Through the combination of how-to guides, documentation, multimedia tutorials, and training, the Stratum Learning Center developed by the education team at 84.51 has given its clients the ability to dive into insights and fully understand how to use hundreds of reports, replacing their traditional learning management system (LMS).

When 84.51° first began the Stratum project, the team knew it would present a number of challenges and changes to their current ways of working. They also recognized that the ability to reuse content would be critical for keeping pace with the large number of reports available to users of Stratum.

“Gone are the traditional two full days of on-site training,” recalled Casey Schroeder, lead content strategist at 84.51°. “The way we get Help has evolved substantially in recent years, and it was important that we develop a better way of helping our clients by providing online Help that’s available 24/7.”

The team had four key goals in mind when developing the Stratum Learning Center, including:

  • A way to reuse content and templates across multiple products and Learning Centers
  • A unified site that brought together online guides, self-guided tutorials, videos, e-learning, and other resources
  • A system to keep pace with an agile development team, making additions and updates to the Help content for 100-plus reports (and counting)
  • A modern, intuitive web experience for clients and internal users

The Importance of Content Reuse

As their research and planning began, the education team at 84.51° instantly recognized that the ability to reuse content would be critical for keeping pace with the large number of reports available to users of Stratum. The product had hundreds of measures, such as: How many stores sell a specific product? How many households purchased it? How often is the product repeat-purchased? Many measures are used across all the reports in Stratum, while other measures only appear in some reports.

They needed a way to document each report and each measure in each report, ensuring that their definitions were the same across the board. “MadCap Flare, with its topic-based authoring and single-source publishing, was a natural choice,” said Casey Schroeder, Lead Content Strategist at 84.51°. It would offer a way for her team to utilize a single piece of content in various locations and in various formats, making content management and updates a breeze.

Developing a Single Site for Guides, Tutorials, e-Learning and More

In the past, 84.51° relied on a traditional LMS to provide online courses as a prerequisite to onsite training. However, single sign-on access wasn’t an option, and the LMS wasn’t integrated into the application, so clients didn’t know where to go to access it. Using the robust authoring and publishing capabilities of MadCap Flare, the team could integrate articles, documentation, videos, plus online courses for clients into the learning center—replacing the LMS system.

Keeping Up With Agile Development for Continuous Product Improvements

After scoping out the design of the Learning Center, the education team took roughly three months to create the content and complete an internal soft launch with an additional three months to complete the formal launch. In addition to topic-based authoring, content strategists used a snippet for every calculation and every definition in Stratum, as well as variables for the measure names, report names, and other values to ensure a very high level of consistency across the Stratum Learning Center.

“Our design team created mockups and helped us establish the look and feel of the Learning Center. Then in MadCap Flare, I was able to develop the code, scripting, stylesheets, and content,” Schroeder noted. “We then brought on two additional content strategists, and together we were able to get the rest of the content created and out the door. Flare made it possible because we could use shared sentences and definitions across our content. Snippets and snippet conditions were lifesavers for us.”

Following the initial launch, the writing team soon realized that clients needed to understand more than how to use the reports and measures in Stratum, leading them to add a new Insights and Interpretation section to each report guide. “Using topic-based authoring and snippets, we were able to put together new Report Setup and Insights and Interpretation sections for all of the reports within a month after the launch," Schroeder explains. “Flare made that process much faster than we could have hoped.”

Today, the 84.51° content strategists have a weekly release cycle for updating the Learning Center for Stratum and its 100-plus reports.

An Intuitive Web Experience Reduces the Learning Curve

Today, 84.51° clients can learn how to use Stratum by going to the Stratum Learning Center, a responsive HTML5-based website with a home page that provides release notes links to e-learning, tips, and tricks, and a “Getting Started with Stratum” section, which is highly popular with new users. Essentially, it acts as an extension of the Stratum product with a similar design and the same domain.

“With MadCap Flare, we’ve created this Learning Center that clients can go to whenever they need help,” Schroeder notes. “Our thought is that you can view both of them side-by-side or on different monitors, so whatever you want to do, you can basically work through this Learning Center or get things piecemeal as you need them while using the product.”

Micro content has also played a big role in helping users find the information they need about Stratum. Based on analytics about what clients are searching, the education team uses Flare’s new micro content functionality to control search results—tailoring, for example, how a measure definition will show at the top above the reports in which it has been used.

“We love the micro content feature in MadCap Flare, and we have created hundreds of specialized micro content pieces in our Learning Center,” Schroeder says. “For instance, the Kroger calendar is a super-popular request. Using micro content with Flare, we were able to put the calendar in the Learning Center and make it downloadable—right from the search results.”

Looking Into the Future

Based on the success of the Stratum Learning Center, 84.51° has developed Learning Centers for two other products, Prism and Agatha, using a shared template in MadCap Flare that’s managed through global project linking. The Prism product helps clients create coupons and marketing campaigns. Meanwhile, Agatha is an internal data platform used by 84.51° data scientists and engineers.

“The development team is amazed and excited by what we’ve been able to do and how fast we’ve been able to make changes and stay agile, and it’s all possible because of MadCap Flare.”

Casey Schroeder
Lead Content Strategist | 84.51°

Looking back, Schroeder recalls, “When we first announced to the development team that we were going to create a reference guide for every report, every concept, there was a bit of laughter and a fair amount of disbelief. Now, they’re amazed and excited by what we've been able to do and how fast we've been able to make changes and stay agile, and it’s all possible because of MadCap Flare.”

You can read the full case study here.