By Brian Everett, Lavanya Krishnamurthy, Kader Mehidi, and Tim Rapley
Approximately four years ago, CA Technologies adopted Agile Scrum. During that time, Information Services has worked hard to learn Agile Scrum and to determine the best way for our global team to operate and succeed in this methodology:
- All team members are required to obtain Agile certification through the CA Technologies Learning program.
- All team members are strongly encouraged to be vocal at all Agile ceremonies to ensure their success, the team's success, and to embrace continuous improvement for both.
This article explains how CA Information Services is organized to create, curate, and localize content while working in Agile Scrum.
Information Services personnel are an integral part of each scrum team at CA Technologies. We have four core roles in direct or indirect support of all scrum teams:
- Information Engineer (Formerly Technical Writer)
- Information Architect
- Localization Engineer
- People Leader (Formerly Resource Manager)
The role of a technical writer has evolved over the years, more so with the introduction of Agile and the constant need to provide just enough information through various and innovative delivery mechanisms. To align with these changing requirements, we renamed the technical writer role to Information Engineer (IE).
To put it simply, IEs create content—not only traditional procedures, but also wiki-based content, videos, tweets, UI reference text, Flipboard articles, and community posts. We create all content as a means to ensure a positive and productive user experience and to solve/prevent customer problems. In doing so, we delight customers, save CA Technologies money, and improve the likelihood of future sales.
We have several guiding principles for our content strategy:
- Lean Content: We create the smallest unit of content to get users exactly what they need immediately.
- Scenario-Based Content: We create role- and task-based standalone articles that use text and visual elements to explain how to complete a procedure.
- Content Organization: We architect our content to group all like material together to improve findability. Additionally, for all content, we ensure sound tagging to aid in findability.
- Wiki-Based Content: We are in the process of moving all CA Technologies documentation to a wiki-based delivery model. Doing so moves us closer to customers, promotes collaboration, and reduces the time to post updates, which is critical in an Agile environment.
- Analytics: We use wiki and Google analytics to monitor how clients use our content, which helps us see which content is most important to our users.
The net value: A smaller, well-organized content footprint improves findability and usability
IEs are fully engaged scrum team members who participate in all Agile ceremonies and commit to work on a sprint-by-sprint basis. The main task of an IE—take complex concepts and create understandable user content—lends itself to many other areas in Agile, particularly story grooming to ensure a clear goal, business value, and customer impact. In addition to creating content, the IE skill set translates well to help other scrum team functions. IEs can QA stories and supply user experience (UX) input, which aligns with the corporate strategy that scrum team members can and should help the team meet its commitments, regardless of individual role or organization.
To support Agile Scrum staffing, we employ the following strategy:
- Maximum of two scrum teams per IE (50% allocation to each)
- Leverage the full team:
- Primary use case: IEs work with scrum teams to create the required content. The IE does so according to the story, doneness criteria, content strategy, and standards. A scrum team member then validates the content.
- Secondary use case: A development or QA scrum team member writes a first draft of content and the IE then applies the strategy, standards, and style. This option may be used when a scrum team member has bandwidth in the sprint or to cover a staffing issue.
Throughout the company, we have a couple hundred IEs working in Agile. They are engaged and generating content to solve customer problems and ensure a positive user experience.
Information Architects (IAs) develop the plan to implement our content strategy on a product-by-product basis. To do so, they work closely with Product Management (PM) and IEs. For the former, they participate in epic definition, and for the latter, they work with the IEs to determine how best to execute against these epics. IAs are not actual members of the scrum team, but they are advisors to PM and the IEs. In addition, IAs are content curators in that they work with all functional teams and customers to identify content from other authors. IAs then facilitate the integration of this content in product wikis and Flipboard cookbooks.
IAs wear different hats in an Agile project. They support multiple products in a product line and lead the team of IEs. Their primary focus is to evangelize, plan, and implement all Information Services initiatives—for example, tag and streamline the content, refactor existing content into scenarios, or migrate documentation to the wiki and Flipboard. In addition, they also devise the documentation release goals and help empower the team to achieve those goals.
The following list details our high-level goals:
- Set the scope and direction for product information by developing a plan for each release.
- Plan/direct/participate in the implementation of Information Services initiatives such as Scenario-Based Content (SBC), Wiki-Based Content, and Flipboard.
- Function as the lead curator to integrate content from authors external to Information Services
- Educate the cross-functional stakeholders about the Information Services initiatives and help the team collectively decide the right content strategy for the product and the right time to implement an initiative.
- Ensure that content is optimized for localization/machine translation. Work with cross-functional teams to see how the content can be improved and leveraged.
- Monitor and manage the wiki space and CA Technologies user communities to respond to customer questions and content requests.
In many ways, the IA functions as the Product Manager for all content that is related to each product. Throughout the company, we have approximately 20 IAs supporting all products and our IEs.
Translation at CA Technologies is largely outsourced and managed by the Localization Delivery Managers (DMs) and the Translation Leads. The DM is the direct contact to the development team while the Translation Lead (TL) coordinates all back-end vendor activities, negotiates delivery dates, and resolves translation issues. In addition to these two main outside-facing roles, the Localization Engineer plays a fundamental role by managing all the back-end servers, tools, and processes.
The Localization DM is the main development contact for all details related to product localization:
- They work with development to define the number of translation drops and dates.
- They teach development teams about process improvements and translation tools.
- They resolve issues related to translation deliverables and tools.
- They work with the TL to define the translation delivery dates.
TLs manage the translation deliverables, quality, and dates:
- They interact with the translation vendors for all details related to a quality translation.
- They coordinate communication and file transfer with the vendor.
- They define translation deliverables and dates.
- They escalate vendor queries to development and resolve translation quality issues.
Localization Engineers are the technical backbone for localization:
- They manage the translation portal, workflow, and related tools and help resolve back-end issues.
- They process resource files for newly acquired products and help them migrate to translation automation.
- They help development teams resolve resource file issues, such as format, naming convention, and encoding.
- They manage all of the desktop publishing activities for the localized documentation.
The localization of the product user interface (UI) and documentation is fully adapted and integrated into the Agile development process. The translation process is streamlined to fit into the fast-paced sprint deliverables and to enable the simultaneous shipping of all supported languages. Translation packages from various products are constantly uploaded and routed through an automated workflow and delivered on time for integration into the product build processes.
Automated Product UI Translation at the Speed of Agile:
We translate every sprint deliverable:
- Development produces one translation drop per sprint.
- Localization translates every sprint deliverable, one sprint behind development (translates Sprint N-1).
Core translation activities are fully automated and transparent to the Agile process:
- Development uploads a drop (a translation package) to a translation portal at each sprint.
- Translation packages are routed through translation memory and machine translation engines.
- The translated material is post-edited by professional linguists and uploaded to the translation portal.
- Development downloads the translated packages and creates localized resource files ready for use.
The following figure shows the current product UI translation workflow:
Automated Product Wiki Translation on the Cloud (Lingotek Platform):
The Localization team translates every wiki deliverable that is tagged by IAs to be translated:
- The IA publishes drops to configured wiki spaces and provides turnover information to the Localization DM with each drop.
- The Localization DM kicks off the automated translation process, which includes post-editing by linguists.
- The TL makes post-editing assignments, monitors post editing status, and communicates progress.
- The Localization DM notifies the IA who in turn makes the space public.
The following figure shows a simplified translation workflow for the product documentation wiki:
Primarily, People Leaders (PLs) (formerly known as Resource Managers) ensure that IEs have the necessary tools to do their job, including time and access to appropriate Agile training. Additionally, PLs may share their own Agile knowledge and experiences with IEs and encourage IEs to share their Agile experiences with each other. PLs check for blockers and work closely with IAs to address obstacles. They encourage IEs to develop skills that make them more valuable to their scrum teams so that they can maximize their potential.
As the title indicates, this role is more focused on people development and support and less so on direct project work. So these folks have an indirect role on the success of scrum teams. PLs want to make sure every IE is in a position to succeed in an Agile environment. Doing so includes, but is not limited to, the following items:
- Provide a sounding board and support system
- Coach and support development and career goals
- Manage administrative tasks (time off, expenses, benefits, work-life balance, stress management, and performance management)
- Remove blockers and escalating issues (hardware, helpdesk)
- Broaden networks and connect stakeholders
- Provide critical information about the department and company
- Encourage innovation and challenge comfort zones
Next Steps: Continuous Improvement
We hope this article demonstrates how the CA Technologies Information Services team is positioned to create and curate streamlined, localized, and high-quality content while using the Agile Scrum methodology. Our strategy emphasizes foundational Agile skills, focuses on the individual's professional growth, and delivers content in modern and innovative ways. In the Agile spirit of continuous improvement, IEs can attend a monthly Agile Office Hours to share wins, ask questions, and learn from their peers. We look forward to continued growth and success.
Brian Everett is a Senior Principal Information Services Engineer focusing on the mainframe technology space. Over the last 20 years, Brian has worked as a technical writer and sustaining engineer for enterprise software and telecommunications products.
Lavanya Krishnamurthy is a Principal Information Services Engineer, responsible for establishing and executing the content strategy and execution for CA Service Management products. She has been at CA Technologies for 10 years.
Kader Mehidi is a Senior Principal Localization Engineer. He came to CA Technologies through the Niku acquisition in 2005, where he managed the Clarity Internationalization and Localization in 19 languages. Kader is a strong advocate for proper software internationalization and UI translation automation.
Tim Rapley is a Principal Information Services Engineer who has worked on CA Technologies enterprise security products for the past 13 years. Tim spent the balance of his 25-year writing career documenting networking, scientific visualization, and video editing software.