On November 8, 2023, Dominik Strauß, Heike Saam-Mourton, and Patricia Schler from SAP delved into the world of user assistance (UA) developers, exploring their roles, responsibilities, tools, learning opportunities, and the ideal candidate profile for this dynamic field. SAP is Europe’s biggest software company with a workforce of over 100,000 employees worldwide, about 1000 of them UA developers and in-house translators. And with 20+ million unique visitors of SAP Help Portal, one of the major publication channels for SAP UA, it is fair to say that the work of UA developers is well-consumed.
Chameleons at work
At SAP, user assistance is much broader than the traditional conception of technical writing. UA plays a pivotal role in helping users navigate complex systems, and every app and every feature comes with user assistance. To ensure users are provided with the right help when, where, and how they need it, UA developers take on a wide range of roles, such as documentation developer, UI text creator, terminology expert, blogger, content management system expert, software tester, search optimization expert, UX designer, multimedia creator, accessibility expert, and more.
SAP’s UA developers work in an agile development mode, often in scrum teams of ten. The content they create is just as varied as their roles, and ranges from legally required documentation and UI text to guided tours, graphics, videos, blog posts, and some nice-to-have content such as chatbots and podcasts.
To create and manage their content effectively, UA developers use a number of tools. These include, but are not restricted to:
- MadCap IXIA CCMS: A Content Management System (CMS) for content creation
- SAPterm: SAP’s own terminology database for maintaining SAP-specific terms
- MS PowerPoint and Visio: for image creation, for example diagrams or interactive graphics
- Camtasia: for video production, for example, how-to videos
- Semaphore: for metadata modeling, taxonomy, and ontology
Due to SAP’s diverse product portfolio, it is crucial that UA developers ensure user assistance deliverables are consistent across all offerings. Style guides and templates, as well as help in the form of support forums, are an important aspect in achieving this.
Focus on continuous learning
SAP places a strong emphasis on continuous learning and development of its workforce. The company offers a comprehensive internal curriculum organized into learning journeys. The curriculum is flexible, allowing individuals to tailor their learning paths based on their experience, educational background, team requirements, and personal preferences. New hires and experienced UA developers alike can benefit from the dedicated UA learning journeys to upskill and specialize in areas of interest, such as UX writing, conversation design, or analytics.
An ideal candidate? A jack-of-all-trades
When it comes to hiring UA developers, SAP would ideally like to see candidates with a degree in technical communication with experience in topic-based writing within an XML environment, familiarity with terminology work, a basic understanding of technology and business processes, and proficiency in creating meaningful graphics and other multimedia content.
Most important of all, however, are strong English language and writing skills. English is the primary language of SAP's UA content. It is also the source for translations into up to 40 languages for documentation and up to 80 languages for UI texts, which is another reason why applicants must have excellent English language skills.
About the presenters
Dominik Strauß, Heike Saam-Mourton, and Patricia Schler work in a central user assistance team at SAP SE, where they are responsible for communication activities for the UA community at SAP, as well as for recruiting and the internal curriculum for UA developers.