Quality, modular documentation.
Empowered adopts Adobe FrameMaker to eliminate redundant content work and speed up creating high-quality technical documentation.
Charlotte, North Carolina
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Authors produce content 2X faster, which enables them to spend more time on quality assurance
- Accelerate content creation and improve content quality
- Eliminate time-consuming, redundant, and error-prone manual workflows
- Establish a standardized, scalable, and sustainable process for content authoring and publishing
- Expand the business value of technical communications
- Authors produce content 2X faster, which enables them to spend more time on quality assurance
- Reusable modular content eliminates the need to maintain different documents for different audiences
- DITA XML optimizes content for technical publishing by using components and maps, which are easier to reuse and rearrange
- The technical communications team can engage more sources and adapt their content for wider company use
Employee benefits administration evolved
According to Empowered company lore, the first piece of technical documentation for its BeneFit Marketplace software was written on the back of a napkin.
“Empowered wanted to develop a convenient online benefits administration and enrollment platform for small businesses,” says Kelly McLean, Technical Training Lead, Empowered. “Our senior architect and our former Chief Creative Officer went to a restaurant one day, sketched out a concept, and began building it the next day.”
BeneFit Marketplace enables brokers, insurance carriers, and benefit consultants to build online resources where individuals and employers can shop for benefits. Sellers upload information such as rates, eligibility, and riders into the platform. HR managers can then build options for employer-sponsored health and voluntary benefits. Once employees view and compare plans, they can choose the one that best fits their needs.
One insurance carrier that used BeneFit Marketplace, Aflac, thought the one-stop online tool was so effective and convenient that it bought Empowered in 2015. Aflac rebranded BeneFit Marketplace as Everwell for internal use and then designated Empowered its official digital innovation center in 2017. The next year, Empowered proposed a platform redesign to Aflac in order to keep up with the ever-changing technology industry and to offer a more streamlined benefit enrollments process.
“As soon as product development started, we knew we needed a better way to author and publish technical content,” McLean says. "We immediately looked at Adobe FrameMaker."
“I ended up structuring two months' worth of content with Adobe FrameMaker in less than two weeks.”
Senior Content Writer, Empowered
Reusable, sustainable documentation
The next-generation software from Empowered, known internally as Everwell 2.0, will combine capabilities from BeneFit Marketplace with BenAdmin, the product Empowered launched in 2000 that large organizations use to manage employee benefits enrollment. The new platform will be industry- and carrier-agnostic and Empowered can offer it to organizations of all sizes (with the exception of Aflac’s direct competitors).
One main difference between new and old offerings is that Empowered will develop structured product documentation in tandem with the software. Previously, Empowered authored content such as feature process documentation with Microsoft Word. Collaborators typically worked on documents under development via email. Similarly, Empowered distributed final documents to internal and external stakeholders via email.
Empowered also maintained separate documentation for each user group. If anything in the carrier document changed, the three-person technical communications team had to make the same changes in the HR manager and employee documents.
“Even an apparently simple change could end up taking a lot of time,” says Marie Bodek, Senior Content Writer, Empowered. “Our team needed to reduce the hassle and time of redundant work.”
While researching technical documentation solutions, Bodek learned Adobe FrameMaker eliminates redundant authoring tasks by enabling efficient content reuse. It references (instead of replicates) source content using the DITA XML data model. Bodek was initially hesitant to pitch FrameMaker to company management because of its reputation as a DITA solution for big companies with large technical documentation teams. But properly supporting Empowered’s new product demanded better tools.
“Adobe FrameMaker is great for small teams, too,” Bodek says. “We wanted to make our publishing process more sustainable by harnessing DITA. The nature of our work, not the size of our team, justifies the purchase. The fact that FrameMaker is a good fit for companies of all sizes doesn't get talked about enough.”
Mastering DITA in FrameMaker
Before implementing Adobe FrameMaker, the Empowered technical communications team never used DITA. To help educate the team quickly, Empowered hired FrameMaker training experts from Publishing Smarter.
“Adobe FrameMaker provides Empowered with a foundation for modular, reusable content,” says Bernard Aschhwanden, President and Founder, Publishing Smarter. “Microsoft Word isn’t built for the kind of work the team envisioned. Adobe FrameMaker gives Empowered tools for creating structured DITA content that can be repurposed quickly and easily for multiple audiences and outputs."
Publishing Smarter condensed a three-day training course into two days to accommodate Empowered scheduling. The course provided enough knowledge to the technical communications team that it immediately began accelerating workflows.
More than 2X faster
In anticipation of its Adobe FrameMaker deployment and training, the Empowered team began stockpiling unstructured content. During training, the team estimated it would take about one month to convert it to DITA XML.
“I ended up structuring two months’ worth of content with Adobe FrameMaker in less than two weeks,” Bodek says. “That was on top editing and reviewing new material from the other writers, who got up to speed on FrameMaker after only a week.”
As the Empowered team extended its FrameMaker knowledge and experience, members began to discover favorite time-saving features, such as keyboard shortcuts, the structure view window, and content references (conrefs). Using conrefs, the Empowered technical documentation team can easily reference content from one DITA topic or map in another DITA topic. Assignments that once required two weeks to complete are done in half the time.
“Adobe FrameMaker gives Empowered tools for creating structured DITA content that can be reused quickly and easily for multiple audiences and outputs.”
President and Founder, Publishing Smarter
Elevating standards, expanding knowledge
Now that it can develop new content twice as fast, the Empowered technical communications team uses the time saved to reimagine processes and to develop standards that enhance content quality and consistency.
For example, instead of sending entire documents to various reviewers, such as the Aflac legal team or technical subject matter experts, the Empowered team can simply share relevant DITA topics. That has helped shorten review turnaround times from weeks to days.
The technical communications team is also working to capture more of the company’s institutional knowledge and share it with new audiences. A lot of it is still in the mind or on the hard drives of long-time company employees, so the team is gathering their information and building a knowledge base with Adobe FrameMaker.
“We’ve had a lot of people ask us how to do something or where to look it up, so we recently began authoring internal documentation with Adobe FrameMaker,” McLean says. “Now, if someone moves off a team or leaves the company, the information doesn’t go with them. From a training standpoint, we are also getting people like coders and business analysts up to speed on processes quicker.”
Preparing for publication
Now that the Empowered technical communications team created and formatted DITA content in Adobe FrameMaker, the company is focused on optimizing publication. Only Empowered and Aflac audiences have had access to information through Sharepoint and Confluence. The next step is to acquire a component content management system (CCMS). It would enable the technical communications team to manage, organize, and publish its new DITA content at the component level.
“Adobe FrameMaker gives Empowered the ability to execute multichannel publishing,” Bodek says. “Once we told Aflac that we could deliver content to any device and any screen size at any time in PDF or HTML5, they asked how quickly we could brand it. Not being a coder, it was great to find out that I could go into the FrameMaker template, add a few color codes, and call it a day.”
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