When Tesla launched a battery replacement warranty for the Model S, Elon Musk famously declared that products that need manuals to work are broken.
To be fair, the Tesla warranty package is nothing short of revolutionary: a loaner for the time your car sits at the service station, a no-questions-asked ownership of battery problems if any, and a commitment that Service will fix what’s broken, not profit from your woes.
But what if perfectly reliable machines do need manuals to work?
The truth is they do — they need them all the time — to work, fly, move earth, and haul hazardous cargo. And, regulators need to know if manufacturers are communicating best practices and mandatory guidelines through those manuals.
Customers want product and service literature too, largely, to make the most of their investments across the lifecycle. They’re increasingly demanding personalized content, seamlessly delivered via multiple channels with instantaneous responses in innovative ways. They’re coming from a buyer-beware world, where warranties were often trivialized, and manufacturers rejected claims at the slightest hint of what Service thought was non-compliance with standard operating procedure. Where does one look for standard operating procedure? Of course, in that thick-as-a-brick booklet locked up in the glove box!
Now that is about to change
Product literature is not just another box-item. As manufacturers come to terms with that reality, technical publications are witnessing a never before evolution curve. I think this long over-due change has opened up a spectrum of opportunities for manufacturers to enhance after-sales engagements and to drive growth through responsiveness. This is exactly what we help them do at our technical publication center with 500 qualified personnel and over 6 million authoring hours of combined experience.
Not surprisingly, the changes bring additional responsibilities on content creators. Especially when the content in question is critical to maintenance and product safety while also being subject to regulatory compliance. Earlier this year, at TC World India 2015, I was asked what drives our technical publication experts to exceed those stratospheric standards. Coming from an aspiring technical writer, that’s an extremely important question, both for him and service providers. According to a McKinsey Quarterly CEO Briefing, for those competing at the high-end of the labor market, a deficit of high-skill workers implies an intensifying global war for talent.
I understand that imbalances in expert pools could make it harder to find enough skilled engineers that can resolve some of the most complex issues with technical documentation. The long answer to that question is in the Competency lever of our Global Enterprise Model. It defines capabilities and their proficiency levels required to provide best-in-class services for specific business processes. Of course, training is a big part of the motivational mix. And for our clients, it’s only reassuring that the Brandon Hall Group recently honored the Capgemini University with a series of awards for accomplishments in delivering high quality learning programs. We also conduct an extensive boot-camp within our Enterprise Content Management practice for new recruits, facilitating technical and domain training.
But, the short answer is that our experts are experienced engineers, coached in a tech-powered atmosphere to take on client-facing roles, where they see the impact of outcomes — first hand. For instance, one of our teams just closed an Augmented Reality proof-of-concept that helps maintenance engineers pull up multiple data points on the functions, dependencies, and health of an aircraft part, all on a Tablet. Another team helped a construction equipment manufacturer’s engineers gain uniform access to their technical documentation across devices. These enablers present the potential to accelerate time-to-market and save precious millions for our clients. This is precisely what drives our experts.
And, it also makes me wonder what the next-generation technical manual would look like. Perhaps, it may not be a manual at all — definitely not as thick as a brick. In all likelihood, a voice-ready piece of software, reading straight out of your car’s infotainment system.