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How a Technical Writer Helped Us Scale New Technology Adoption to 14 Million People

A technical writer, dressed like a superhero, sitting at a desk helping drive technology adoption.
Having clear, accessible content is essential to make sure all teams and employees involved are on the same page, helping prevent confusion before it can reach customers. [Malte Müeller / Salesforce]

Technical writers can break down complex ideas into clear content. When we looked to scale our multi-factor authentication efforts, a technical writer was our unsung hero.

Is there a secret sauce to getting your customers to adopt new technologies? Ian Glazer, Salesforce’s SVP of identity product management, thinks there is — hiring a technical writer.

Glazer is part of our leadership team driving an initiative to get all Salesforce customers to consider using multi-factor authentication (MFA) – an increasingly popular tool that verifies your identity. If you’ve logged in to a site and then submitted a verification code sent to your phone, you used MFA. But asking millions of users to try something new to improve security is no small feat.

How did Glazer’s team persuade 14 million people — roughly 80% of our monthly active users — to adopt MFA? What steps can you take when your company is proposing new technologies? Here’s a look at what we learned in our journey to drive adoption rates of a new technology.

Glazer’s advice is to start by hiring key team members — including “the best tech writer you can.”

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Hire a technical writer to explain complex messaging

Technical writers simplify complex information so that anyone can understand it. The best tech writers partner with project, product, marketing, engineering, and customer support teams to create strategies and content that help customers and internal teams succeed. That’s exactly what Tammy Rahn, content architect at Salesforce, did for the MFA initiative. 

In her time at Salesforce, Rahn learned to connect internal silos. No matter the roles, teams, or organizational structures, she used content as a foundation to align stakeholders and drive tasks forward. From the start of the MFA program, she aligned teams around a centralized content strategy – including a blueprint for how to inspire and guide customers to adopt MFA.

Investing in quality technical writers can help your company break down silos. This ensures that employees across departments are able to understand the task — and how to explain the benefits to customers.

Define the customer journey up front

Looking for ways to make MFA adoption a success, Rahn started with the customer. Before she created any content — or focused on the MFA technology — she interviewed all stakeholders to gather ideas on how Salesforce could help customers successfully roll out MFA to their employees. The team explored questions like: 

  • Why should the customer care about adopting this technology?
  • Where should the customer start? 
  • What is the customer’s final goal? 

This exercise helped us develop the MFA customer journey – an end-to-end roadmap that served as the foundation for all MFA content and customer interactions.

Once we defined that customer journey Rahn put it in writing. She wanted to see how the recommended steps fit together into a logical flow. And she looked for ways to break up the work into several phases, so it would be easier for customers to bite off pieces at a time.

Having a clear adoption journey solved a lot of content issues. We defined complex terms so they’d be easily understood across departments. We then made sure that messaging specific to each phase of the journey was accessible by all teams involved. 

Appropriate formats for content – from user interface text to online help to webinars – helped reinforce MFA’s most important themes from wherever the customer was in their journey.

Having clear, accessible content is essential to make sure all teams and employees involved are on the same page, helping prevent confusion before it can reach customers. This shows the true power of a talented technical writer, and why you should involve them early on.

Centralize content for all stakeholders 

Ensuring that content and messaging are centralized — not different from department-to-department — keeps everyone across teams on the same page. Rahn warns that if you don’t have centralized language in place, “you run the risk of people interpreting things differently … people can wind up going in all kinds of directions.”

It’s common for marketing teams to rally around a single source for messaging. Rahn took that concept a step further by developing language that the team applied to every resource created for the program – including customer emails, marketing websites, online help, webinars, and videos.

When that content was in development, it was also important to house it in a central place. Rahn said, “When everyone on a team knows where to look for assets, you reduce miscommunication – and remove the incentive for individuals to create redundant or off-message content.” 

You can choose the content tools that best fit your team. Whether it’s Quip, Google Docs, or something else, as long as everyone on the team has access, alignment blossoms. But you also need clearly defined goals to ensure that each step is on target. 

Add content goals to your technology program 

From the beginning of the MFA program, Rahn partnered with executives to define content goals.

The team knew they needed to explain a lot of concepts to people who normally don’t think about identity technology. So, one of the team’s targets for success included writing policy communications without identity-related jargon. 

A major goal included crafting messages so customers understand how the MFA login process is in their own best interest. If people don’t know how the technology benefits them, they won’t use it. Keep this in mind when implementing new technology, and ensure that the messaging makes sense, regardless of expertise level.

By working toward defined goals, such as building the program around a central content strategy, and delivering consistent messaging, we helped people learn about this technology, increasing the likelihood of its adoption. 

Understand your strategy for better results 

With some insight into the ongoing success of Salesforce’s MFA adoption program — and the content strategies Rahn brought to it — you’re probably thinking: How can you get people to adopt your new technologies?

Ask yourself if you’re doing the following: 

  • Assigning a technical writer to the team early?
  • Articulating a customer adoption journey from the beginning?
  • Creating a single location for all messaging and content?
  • Aligning the team around consistent terminology and concepts?
  • Adding content goals to your program?

To circle back to Glazer’s advice on how you can increase customer adoption of your new technologies: have you hired the best tech writer you can?

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Gavin Austin

Gavin Austin has been writing a variety of content at Salesforce for over 18 years. He frequently speaks about Salesforce at conferences, universities, businesses, and nonprofits.

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