Entry #1 – Automating the Release Notes Creation and Publication Process

Company Name: VMware
Name of Submitter: Jo-Ann Fogg
Email Address: jfogg@vmware.com

1. Efficiency:

At VMware, to create release notes we use multiple tools to transfer text between systems, and our publishing process involves a number of manual tasks in complex systems.

The Release Notes Automation tool increases productivity and lowers costs by providing a more efficient method of engaging engineering and QE in the release note creation process. Efficiency occurs by integrating with the issue tracking system, enforcing consistency, streamlining the process, standardizing the HTML templates, and automating the publication process.

If a company is relying on non technical writers to create content for release notes, as in a self-help model, the Release Notes Automation tool enables SMEs to author release notes by using a WYSIWYG editor without being overwhelmed by authoring and HTML formatting rules. This allows technical writers to remain focused on high-level writing tasks. If the technical writers are creating the release notes, the tool enables them to communicate more efficiently with SMEs during the writing and review process.

The Release Notes Automation tool incorporates the following features to improve the release note process for technical writers and SMEs, and provides a consistent user experience:

–  Integration with an issue tracking system

–  Simple WYSIWYG authoring in a browser

–  Standardized templates

–  Automated review notification

–  Automated publishing

–  Reduced time to publish updated document

2. Customer Focus:

The Release Notes Automation tool’s design incorporated requirements from internal and external customers. Engineering teams required the ability to create release notes in a self-service model. Technical writers requested modifications to templates and an improved authoring interface. Editors requested simple PDF builds to assist in editing. Managers requested simplified development and review process definitions. External customers expect a consistent look and feel as they use multiple VMware products. Customers also expect frequent updates as new information is available.

3. Transferability:

A tool similar to the Release Notes Automation tool that was developed by VMware could be implemented by other organizations with modifications. The key authoring Web UI provides the required capabilities for writing and structuring content. The transfer of content from an issue tracking systems and the publishing process requires an understanding of their respective APIs. User story identification and technology research for implementing the tool are applicable to many organizations, provided they have the engineering resource to perform the required customizations.

Depending on a publication team’s current processes, they should see a reduction in the overhead costs associated with engaging engineering and QE in the release note creation process, manually copying and pasting from an issue tracking system, and in enforcing consistency in HTML output.

4. Innovation:

We are not sure how unique our implementation of the Release Notes Automation tool is, but we hope to find out while attending the conference and by presenting the tool as a Rare Bird submission. When compared to the traditional approach used at VMware to create, edit, and publish release notes, the Release Notes Automation tool facilitates improvements in the way we delivery quality release notes to our customers and to improve time-to-market.

The most direct gain for VMware is in reducing the overhead required to write, edit, and publish release notes, and to enable non technical writers to create release notes in a self-help model.

5. Transformational Value:

The Release Notes Automation tool is seen by VMware management and members of the technical writing community as a time-saving innovation and one more piece of the self-help solution. As the tool receives more wide-spread use, we will conduct ongoing surveys to measure the tool’s transformational value.

6. Leadership:

Support from VMware Information Experience leadership was instrumental in bringing the Release Notes Automation tool from concept to where it is today. Innovation at all levels and in all disciplines is highly encouraged at VMware. The Release Notes Automation tool was presented at an internal innovation conference and received enough votes to carry it forward and to allocate resources to further develop the solution.