Upgrading inefficient review processes


“Orbiting Owlets, Inc.” manufactures a line of night vision goggles. The company distributes content in PDF and HTML formats on the Orbiting Owlets web site. During content development, technical authors send PDF drafts of guides to engineers via email to get feedback.

The problem

The technical authors at Orbiting Owlets send entire manuals in PDF format to the engineers and subject matter experts (SMEs) and ask for comments on specific pages. The engineers do not like receiving the large email attachments—or having to wade through hundreds of pages to find the particular content they should review. An engineer might receive a 200-page PDF file, in which only 20 percent is relevant for the review.

To send their feedback to authors, engineers use multiple techniques, including:

  • Marking up hard copy
  • Marking up the PDF file with the commenting tools in Acrobat Reader
  • Compiling comments in a Word file
  • Sending multiple emails as they read through the content

It is difficult for the authors to keep track of the input they received and how they modified content based on the engineers’ feedback.


The solution

Orbiting Owlets needs an easier way to collect and track reviews. The company decides to implement an online review system that integrates with the authoring tools and a component content management system. This system enables engineers and other reviewers to add a layer of comments and changes to the source content. Technical writers then approve the changes to add them to the content.

Collaborative review in action

The new system does the following:

  1. An author labels content for review by a specific engineer with a review due date.
  2. The system sends the engineer a notification, which contains links to the content requiring review.
  3. The engineer reviews the content. The system tracks the changes requested by the engineer.
    Note: If multiple engineers review the same content, they can see each other’s changes.
  4. The author reviews the changes, approves or rejects them (and offers reasons for rejections), and makes additional revisions based on the feedback.


Streamlined, collaborative review process

The review system sends reminders to individuals who have not responded to requests for feedback. The system can also compile reports about the review process: when authors requested input, when the reviewers offered feedback, and so on.

The business case

The justification for a new review system is based partly on review efficiency and partly on quality issues—better reviews should lead to improved content.

Note: Orbiting Owlets is already using a source format that is compatible with component content management. This greatly reduces the cost of implementing the review system.
Table 1. Implementation cost
Item Year 1 Year 2
Cloud CMS (licensing for one year; includes collaborative review) $50,000 $50,000
Web-based training (2 hours) for reviewers to learn new system (30 reviewers) $1,000
TOTAL $51,000 $50,000
Table 2. Return on investment
Item Cost savings and revenue generated (per year)
Eliminate review PDF generation (5 PDF files per month, 1 hour per PDF, @ $50/hour) $3,000
For engineers: Time saved during review by avoiding email/Acrobat markup, and more focused reviews (receive 40 pages instead of 200 pages; 20 pages per hour @ $50/hour; 8 hours saved per review) $24,000
For authors: Time saved with integrated comment approval instead of copying information from PDF or email over to source files (15 minutes saved per change; average number of changes per review is 20; 5 hours of review changes per review @ $50/hour) $15,000
TOTAL $42,000

In this case, the cost savings do not pay for the system investment. Orbiting Owlets could either look for additional return (such as quality improvements because of better review cycles, faster time to market), scale down the content management system, or wait until increasing content volume justifies the system investment. As Orbiting Owlets is growing quickly, the company decides to make the investment in the review system on the assumption that increased content volume (and therefore review cycles) will justify the system in year two.


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