collaboration within Paligo. From its practical applications to its transformative impact, we discuss the multitude of ways in which collaboration can be harnessed to unlock the full potential of the Paligo CCMS platform.

Learning how to collaborate

Why is collaboration important when creating documentation in a CCMS?

Roger Gelwicks: Why do we need collaboration? Because I’ve never met a technical writer who does their work in a vacuum. They have to talk to everybody. A technical writer needs to make relationships across the organization or they’re not going to get the complete information they need. That requires building good relationships with subject matter experts and people who can give you the most up-to-date information about your product‌.

So that’s definitely why it’s important. There’s always going to be communication with other people to get the information you need. So learning how to collaborate, how to ask good questions, how to get the information you need in a timely manner is all really important.

But your question was about collaboration in a CCMS. So, regarding how that works in Paligo, collaboration is really important because you can all work in the same system. You can have multiple users within Paligo, but if there’s not a great system for how they interact with each other, then you’re all logging into Paligo and editing in a vacuum, which is not how it works in real life. There needs to be a way for users to be able to interact with each other about the information that they’re writing about, and Paligo provides that.

Within your authoring tool set, you need a good collaboration tool

Some companies still send documents back and forth for revision, which negatively affects time management, especially if several people need to report back on the same section. With that in mind, would you say that single-sourcing is very important when collaborating?

Roger: Absolutely. This is the case for a lot of tools where you might have all of your documentation in one place, but it can be difficult to get the information out of it so that subject matter experts can interact with it. Often, when you’re collaborating on some sort of technical writing collateral, and you need an expert to weigh in, that subject matter expert doesn’t need to have full access to everything. They just need to be able to read the content they’re supposed to weigh in on, give their feedback, and then be done. They don’t need the full user experience with the technical writing tool the way the author would. So the different user types can really make a big difference for the user experience, for how collaboration works in Paligo.

Without a good single-sourcing system, there could be a lot of waiting around because you’re trying to also work with that person, to figure out how to give them access to the content that needs to be looked at. So the faster and more efficient that process goes, the quicker you get the feedback you need to do your job as a technical writer.

Could you talk a little more about how user roles and permissions work in Paligo?

Roger: There’s three main user types. The first is the author or the standard user, which does everything that a technical writer needs to do. That means creating and editing content, setting up reuse and variables and related tasks. They can do everything that needs to happen for content to be produced.

The other two user types are reviewers and contributors. I’ll start with reviewers first. Reviewers in Paligo are allowed to look at content that you have assigned to them or that you have shared with them. They can leave comments on various elements within the content you’ve shared, but they can’t make any changes to the content. They can also tag people in comments, which can be helpful. There are many situations where you don’t need your subject matter expert to do anything more than simply give some comments and make sure the information is correct. In Paligo, they can go in and do exactly that. So that’s the reviewer workflow.

The contributor is the third user type. A contributor takes it one step further than what a reviewer can do; they can leave comments, but they can also make some changes to the content. However, they can only make changes to the content that has been assigned to them. They don’t have the full authoring experience that an author does. They can’t access any topic they want. They can’t publish anything, but if there’s a paragraph in a topic assigned to them that needs to be changed, that contributor can just go in and change those words on their own. Another example of things contributors can do is insert a variable. If there’s already a variable set that’s been created, they can insert a variable, though they can’t create new variables.

So, that’s an organizational decision that you can make if you’re thinking about how many reviewers and how many contributors you want. For some users, you may want them to be able to make changes and you want to empower that ability for them. For some others, you may prefer them to just be able to comment. So you can decide what level of collaboration you want for every user in your organization.

These two user types are priced accordingly. Contributors can do more than reviewers, so that’s a different price, but on the Business and Enterprise plans, you get at least some free reviewer user types to work with. If you’re on the Enterprise plan, you have unlimited reviewers. When you’re coming up with your strategy for how many users you need of each user type, you’ll want to think about who you want to empower to‌ make changes to the content?

Collaboration workflow

Could you talk through a typical collaboration workflow?

Roger: It’s extremely easy to have a subject matter expert weigh in on your content within Paligo, emphasis on the word “content.” This goes back to the concept about how this is structured authoring. So outside of bolding and italicizing and that type of in-text formatting, the content that you want the input on doesn’t have any formatting yet, which is great because when you do get the reviewer or the contributor looking at the content, they’re only seeing the content. They’re not looking at font sizes or page margins or anything like that. So that you cut through some of that since those are subjects you don’t necessarily need input on.

The review workflow has a start and end date to that assignment, asking that reviewer to give their feedback within a certain number of days. Once they receive that assignment, which comes either through email, Slack, or Teams notifications, they can click the link in that notification to open Paligo where they can start reviewing the information immediately. So they don’t have to go through a long, complicated process to get to the right place. They’re already in the right place when they click the Assignments link, and then they can simply start leaving comments on the different elements.

Every comment is assigned to an element, which is helpful because, like any element that saves revisions over time, you can also save every comment over time as well. Even if you’re done with a comment and don’t want to see it anymore, you can archive it, and then if you ever want to find it later, you can. You always have that information available, which is great. And the contributor workflow is very similar, because you start an assignment, they get the notification, and then they click the link to open it, which opens what’s called the contributor editor – a simplified editor of the topic. Because of this, they don’t have to work nearly as directly with the DocBook schema.

So you definitely don’t need to know DocBook if you first start using Paligo as an author, and you definitely don’t have to know it as a contributor, which is really great. It’s a simplified workflow. It’s a lot easier to see what you’re doing and where things are, which makes it a simpler process for those who are not going to be spending a lot of their day in Paligo. As a contributor, they can go in, make changes to the content, and move on. I don’t know of another platform that really makes collaboration that simple.

We can once again compare that to Word, where you keep having to save new versions of the document over and over. In that situation, you keep having to append “final version” to the end of the file name. And then you have to manually track the “final” version over time. All of this is eliminated if you’re using a system like Paligo.