5 Best Practices for Creating Successful Software Documentation

Imparting user knowledge can be time consuming and work intensive. From introducing a user to a software product to training a new employee in a companyall this can be an immense but above all avoidable burden on customer support, IT support and key users. 

This burden becomes avoidable with the help of successful software documentation. Ideally, it enables the user to obtain the required user knowledge independently and without further questions. This does not only relieve the responsible departments, but also ensures smooth software operation and can increase user satisfaction.

But what makes a successful software documentation? We have compiled five best practices to help you create software documentation that everyone understands:

Successful Software Documentation in 5 Steps

  1. What is the problem? Find out which recurring problems you can solve effectively with software documentation.
  2. Who needs help? Identify your target group to determine the level of detail of your guide.
  3. Which form is appropriate? Step-by-step instructions vs. user manuals.
  4. How do I create a successful step-by-step guide? A smooth transfer from problem to solution.
  5. How do I know if the software documentation is easy to understand? Reflection and testing.

What is the problem? Find out which recurring problems you can solve effectively with software documentation.

The successful transfer of user knowledge requires a precise identification of the problem. For instance, it should be identified whether the problem is a recurring one or whether it is an individual case. If the problem occurs frequently, a company’s IT support can be significantly unburdened by comprehensible software documentation.

The same applies for the onboarding process of employees. Nowadays, employee transfers in companies are only a matter of time. The training of new team members is time-consuming and can be carried out much more efficiently with step-by-step instructions. In addition, comprehensible software documentation can make an important contribution to maintaining employee knowledge. Just because a member leaves the team doesn’t mean that their knowledge has to!

Who needs help? Identify your target group to determine the level of detail of your guide.

Once you identified the problem you want to create a solution for, it is important to determine the target group for your software documentation. You should be clear about who you are passing the information on to, to ensure that you start at the appropriate level with the software documentation. How much competence can be expected, for instance, from a customer so that the software documentation helps him or her to solve the problem independently? The more limited the existing user knowledge of the users, the more detailed the step-by-step instructions should be. Even those steps that seem unnecessary for the expert need to be recorded in detail. You should pay attention to similar scenarios when onboarding a new team member to ensure a smooth introduction process.

Briefly put, you should pay close attention to the target audience of your software documentation to ensure that you are assuming the right level of knowledge. This is certainly not an easy task, however, once the information about the target audience is available, it will help you a lot in creating your successful software documentation.

The bottom line is to keep your software documentation as simple as possible and as detailed as necessary, regardless of the audience targeted.

Which form is appropriate? Step-by-step instructions vs. user manuals.

Software documentations come in different types and forms, all of which aim to explain and make software available to developers, users and end users. At miraminds we are particularly concerned with conveying user knowledge by means of step-by-step instructions generated by our documentation software FlowShare.

Why step-by-step instructions? Because this form of software documentation conveys user knowledge exactly when it is needed––namely along the workflow. While user manuals are often detailed and comprehensive in content, they are also more labor-intensive both to create and to navigate. The longer it takes to find a solution in a user manual, the more likely the user will look for solutions elsewhere. Not only does this indicate that the goal of the software documentation, namely self-help by the user, hasn’t been met. It also means that the creator of the user manual may have put a lot of time and effort into this documentation––and ultimately wasted it.

How do I create a successful step-by-step guide? A smooth transfer from problem to solution.

Back to the main subject, the creation of your step-by-step guide. After successfully identifying the problem and the target group, you should now have an overview of where the guide takes off and where it should lead. In the next step, it is important to make this “journey” as smooth as possible, whereby the content and visual design of your software documentation comes into play.

As far as content is concerned, it is important to ensure, as mentioned above, that there are no gaps that could leave the user behind. In addition, the formal structure of your step-by-step instructions should be coherent and logical. This concretely means that individual steps, e.g. screenshots, should be in the correct order and there should be no major jumps.

While the exact visual design of your software documentation is of course a matter of taste, the core concern is to present content in a clear and appealing way. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words: The good thing about software documentation tools such as FlowShare is that the screenshot itself provides information about the step that is to be followed. It can be off-putting for the user if the documentation is overloaded with text. Again, there is a risk that a faster and more convenient solution is sought elsewhere. For instance through the IT support – something that was intended to be avoided through your software documentation.

How do I know if the software documentation is easy to understand? Reflection and testing.

People who are occupied with a specific subject for a period of time know the problem: At some point you can no longer see the forest for the trees. This can happen in any context and just as easily when creating software documentation. 

 

Especially where there is a large discrepancy between the knowledge of the documentation author and the target group, what can can happen is that, despite meticulous analysis, certain knowledge is taken for granted. As mentioned before, a documentation that seems conclusive to the creator is not necessarily comprehensible to the user. In this case it helps to get a fresh pair of eyes to test the effect of the documentation.

Ideally, your test subject is someone who is not already familiar with your software. This way, you can make sure that your software documentation serves its purpose, namely to make the software in question accessible to the user – without additional help.

In Sum...

In order to create successful software documentation, some groundwork is required. Once you are aware of what exactly it is you want to communicate and to whom, you will have the basis for successful software documentation in no time. What’s more: For the work you put into your step-by-step instructions you’ll save a lot of effort, time and money in other areas and make future business processes be it IT or customer support or training new employees much more efficient.

Finally, for those of you who get a headache when thinking about creating software documentation by hand, there are good news. With our documentation software FlowShare you have the possibility to create step-by-step instructions without much effort and up to 9 times faster than by manually creating and individually editing single screenshots.

See for yourself! Download FlowShare today and test it for 14 days without obligations and free of charge.

 

A compass for successful workplace learning: Mosher’s “5 Moments of need” model

compass

A guest article by Bernd Binzenbach

There is no question that orientation in today’s dynamic and complex business world is becoming increasingly difficult. Corporate learning is no exception: agile, efficient, close to the workplace, self-directed and of course digital – these are just some of the demands that corporate learning faces. A compass for business learning would be helpful, which steers through the ocean of change – especially against the background of constantly new emerging trends and technical promises.

The US-Americans Gottfredson and Mosher created with the “5 Moments of Need” a simple model that (among others) is capable of providing such a compass. As the core of the model, the two have identified five different contexts in which workplace learning mainly takes place. This offers an important orientation for providing and combining the right learning formats for the respective purpose.

What do these five different occasions for in-company learning look like, for example in relation to software? And what does software documentation like FlowShare has to do with them?

The „5 Moments of Need“

  1. Learning something completely new
  2. Applying something
  3. Solving a problem
  4. Something changes
  5. Learn more about something

1. Learning something completely new

This is about the critical points for success. The goal is not “learning on stock” in the form of a flood of functions, but orientation and the acquisition of basic processes.

A practical example is the “onboarding” of employees: With FlowShare, uniform instructions can be created click by click in no time at all, which even employees without special computer knowledge can understand.

Thus, learning and practice merge, classical trainings can often be considerably shortened or completely replaced – by such step-by-step instructions, tutorials, webinars, accompanying communication. The prerequisite is that such aids are provided at the time of practical application (see also point 2). And of course, aspects such as the questions of relevance and added value must not be forgotten.

2. Applying something

In addition to basic prior knowledge, it is crucial to support the users directly in their everyday life, at the moment of application (“on demand”), when things get serious. It is almost impossible to learn the variety of options and processes within a software in stock for the case of emergency. Especially when individual functionalities are only seldomly used.

As mentioned above, this is where FlowShare shows its strengths: Step-by-step instructions, use cases, process aids, “how-to” guides, sample examples or templates are created in no time and without any special previous knowledge. In the form of a wiki, for example, a whole collection of use cases can easily be created, which can be used and even maintained independently by all employees – knowledge exchange par excellence.

3. Solving a problem

In fact, this is a special case of “applying”: users need support especially when an unexpected problem occurs and their productivity is threatened.

Accordingly, the use of FlowShare including examples can be easily transferred from the application (point 2) to this point. But a very special added value should not remain unmentioned: the so-called “Augmented Workflow”. Based on the data from FlowShare, miraminds’ second application FlowGuide guides users directly in the relevant software (e.g. SAP) through the process and indicates step by step what needs to be done.

Independent of this, additional help such as contact details of experts or the helpdesk, a community of practice or “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) can provide support.

4. Something changes

In this case it is crucial – assuming the appropriate prior knowledge – to provide precise information about modified versions, functions or processes.

These targeted updates can also be created and published again in the form of step-by-step instructions, use cases, process aids, “how-to” guides, sample examples or templates using FlowShare, or stored directly in the relevant software using FlowGuide.

5. Learn more about something

This requires breadth and depth, specialist knowledge and special functions, the ability to deal with unique challenges and background information. Often the desire to learn more is associated with the wish for an expert status.

Typical learning formats are: Intensive courses (face-to-face, online), digital self-study programs or courses, videos, books, support by mentors and experts, tips & tricks. FlowShare plays a special role here, when prospective experts not only learn on the basis of special use cases, but create them themselves using FlowShare and make them available to users.

What are the potentials of the model?

The “5 Moments of Need” help to select learning formats that are appropriate for the respective learning context and to limit the effort to exactly the right level. They promote a more differentiated view of the target group(s): Newcomers to a field require different, more extensive learning offers than “old hands” who may be faced with a few innovations.

But the greatest value is certainly that everything revolves around practical application. Thus a frequent point of criticism of traditional professional training is taken up: Participants fall back relatively quickly to their original level of competence after formal learning measures if what has been learned is not applied: the “forgetting curve” occurs. By extending or shifting learning to work processes, the competence level can be increased in the long term, which is why this model is often referred to as “performance support”. In addition, formal learning measures can be significantly ” slimmed down ” by concentrating on the points critical to success.

In this respect, the “5 Moments of Need” are in fact a kind of compass that helps to better understand and optimally design corporate learning. The model is by no means limited to the IT sector, but can be transferred to any content. And it offers an additional advantage not to be underestimated: The implementation is possible with the simplest means, as the use of FlowShare shows. Give it a try!

About the author:

Bernd Binzenbach Bernd Binzenbach holds a master’s degree in eEducation and has been working in the field of Learning & Development for over 20 years. He shares his experience from leading positions in global companies through development programs, workshops and concept and strategy consulting – and has a special passion: to maximize the effectiveness of education. Especially the reflective use of digital learning formats plays an important role for him.

Contact: LinkedIn profile of Bernd Binzenbach and Twitter profile (@binzenbach1)

What is Software documentation?

Software documentation – what is that actually?

Simple question, simple solution: just ask Wikipedia. If you go to the website of the online encyclopedia you will find: “Software documentation is written text or illustration that accompanies computer software.

Hm.
Well, maybe it is not that simple after all. Given this unsatisfactory explanation, it’s time to take a closer look: what is really behind the term software documentation?

The goal of software documentation is the recording of digital processes. These records contain comprehensive information and can explain to developers or users, for example, how software works, how it was developed or how to use it.
However, this makes things even more complex: Behind “software documentation” there are various sub-areas from programming documentation to data and user documentation. These vary in their target groups (programmers, colleagues, customers) and forms of documentation (user manuals, knowledge bases, step-by-step instructions).

A rough distinction can be made between:

  • Project documents from developers, which describe when/how/how/what/why/with/why software was created and which go into detail about the technical background of software.

and

  • System documents that explain the functions and results of software and explain its operation to users.

Particularly important for companies is the system documentation for end users, that is the explanation of the functions of software for its users. The goal is to provide comprehensive user assistance: to guide users through the process, to address their problems directly, and to provide them with effective, long-term help in using the software.

Document for whom?

Software documentation enables the transfer of information either between employees within a company or to the outside of the company. The target group can be, for example, customers or users who have questions or need application help with software. Documentation provides them with quick and targeted solutions to help themselves and work successfully.

On the other hand, user documentation is also used internally in the company – to familiarize new employees with existing systems, to introduce new software into the company or to generally support the use of digital tools in the company. Software documentation can also be used, for example, to quickly and sustainably complete vacation handovers or support requests to the IT department. Further use cases can also be found on our website, likewise detailed case studies.
Documentation often makes everyday life in companies significantly easier and enables the successful transfer of information between people.

Once completed, documentation can take various forms, such as step-by-step instructions, online help or screencasts – but they all have one thing in common: they must be user-friendly.
And that’s often where the problems start. Creating software documentation yourself and without help is not that easy. Anyone who has ever documented for colleagues or customers knows how time-consuming manual documentation can be.

And there’s more…

That’s why we’re not stopping here: a blog entry rarely comes alone and you can find more parts of our software documentation series on our blog.
We introduce you to various tools for documenting software and what possibilities there are to make your life easier when documenting. Which vendors are on the market? What makes them special and which tool is suitable for your individual purpose?

In the third part of the series, we introduce you to the successful use of documentation and the tips and tricks to be considered. In the end, nothing should stop you from creating your own software documentation and you will be able to effectively share user information with others.

Create resources and establish structures with FlowShare: Bauvista case study

The Bauvista case study tells the story of a rapidly growing company with a great need for documentation, which uses FlowShare in its very own way.

They represent a strong community: Bauvista is one of the largest purchasing cooperatives for DIY stores and building materials retailers in Germany. The company is growing and currently cooperates with more than 700 specialist stores – and therefore has plenty to do. In coordinating across Germany, there is a lot of work to be done in the IT department. For example, if users want to use the company’s own accounting program or the PIM system, they need help.

The problem: Three tracks and too little time

This is where Thorsten Räker and the team from Bauvista’s IT department come into play. They regularly produce instructions for software users. In the past, they have followed three tracks for this. Räker explains: First, they created user manuals, for example for the company’s shareholders, “with proper Word templates”. Second, internally PowerPoint was used to “show something on the wall” and third, Bauvista also has a wiki where the respective instructions were also published.

“When things went badly, we had a Word version on the outside, a PowerPoint on the inside and another documentation in the wiki.”

The result was: A lot of work. The trinity of documentation cost Bauvista’s IT a lot of time, which in turn was lacking in other areas. At the same time, there was a lack of uniformity and structure: Sometimes it was “topsy-turvy”, because structures in the company did not always grow with the rapid company growth. When things had to be done quickly, documentation requirements were not met. The result was a rag rug. In clear language Räker: “When you maintain a wiki, one person takes this headline, another those, the next makes it colourful – and in the end it looks terrible”.

Individual solution: Export directly to the company wiki and test documentation with FlowShare

When the DSGVO became effective in 2018, Bauvista’s IT staff decided to change something about documentation – and came across FlowShare. Thorsten Räker tested the free version and was quickly familiarized with it. “After a quarter of an hour it was actually clear how it works.” For him this makes it especially interesting: “Because it doesn’t have so much bells and whistles and “chichi”, but instead there is simply a rule where content is placed and how texts and pictures are displayed. That’s very pleasant from the user’s point of view.”

The software is particularly well suited to Bauvista because of its numerous possibilities: Whether Powerpoint, Pdf or HTML, all use cases are combined in one tool. “If you want to make it nice, you can export a Powerpoint and have fun with the 1000 Microsoft Office fonts. And if I need a manual, you can do it in Word.” However, the HTML export is particularly exciting for Räker itself. Bauvista employees have used it to build their very own application: Thanks to an adjustment in the sharepoint, FlowShare HTML text can now be copied one-to-one into the page structure. After inserting and saving, the complete manual is uploaded fully formatted to the company wiki within seconds.

“Then we used FlowShare to fill up the entire wiki pages.”

The predefined structure of FlowShare establishes a uniform form of instructions – adapted to the corporate identity of Bauvista. If required, instructions can still be freely formatted with the PowerPoint or Word export. The HTML export has established itself in everyday life: This is the “fast, practical approach”.

 

Then Bauvista applies FlowShare in another use case: in the application development. In test runs, Bauvista employees let FlowShare run on the side. If error messages appear when clicking through, the testers can easily generate a Pdf and send it to the developer. “He can directly follow the click path. You don’t have to run over and point here, there and there every time.”

Result: 90 percent time savings and resources for growth

Räker sums up: “FlowShare is a tool that enables very simple documentation and test documentation. It is very intuitive to learn: for anyone who is not IT-affine as well”.

 

At the same time, the time savings for Bauvista’s information technology are enormous. No more screenshots, no more uploading manually “When I used to work on a relatively complex documentary, I might have spent two days on it. Today, especially with the sharepoint solution, it’s no longer 1.5 hours. You can’t get it any more simple in that area.”

This is good for everyone: IT no longer has to spend the whole day dealing with documentation and can use its time more efficiently. This means that FlowShare is already freeing up internal resources at Bauvista. The company wants to expand this further: In the future they want to work even more with FlowShare across departments: “We want to get away from isolated solutions that are prevailing across departments,” says Räker. With FlowShare, IT can instead establish a uniform and functioning structure.

Räker: “That’s how we got from the three-track system to a smooth solution.”

Image Sources: Bauvista GmbH & Co. KG

E-Mail: info(at)bauvista.de
Internet: www.bauvista.de
Bauvista GmbH & Co. KG
Triftenstr. 115
D-32791 Lage

Organize Knowledge: Databases and Helpdesks

Share user knowledge internally and externally

The world around us is becoming increasingly complex, digital and fast. The range of things we are dealing with is getting wider and wider. This is why there are more and more experts who have a lot of specialized knowledge in their fields.
The key challenge in this world is the successful transfer of information between experts and those who need the information. Such an exchange requires an organized structure: a database in which information can be 1. stored and 2. retrieved in an orderly fashion.

Especially with regard to digital structures and IT problems, communication otherwise quickly ends in chaos. Did you know that studies show that the IT department in companies spends 30% of its time answering support requests from employees or customers? This is inefficient and costs time, money and creates stress. At the same time, good customer support significantly increases the overall quality of your business.

That’s why companies, whether small, medium or large, always need an orderly channel through which information is transmitted. In this article we will show you how to organize your information exchange in databases or a helpdesk.

What is a helpdesk or a database?

Both, knowledge databases and helpdesks, store special knowledge in a structured way and make it accessible for users. At the same time, users can submit new requests for help and ask for solutions.

There are two main target groups for these databases:

  • Knowledge databases (or knowledge bases) for internal user in the company
  • Helpdesks for support requests from external users, for example customers

What do I need this for?

1. Efficiency

Helpdesks and knowledge bases can significantly increase efficiency in companies. Problems are solved faster and more cost-effectively: Through the organized channel instead of countless phone calls, e-mails or portal messages. In addition, a constant repetition of the same calls is eliminated.

A good helpdesk makes an enormous difference in the number of calls made. One example is Deutsche Bahn. With the establishment of a new helpdesk, the so-called “Unified Enterprise Mobility Management”, Deutsche Bahn has reduced the monthly number of calls from mobile device users from 2100 to 210. The costs of this support offer were thus reduced by 75%.

2. External: Increased quality

A helpdesk is an elementary part of your customer relationship management (CRM). It makes you as a company accessible to your customers, makes you a contact person and problem solver. This generates a high level of satisfaction, increases the perceived quality of your offer and binds customers to the company in the long term.

Studies show that almost all customers accept good knowledge databases: 91% of all respondents say they want to use a knowledge database if it meets their needs. 67% even prefer the self-service option to talking to a customer service representative.

3.Internal: Standardized processes and resource gains

A knowledge database supports internal processes within the company: It relieves much consulted experts, such as the IT department. The IT experts can answer support queries in a compressed form via the knowledge database. This saves time and resources that can be used for more strategic tasks.

4. Internal: Knowledge Backup

In studies 38% of firm respondents stated that much or even all information would be lost if they left the company immediately. That demonstrates that knowledge of employees leaving the firm is often not well or insufficiently secured. With a structured, high-quality knowledge database, knowledge remains available to the company even when employees leave the firm. New colleagues can acquire know-how independently using the available material.

5. Organisation

In a database or a helpdesk, important information is centralized and accessible for everyone. This way, all employees in the company are actively involved: they can help themselves more easily and are more independent of experts. This is of immense value and promotes interaction, innovation and initiative.

How do I set it up?

The development of a knowledge database is mainly divided into three steps:

  1. Analysis: Collect data
  2. Select a tool provider
  3. Create tickets

1.      Collect Data

Define goals: Which requirements should the helpdesk meet? Which areas should it cover and which features should it have (tickets, live chat, forum…)?

Define target group: For whom is the support intended? What knowledge does the group have and through what channels does it seek support?

Analysis: Where are the problems, what kind of questions do users have? Which problems are particularly common? What are their causes? Which processes do users perform particularly frequently? Which requests have been recently submitted by customers or employees?

Then you create a list of the most important tickets to be created and divide them into meaningful areas.

It is possible, for example, to divide the list into sections:

  • Time of the need for support (first steps, start, in-depth use)
  • Software (in the company: Questions about different applications in different categories)
  • Different use cases
  • Customer groups
  • Prices, application, administration, troubleshooting

Of course, you must define individually for yourself which structure makes sense for you and your company, taking into account your target group and work area.

2.      Select a tool provider

Of course, you can also create your own website to provide customer or employee support. However, the use of specialized help desk software has proven to be a good solution. This software helps to track, prioritize and resolve support requests (so-called tickets) from customers through its provided structures.

When building a good support system, the choice of a good tool is fundamental. There are numerous providers on the market that offer a wide range of features for varying prices. Many providers also provide a basic version of their software free of charge. In many cases it is worth testing this before buying the extended version of the software: This way you can check in advance if the product meets your requirements.

Possible features according to which you can select the software according to your needs:

  • Adaptable to your requirements?
  • Live chat possible?
  • Integration of your existing channels (Facebook/ Twitter/ etc.) possible?
  • Compatibility with your software?
  • Ease of use and intuitive operation?
  • Customer surveys possible?
  • Including a user forum?
  • Task management possibilities?
  • Analysis tools (statistics, usage reports)?
  • Price?

When making your selection, you should always keep in mind the future users of the support on the one hand and the support desk agents who will operate the support desk on the other.

Some of the largest providers on the market are:

… but there are many others.
You can find current comparisons of the best helpdesk software providers on the Internet and in trade magazines, where you can search for the best solution for your needs, individually adapted to your requirements.

3.      Create tickets

Then it’s time to get down to business: creating your tickets and uploading them to your database.

There are a few things you should keep in mind – Checklist for your tickets:

  • As short as possible, as long as necessary?
  • Question words (Who, Where, How, When, Why) answered?
  • Clear structure? (enumeration, numbering or step by step explanations)
  • Clarity: paragraphs added and important things highlighted?
  • All technical terms and abbreviations explained?
  • No prior knowledge required?
  • Read and understood by external users (test users)?
  • Supported with pictures/screenshots/graphics but not overloaded?
  • Linked to further tickets?

In addition to the tickets that you create in advance, you should also make one or more employees responsible for processing incoming tickets. They will answer further user questions that go beyond the available information in the database and thus constantly expand your support service.

Which mistakes should I avoid?

When creating a helpdesk or a knowledge base there are a few mistakes that you should definitely avoid:

  • Outdated content
    Nothing is worse than a support description that doesn’t help me because it is outdated – due to updates, new developments or something else. That’s why it’s essential that you manage your help center at least occasionally after it has been set up and update it whenever changes occur.
  • Unclear content
    The second big faux pas: I, as a user, visit your helpdesk, find exactly the topic I need – but do not understand the content because it is not well described. This frustrates and creates dissatisfaction, which is projected onto your company. That’s why you should keep your tickets as simple as possible, start at the very bottom of the basics and take all users with you! If I as a user can skip something because I already know it, that’s not so bad. But if I miss something important, the whole helpdesk becomes useless for me.
  • Unclear structures and categories
    The best content in your database is of no use to your users if it cannot be found. That’s why you should give your categories and tickets meaningful names and create a clear, concise structure.
  • Promises that are not kept
    When users submit tickets, they expect a response from a support center. Delayed orders and lost tickets make users feel that they have been let down. In the IT Excellence Benchmark (ITEB), 22% of respondents said they were not kept up to date while their problems were being resolved – avoid this, be available and answer urgent tickets if you consider this part of your service.

Additional tips

What else can you do?

  • Give your users the choice: Offer your answer in several formats. Then your users can choose, for example, between text instructions, a video link and pdf instructions for download.
  • Don’t forget internal acceptance: Measure the use of and satisfaction with your helpdesk to create the basis for your work internally as well. Concrete figures prove the indispensability of your support efforts.
  • Optimize also in the mobile view. Today mobile is no longer an option, but a necessity that should not be ignored.
  • Don’t leave your helpdesk alone even after the installation! Analyze its use, which tickets are requested, which terms are searched for, where comments are made and where improvements may be necessary. Because: Feedback is a gift! Accept it and optimize your structures.
  • Let users join the game: Forums and user-help-user facilities can take a lot of work off your shoulders – and sometimes other users can explain solutions much better than the experts might be able to.
  • Last but not least: Pay attention to quality. Especially in support, quality prevails over quantity. In times of the internet, we are drowning in information but lack really relevant knowledge. Better do less, but do it well!

For us, as developers of documentation software, the topic of information management is indispensable. We are glad that FlowShare has already helped many companies successfully to share information efficiently within the company and to build up knowledge databases. You can read an example case here.

We hope you enjoy implementing our tips and wish you success in developing your own knowledge base!

5 reasons why you should start documenting software

Miraminds often refers to one thing: software documentation. Read here why we are so convinced of recording digital processes and why you too should start with it:

Software documentation is the process of recording digital processes in order to explain how software works, how it was developed or how to operate it.
The finished documentation is often addressed to colleagues or customers and can have a variety of formats: From user manuals, knowledge bases and company wikis to individual step-by-step instructions.

But why should you do this at all?

5 reasons why you should also document software:

  1. Successful onboarding of new employees
  2. Implement new software effectively
  3. Reduce support costs
  4. Empower software users in the long term
  5. Sell software – communicate benefits

1. Successful onboarding of new employees

Imagine a new employee coming into your company. It is the first week, everything is new – administrative structures, use of the company’s own software, work-related IT processes.

It is essential to provide the new colleague with the tools she needs to get her work done: precise software instructions and documentation of everyday processes. These offer new employees an overview and the possibility to look up processes.

On the one hand, software documentation enables new colleagues to work. On the other hand, the instructions give them a feeling of appreciation and involvement. They are directly regarded as part of the team and are provided with the information they need to fully participate.

Onboarding also includes the transfer of information between colleagues: For example, when colleagues are on vacation, they must be given details of the process flows in order to adequately replace the absent team members. Information on digital processes in particular can be passed on very well with the help of documentation. Carlos Leber from the Limbach Group reports that his FlowShare documentation was received “very well” by his colleagues.

2. Implement new software effectively

The opposite case is that not new employees come to your company, but instead the software changes: Software evolves, new features go along with updates and often entire existing systems in companies have to be converted.

This involves risks: Not without reason the boss of the Liqui-Moly company, Ernst Prost, said 2019 that a software changeover is “worse than Brexit, Trump and trade war“. The motor oil company had suffered a 30 percent drop in profits in 2019 due to a change of its ERP system – because the conversion had not worked as smoothly as it should have.

The example shows how important it is to implement new software carefully and to take all employees along with you during this change. Colleagues need to be trained in the use of the new software at an early stage and be given the opportunity to look up new procedures if necessary.

The insurance company BDAE, for example, managed the changeover to a new database system with the help of software documentation using FlowShare. The documentation quickly spread the user knowledge on how to work with the new system and thus enabled all employees to work successfully with the new structures.

3. Reduce support costs

Software documentation can make a significant contribution to relieving the burden on IT and guaranteeing efficient support. Particularly with increasing digitalization, the IT in many companies must deliver top performance – and is chronically understaffed at the same time. As a result, IT experts spend an average of 30% of their time providing technical support for colleagues or customers – time that is then lacking to implement technical innovations.

Software documentation helps to reduce this time. Especially when using efficient documentation tools, the workload for IT is reduced enormously. It does not have to explain processes again and again, but can create documentation once and thus reach many users simultaneously. If the documentation is clearly stored and easily accessible, users receive immediate help exactly when they need it.

In addition, documentation is a good reminder when direct support has been provided. For example, Kapsch uses software documentation during helpdesk calls when service desk employees show users the solution to a problem. This makes IT support more sustainable: users who have forgotten the solution from the support call can simply look it up again. The document can also be made available to other employees with the same problem. In this way, software documentation reduces the number of support calls and support costs.

4. Empower software users in the long term

Software documentation empowers employees. It serves as a reminder, enables employees to carry out tasks independently and eliminates the need to constantly ask colleagues or superiors: “How exactly did that work? – “Could you help me with this later?”

With their compressed information, documentations also function as mnemonic aids for your own processes. Especially concerning processes that are executed less frequently you often don’t feel as confident as with those that you do every day. To avoid having to start from “zero” every time you perform these tasks, it is worthwhile to briefly record the processes.

Another advantage is that each employee can view documentation at his or her own pace and at any time. If information is also provided in various formats, as our Flowshare customer Scopevisio does it, for example, users can help themselves individually. They use the type and format that suits them best and are thus more likely to be successful: whether with printed manuals in combination with virtual wikis, or with videos in combination with step-by-step click instructions.

In addition: when users work out their own solutions to problems with the help of documentation, they often learn much more effectively than when they are presented with the answer from the IT support team. Documentation promotes the independence of users – not only internally within the company, but also in external communication. The IT company IPD NOW, for example, has set up a comprehensive wiki with software documentation that enables its customers to help themselves.

5. Sell software - communicate benefits

Software products are often relatively abstract goods – sometimes it is not so easy to present the advantages of a certain software solution quickly and clearly. What makes your solution special? What are its capabilities and why is it better than those of its competitors?

Software documentation can also be useful here: With documentation you can help customers to understand your product better. Workflows illustrate how software is used and what your USP is. Step by step, customers can follow how work processes run in your software.

If your product is then used by the customer, the documentation can explain the tool to the customer in more detail: For example, the consultant Wolfram von Rotberg uses software documentation to explain the activities of ERP software such as Navision or Axapta to his customers step by step.

Extra: Communicate processes also in the home office

In this March 2020 everything is a bit different and the world is in uproar: the Corona crisis is affecting people’s working and living environments. This includes the fact that due to the risk of infection, many employees stay in the home office instead of going to work.

Software documentation can also be helpful for your home office. Because especially when you are not in the office, it is sometimes more difficult to understand work processes. To illustrate processes to colleagues or customers, it helps to prepare a short documentation. This way, workflows can be given for discussion, results can be communicated in the team and handovers can be designed comfortably from home.

Tools for software documentation

After all the arguments for the documentation of software processes, the all-decisive question remains: And how should this be done?

You are by no means left on your own, but have a whole range of tools to choose from: With our documentation software FlowShare you can automatically create step-by-step instructions. Snagit byTechsmith is a professional screenshot creation tool. In fact, most Windows users have the Windows Problem Step Recorder pre-installed – and these are just a few of the many solutions. For a detailed overview of documentation tools on the market, please visit our blog. There you will find tips on which software is best suited to your needs.

We also want to give you some practical tips: Here we show you in 5 steps how to create successful documentation. If you have any tips or comments of your own, please let us know – we wish you good luck with your documentation!

Capture knowledge: Knowledge management with the company wiki

How can knowledge be successfully kept & passed on in the company? One option is a company wiki. How that looks like and what your wiki should be able to do:

Knowledge is one of the most valuable resources in a company. A treasure that should be managed appropriately. Because: If employees leave, knowledge will leave with them. And if new colleagues arrive, they need to be trained quickly and smoothly. In the same way, existing employees often need support with tasks that are not part of their daily routine. In addition, as the degree of digitalization increases, so does the complexity of requirements in companies. Processes change and require specialized knowledge. That’s why there exist company wikis (also: enterprise wikis). But how does such a wiki look like and how do you build it up properly?

What a Fimenwiki must be able to do.

A well-designed company wiki covers all the important processes of a company. It is therefore a collection in which all functionalities necessary for the company operations are listed.

The goal is to turn implicit knowledge into explicit knowledge. Even processes that are known to employees are listed in the company wiki – this is the only way new colleagues have access to the information and forgotten work processes can be remembered.

The four main functions of wikis.

The main functions of company wikis are:

  1. Analysis of knowledge
  2. Structuring of knowledge
  3. Knowledge extension
  4. Access to and transfer of knowledge

The term knowledge here includes experience, networks, skills and contacts. It is a colourful collection of exactly those pieces of information that are necessary for coping with the tasks in the company.

According to experts, the use of wikis is particularly useful in knowledge-intensive companies and in “companies where the majority of employees have access to a computer”. In the digital age, this applies to almost all companies, with 95 percent of companies stating that they work with computers.

Company wikis are therefore an issue for all of us and are by no means just a topic for large corporations. Even small companies face the challenge of having to maintain knowledge. Because when experts leave the company without documenting their knowledge, it is often too late. Then knowledge that has been built up over a long period of time must be laboriously developed anew.

The successful company wiki.

Therefore, company wikis should be well-structured from the beginning and regularly maintained and updated. Then they can have a considerable added value for the company. A good wiki enables employees to help themselves. It saves costs, increases productivity and creates liberty.

Your own Wiki does not have to become a Wikipedia – probably the most famous Wiki of all. However, it should cover the most important company functions and have a practical use for its users. The key to this is user acceptance: without that, the wiki is useless. If, for example, its use is complicated, the platform is confusing or the input of new content is time-consuming, the wiki is useless. Employees will not use it and it causes costs instead of benefits. That is why it is important to involve all colleagues in the process of knowledge management and to find a suitable solution together.

For example, the checklist “successful company wiki” asks in one point: “Could you hang up a 5-meter-long banner in the hallway on which “Can be found in the wiki.” is written and all employees would understand it? For a good wiki it is essential that all colleagues understand the tool and know how to reach it if necessary.

Utilization and maintenance as easy as possible

It is essential for your company wiki to be as simple as possible. It should take as much work off its users as possible and invite them to visit and use it. This requires clarity and a good search function so that people seeking help can quickly find a solution to their problem. Content must be presented in a comprehensible and clear way, for example by integrating media such as pictures or videos. In addition, the content should be complete, correct and up-to-date. On the other hand, the use should be made easy also for the content maintainers of the information. The input of content should be fast and not require expert knowledge – if a wiki is needed for the application of the wiki itself, the purpose of the medium is taken ad absurdum.

A current trend, also particularly with wikis, is the user-generated content approach. This means that no employees who are not centrally responsible for the IT support create the contributions in the wiki. Instead, the actual users of certain processes create these contributions. Through their personal work, these experts have a better insight into the topics concerned. In view of more and more decentralized companies and increased specialization, unique expertise can only be captured with the help of user-generated content. This, in turn, has an impact on how you build your wiki. The usage must be inclusive enough to allow all potential content creators to work with it.

 

In short: Characteristics of a good company wiki

  • Acceptance by the employees
    • Involvement of colleagues in planning and building the wiki
    • Employees know about the wiki and its use
  • Completeness: coverage of all important corporate functions
  • Correctness of the information
  • Up-to-dateness: Regular maintenance and updates
  • Simplicity and quick help
    • Comprehensibility of the contents
    • Good visualization with supporting graphics
    • Diversity in the media use (text, image, video, download, Pdf, PPP …)
    • Clarity
    • Search function
  • Easy operation and maintenance
    • Comprehensibility of the wiki usage
    • No time needed to create entries
    • Access for all relevant employees

If you now say to yourself: That’s all fine – but how to put all this into practice? – don’t worry. In our next blog post, we introduce you to concrete software tools that you can use to create your own company wiki.

Successful software documentation in five steps – with a bonus

You know about software documentation and its numerous applications? And you have an overview of helpful tools for creating step-by-step instructions?
Then you can almost start with the documentation! But before that, you should be aware of a few important steps and tips and tricks.
These will help you in the planning and creation of documentation and maximize its benefits.

What characterizes a good software documentation?

Very straightforward: It does not convey what you want to say, but what the user wants to know.

The user is always at the centre and user-friendliness is the top priority. The aim of all documentation is to close the gap between the user’s previous knowledge and the way he or she deals with problems, and in this way to successfully guide the user towards a solution. In the creation process, you should go through several steps:

Softwaredokumentationen bauen

5 steps to successful documentation:

  1. Analysis
  2. Target group
  3. Selection of the form
  4. Selection of the format
  5. Selection of the software

1. Analysis:

At the beginning you have to be very clear about what exactly is the problem and how it should be solved. To what extent and why do difficulties exist? What are the particular challenges? Where are the recurrent obstacles? Are there different variations of the problem?
A reproduction of the problem can be helpful to develop a better understanding of it.
Use existing data as a source for your analysis: check your e-mails and messages and answer particularly frequent questions by a documentation once for all.

2. Target group:

Then you also analyze the target user group that will utilize the documentation in the end. Are there any restrictions for the users? What knowledge already exists, what needs to be explained in particular detail? Also keep in mind that the documentation may be passed on to other users who may have less prior knowledge than the original users.

3. Selection of the form:

You must then decide what form your documentation should take: A reference manual, a user manual or a combination of both?
A reference manual explains the various functions of a software in a basic way and explains the different buttons, items, and dialog boxes the user will encounter. This is often done in the form of context-sensitive help, which means that the user is shown explanations directly at the respective button on the desktop.
A user manual, on the other hand, is dedicated to a specific problem and its solution. It explains how to perform a task with the software step-by-step from start to end and thus accompanies the user during the execution of a specific workflow.

4. Selection of the format:

Finally you have to decide which format the finished manual should take at the end: Word, Powerpoint or Pdf format? Or do you need the image files of the screenshots or an HTML format for your homepage? Do you need to be able to upload the documentation on a website? Or send it to potential customers or colleagues? You also have to decide which design you need for your documentation, for example if you want to display your company colors or the company logo.

5. Selection of the software:

Based on steps 1-4, you select the appropriate documentation software that meets your needs and requirements. For example, a software that can export HTML-files and that can be adapted to you corporate identity or a tool that performs all steps automatically – or whatever you wish. Here you find some advice for that.

Zufriedene Kunden

Tips & Tricks – What do you need to consider?

  • Specific and precise:
    Include all potentially important information in the descriptions and highlight important data, such as technical information. Precise instructions create trust: users do not want to have to interpret, but want to follow clear guidelines.
  • Do not expect knowledge:
    Start with the simple steps and explain basic functions. If necessary, users can still skip steps – missing explanations cannot be compensated.
  • User friendliness:
    Use exactly THOSE tools and software versions that your users use. This way, they will identify themselves in your instructions and can transfer the steps one to one to their own computer.
  • Simplicity:
    Don’t overwhelm your users, but always explain only one solution at a time. For a new problem, it is better to create a new documentation.
  • Structure:
    Guide your users safely through the documentation with a logical and clear structure. Help them to understand the documentation with graphics and screenshots, as well as numbering. Cross-references can also be helpful.
    Language:
    Use texts that are easy to read and avoid technical terms. Address your users directly, in general with “you”.
  • Design:
    Keep your documentation consistent and with a clear design. The use of your company colors and logo can be useful for identification.
  • Testing:
    Especially concerning important documents a test run can be helpful. Give your documentation to an uninvolved person and test the comprehensibility of the instructions. The feedback can help to uncover ambiguities and compensate for weaknesses by making corrections.
  • Length:
    As always: Make the documentation as long as necessary, but as short as possible. Only directly problem-oriented instructions with the fastest possible solution will be used in the end.

With these steps and tips, there are no more obstacles to your successful software documentation. You can pass on information in a 1) simple, 2) fast and 3) precise way and enable others to use software successfully.

Good luck with it! If you have any further questions, we would be happy to hear from you at support@miraminds.com – #shareyourflow

SAP Enable Now or the alternative FlowShare?

What benefits does the e-learning software Enable Now from SAP offer and which e-learning software is the right for you?

An orientation guide:

Perhaps you yourself are just about to make a decision: You are dealing with the topic of documentation or knowledge management in a very concrete way and are asking yourself: What to do? Should you purchase SAP’s software solution Enable Now for “all aspects of modern corporate learning” in your company? Or are there alternatives that might fit you better?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. In recent months, several companies have already approached us with the question:

 

Enable Now or FlowShare – what works better for us?

With this article we give you an orientation help and assist you to get a little closer to your solution. In the first step it is essential that you answer a few basic questions:

Fundamental questions

 

  • Are you planning to create content in a centralized (power user) or decentralized (user-generated content) manner?
  • To what volume do you want to generate content and what resources do you have for this?
  • Do the creators of the content have experience in documenting or are you prepared to train key persons sufficiently?

If you want to operate comprehensive knowledge management for your own company in a centralized manner and by trained experts, and you also have extensive resources for maintaining this knowledge management, Enable Now is a possible solution for you.

If you want to generate content that you own yourself, create content simply and quickly, in a decentralized manner and without training, FlowShare may be the solution for you.

However, there are cases where the decision is not that simple: For example, if you want to get into the topic first or if you want to create content on a small scale. Or if it is not yet clear who will create learning content for you in the future and who is the target group. In this case, we have prepared an overview and worked out the respective strengths of Enable Now and FlowShare.

An Overview

Enable Now

FlowShare

Training period

Training necessary (3-10 days training, depending on previous experience)

No training necessary, ready for use within a few minutes

Availability

Cloud or on-premise

On-premise

Languages

Over 40 Languages, Language- and screen-translation

German, English, French (more languages in development)

Export formats

Videos, simulations, process documentation, e-learning courses, tests, Solution manager content, context-sensitive instructions, e-learnings, training manuals

Editable flow file, PDF, Word, PNG, Powerpoint, HTML, context sensitive instructions in beta test (“guided Tour”)

Distribution or sharing of the created documents to users outside the organization allowed?

No

Yes

Costs

Variable costs on a large scale

From 21€ per month per workplace, modularly applicable

Further editing possible?

Yes, comprehensively, link to external programs possible

Yes, partially, in the software and the finished documents in Office

Adjustment to Corporate Identity?

Yes, comprehensively

Colours, logo, upload of your own PowerPoint templates

Platform for depositing the learning content?

Yes

No

Software compatibility

32-bit optimal, with 64-bit additional effort

32-Bit and 64-Bit

Free trial?

No

Yes

Enable Now

The declared goal of Enable Now is to make knowledge transfer efficient. For that purpose, the software offers a comprehensive range of functions: from simulations, test scripts and e-learning videos, transaction documentation and training manuals to demos and context-sensitive user help. A wide range of materials and formats can be generated and made accessible and shared via a database.

Furthermore, Enable Now is available both in the cloud and on-premise and offers automated translation in over 40 languages. Automatic screen translation is particularly practical: Enable Now’s re-recording capability allows a recording made in German, for example, to be automatically replicated in another language and stored in a new file. Without requiring explicit knowledge of the foreign language, instructions can be created in many different languages within a very short time.

With Enable Now, existing information can be imported from various formats and the materials can be edited afterwards. For the editing, it is also possible to link to external programs, such as Paint. Overall, the software enables comprehensive development, editing and distribution of learning content.

Use Case

Enable Now is especially useful when you want to display complex content in combination with media such as graphics and process diagrams, as well as when using multiple languages. Knowledge databases are an important use case: Enable Now is very well suited for building a complete knowledge management system. The software enables power users to create a wide variety of documents with high quality and information density.

Less trained software support staff can also be involved using the Instant Producer. This is one of the four components of Enable Now and is less extensive in its post-production capabilities. It can be released to certain users, e.g. to include department-specific processes, thus enabling decentralized documentation.

Nevertheless, the Instant Producer is still relatively complex and is usually only made available to a very limited number of employees. The post-processing of content from the Instant Producer is only possible for users with an author license.

Advantages in short:

  • Comprehensive functions, output formats and editing options
  • Support of more than 40 languages
  • Display of complex content with high information density
  • Cloud- and on-premise availability

Possible obstacles

However, there are also less suitable use cases: Content generated with Enable Now is subject to the consumer license model. This means that the materials may not be distributed and the content may instead only be used within the company. This can cause difficulties for training companies and external authors: They have no control over whether their customers have Enable now licenses or not.

And of course, these features have their price. It is difficult to make general statements, as the price for Enable Now can vary depending on the company and the application. All in all, one can say that the costs reflect the wide range of possibilities of the software – and are accordingly high. Even for small companies, the annual costs can be in the four-digit range.

Complexity

In addition, a big advantage of Enable Now can also become its drawback. The wide range of functions goes along with complexity. For a successful use, an introductory consultation is necessary after the installation. Without such training, Enable Now is hardly usable. Depending on the intended use and the existing infrastructure, a preparation time of 3-10 days should be calculated before using the software.

On top of this, companies need to be aware that even after the introduction of Enable Now, capacities will be needed continuously to take care of the preservation of the content. The software provides the framework, but it must be filled with content by the company itself. Ideally, Enable Now should be handled by someone who is familiar with the subject matter and at the same time knows the processes of the company. This person can then transfer the content into the software and, if possible, also teach it to colleagues through training. If there is no power user who is familiar with Enable Now and is responsible for its maintenance, the content is quickly outdated.

It is important to note that Enable Now is designed for 32-bit applications. This means that 32-bit applications can be recorded. For 64-bit applications, your company may face increased effort and additional costs because subprograms need to be written to use Enable Now.

Expert opinion

Jörn is a trainer and author for IT training projects in the SAP environment and appreciates the various application possibilities of the software: “Enable Now is huge. It has possibilities that go far beyond what was previously common. The original SAP software offers tremendous possibilities and opportunities for companies that want to establish comprehensive knowledge management”. He himself uses the software to create, for example, “user documentation, training presentations and simulations” which are incorporated into training courses. “In addition, these can also be integrated into customer support systems, such as the DesktopAssistant, if required”.

At the same time, Jörn emphasizes that Enable Now is very “intense“: “I have to realize that the use of Enable Now is not something that can be done just like that. As a company, resources have to be created internally, which maintain the system“. Required would be on the one hand time for the use of Enable Now and on the other hand a certain amount of user knowledge, which should be acquired in training courses.

As a SAP trainer, Jörn is also dependent on his customers: “If the customers do not have Enable Now licenses, the SAP licensing model means that the training courses cannot be created with the software.”

FlowShare

Compared to the universal software Enable Now, FlowShare is the little magic dwarf. The documentation software offers fast and easy automated creation of step-by-step instructions.

FlowShare runs on-premise and on Windows. It supports the languages German, English and French, on other languages is currently being worked on. With 21 € per license per month, FlowShare is a much more flexible and smaller investment than Enable Now.

Use Case

With FlowShare, digital processes can be recorded automatically while they are being carried out and thus be captured for other users. The generated click instructions can be saved in various formats: From PDF, Powerpoint, Word and PNG to HTML format for direct integration into the company wiki. In addition, the instructions can be adapted to the corporate identity using the color selection and the company logo. Individual templates for PDF and Powerpoint can also be created.

Besides the price, simplicity is a big advantage of the software: FlowShare was developed to record user knowledge efficiently and quickly. It is deliberately a “small solution”, with which any kind of process can be recorded without effort. The software is understandable for everyone and requires no training time. In this way, not only trained employees of the IT department can use FlowShare. Instead, every employee in the company is empowered to record and share their user knowledge.

User-generated Content

This follows the trend of “user-generated content”: Instead of the provider of a software or centrally of IT, the actual users of a medium create the corresponding content. After all, through their personal work, users often have a better insight and understanding of the issues and processes involved. This is particularly important in view of increasingly decentralized companies and increased specialization. With the help of FlowShare, experts themselves can document their unique expertise.

In addition, FlowShare manuals are fully owned by you after they have been created. This means that unlimited distribution of the instructions is possible and the materials can be integrated, e.g. in HTML format, directly on the company website, in the wiki or wherever else you want them to go. FlowShare can be downloaded from the miraminds website and tried out for free.

Currently miraminds is also working on another software: The FlowGuide. This goes one step further than pure software documentation and provides the user with context-sensitive help. The FlowGuide allows the interactive replay of instructions so that users only have to follow the guide on their screen with their mouse and thus reach the solution to their problem within a very short time.

Advantages in short:

  • Lower costs and more flexibility
  • No training period – directly applicable
  • Unlimited distribution of the instructions
  • Free trial version – Try it out without risk

Possible Obstacles

If you compare FlowShare and Enable Now, it quickly becomes clear that FlowShare comes with a much smaller feature set. It does not offer the wide range of output formats that can be generated with Enable Now and allows limited editing of the generated instructions. This also means that animated click instructions created with Enable Now cannot be created one-to-one the same way with FlowShare. FlowShare also allows the creation of click-guides, but in a simplified version and with less effort.

Expert opinion

The expert Jörn Halsinger also takes up these arguments:

“The advantages of FlowShare are its easy use, for which no major training is required, and an attractive pricing and licensing model. The license model allows us to create user documentation with our computers on behalf of the customer and to edit it if necessary without the customer having to purchase the software”.

For him, the biggest differences lie in the: “Post-processing-ability and reusability of the raw records”:

“The possibility to create simulations or e-learnings from the content is not available with FlowShare. It is a simple tool that is very well suited for the area of click instructions due to its simple user interface. We like to use it for customers who do not want or are not able to use a big software solution. It is a good tool for the pure creation of simple user documentation in the form of click instructions“.

Conclusion:

Enable Now is a useful software with an impressive range of functions that has been developed and optimized for over 20 years. However, the fact that the purchase is worthwhile for you depends on certain conditions and on your goals and budget.

Enable Now’s strengths lie in automatic translation into many languages, collaborative and extensive content work and editing, and the creation of simulations. It is well suited for very high expectations of learning content and extensive post-editing needs, as well as, for example, the development of a comprehensive knowledge management system.

Prerequisites for Enable Now are power users who have been trained on the software and bring along didactic know-how to get the most out of it. In addition, there are the costs for training and for the software itself. Furthermore, the use of Enable Now requires that the target group of the learning content, just like the creators, also have a license for the software.

FlowShare has been designed to provide potentially every employee with immediate, solid and easy documentation. This is based on the approach of being able to distribute documentation on several shoulders without having to be trained beforehand, while still guaranteeing a consistent quality of the instructions. Any employee who has a FlowShare license can create and edit manuals.

The created manuals belong to you and can be accessed at any time. This means that anyone inside or outside the company can use the content, even without having FlowShare installed. The fact that FlowShare documents can also be distributed to your customers makes the software especially interesting for trainers and software vendors.

A great advantage if you are not quite sure about it yet: You can test FlowShare easily and without risk.

You can also see it that way:

Enable Now is the A380, FlowShare is the air taxi (in terms of price as well as functionality) – the question in which constellation, which of these you need, depends on your situation.

We hope that this overview will help you to better evaluate our solutions and to decide which software to buy. In general, there are a lot of other solutions besides Enable Now and FlowShare – all with their own advantages and disadvantages.

If you have any further questions, please contact us at info@miraminds.com.

Screencast: Why you should record your screen and how that works

When texts and oral explanations fail: Screen recordings convey knowledge and create understanding. Here you will learn which steps you should take when you screencast.

Sometimes nothing really helps.

Imagine there is a problem, for example with the use of a software. Then things start to happen: one e-mail after the next, from the person seeking help to the IT support – and back again. Communication goes back and forth like a ping-pong ball, but the solution doesn’t occur, or it occurs very late. The e-mails contain confusing explanations of what was clicked and what should be clicked. Texts are sent that describe how to use the software – but no practical and quick help.

Or another example: a new employee comes into the company. He receives 30 pages of printed text in his hand. These are a summary of the corporate software. Two hours later the new colleague is sitting in front of his computer surrounded by a pile of paper – and still doesn’t know much more than before.

Sometimes nothing ever helps.

In these situations a video sometimes says more than 1000 words – or 100 e-mails. These are situations in which so-called screencasts are used. A screencast, or screen recording, is the video recording of the screen. Technically speaking, these recordings are nothing more than a sequence of very many screenshots in a row. The screen recording is then often supplemented by an audio track with further explanations and sometimes extended by web camera recordings.

A transmission of the screen is also possible in real time. In this case one speaks of screen sharing.

How does that work?

There are numerous providers of screencast software on the market. First of all, key figures and properties such as image detail, video and audio data compression are defined. Then the user can start the recording and the video data stream is created from the sequence of individual images. When the recording is complete, there is a more or less extensive possibility, depending on the software, to edit the video: for example, by cutting and dubbing or by inserting additional elements. Depending on the software, the finished screencast can also be exported and shared on portals such as YouTube, sent by e-mail or via link and be saved.

The fields of application for screencasts are numerous: Screen recordings are used for webinars, e-learning, instructions and tutorials or even let’s play videos. This means that the target group is also broad and ranges from customers, colleagues and followers to friends and family members.

Zielgruppe

What is this good for?

Screencasts have the obvious advantage that they simply depict abstract processes on the computer. Instead of lengthy explanations and descriptions, they provide a visual presentation of exactly the processes that need to be executed.

Especially complex tasks and processes can be illustrated very conveniently and quickly with screencasts. This visual support is often easier to follow and can lead to improved understanding. Studies show that screencasts can be an efficient tool for improved learning. They offer an easy way to document, create demos and share knowledge even across time and place. In addition, the demand is high: customers sometimes ask specifically for videos as a substitute for written explanations. It is no coincidence that YouTube, after Google, is the second largest search engine in the world – moving images are more demanded than ever.

Nevertheless, screencasts also have their disadvantages. Their production is costly and requires some experience and clear planning. Once a screencast has been created, it cannot be updated as easily as a step-by-step guide, for example, when software updates are made.

Screencasts also have their weaknesses for users. Screencasts are often very long, especially when dealing with complex topics, and require a lot of time to watch: They are, after all, following the video maker in real time.

Rewinding back and forth is also difficult because you never know what important detail might be presented in the next minute of the video. Screencasts do not provide a good overview, but usually require viewing the entire video. For questions about small details, screencasts are not the right medium to convey information.

For these reasons, screencasts should never stand alone as a communication medium. In combination with a helpdesk, customer support and written step-by-step instructions, however, they can be an extremely helpful medium for customers and colleagues to pass on information.

In practice…

A good example of successful IT support is our flowshare customer Scopevisio: The Bonn-based IT company provides comprehensive support for its users.

The Scopevisio employees were also able to see that screencasts are a great help – but alone are not enough. That’s why the software specialists offer a range of options for their users. The perfect combination at Scopevisio is screencasts on the one hand and step-by-step instructions created with FlowShare on the other.
In this way, the company offers the perfect solution for every need. Customers can decide individually which format works best for them and get help from the chosen format.

To enable you to successfully create your own screencast as well, we have a few tips and tricks for you here. If a few basic things are taken into account from the very beginning, nothing will prevent you from creating your own successful screencast:

Checklist for a successful screencast

1. Clear the screen:
Check your desktop before you start recording and hide private elements or content that should not appear in your screencast. A plain background can convey professionalism and avoid distraction from the video flow.

2. Clearly defined goal:
Be clear in advance what exactly you want to say with the video and what content you want to convey. Avoid too many goals at once, but keep them short, clear and simple.

3. Determine processes: Screenplay
Even if processes are actually routine: When the screen recording is running, some people tend to suddenly foregt which sequence they wanted to demonstrate.
That’s why the following always applies: first define exactly which clicks you want to record and in which order. Afterwards you can capture this sequence for yourself in a small script.

4. Define standards
Especially for a series of screencasts it is worthwhile to think about video standards beforehand. These define the key data of your recording and a uniform framework. Standards can be, for example, a consistent screen resolution and video length, as well as recurring elements such as the start image, the author’s name or explanatory boxes with additional content.

5. Precise actions and smooth mouse movements
When the recording is running, the following applies: Follow your previously set up script in a structured way. Don’t become hectic, but take your time and do one action after the other. This is the only way to ensure that your viewers can follow you easily later. If the screen is large, it is often worthwhile to highlight the mouse pointer additionally. In this way the viewers will always know exactly what action you have performed at the respective position.

6. Software usage
Benefit from the technology! Screencast tools have become highly developed. Even free software sometimes offers extensive additional features and editing options. So have a look at different providers and choose the optimal screencast software for your individual needs. Criteria that play a role here are, for example:

  • Compatibility with your operating system
  • Export formats
  • Recording length
  • Editing functions
  • Sound recording options
  • Adaptation to mobile devices
  • Price

So far so good – you should be prepared for your own screencast – almost. There are a whole host of different providers of screen recording tools on the market and that’s where the final challenge lies: Which software should you use for your own screencast? The decision may be very difficult given the large selection. To give you a little help, we will not stop here. In another blog post, we support you in your decision and give you an overview of the various software solutions: Which providers are there on the market? And how do the different tools differ?

Stay tuned – and of course in flow!