Documentation Improvements in the Next Version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV

Documentation Improvements in the Next Version of Microsoft Dynamics NAV

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Help!

Greetings from the Microsoft Dynamics NAV User Education team. We are the team responsible for application and platform documentation, including online Help, the Application Designer’s Guide, and install and config manuals. You’ve made some complaints, and we’ve been listening. Your feedback says that it’s difficult to find the Help information you need, and the content that’s there is “superficial” and “inadequate.“ As the team’s new Content Architect, I have been working with UE writers, editors and managers to make sure you have a better experience with the next release. In this post, I want to share a couple of the changes we’re making to the NAV docs for the next version: to describe business and development processes, and establish better discoverability of information.

How Do I…

Internally, we’ve been calling one new topic type, “How Do I” topics, because they’re written to answer the question, “How do I perform this process?” Here’s a draft of one of these topics, which basically answers the question, “How do I create new vendor accounts?”

Docs-NewVendoAccn

(click image to see larger size)

The links at the top of the topic indicate where you are in the larger process – in this case, you are creating new vendor accounts as part of the section, Configure Purchase Processes , in the Purchasing department. The content of the topic includes overview information on the general sequence of tasks you perform to achieve a business or development goal, and then the table describes and links to topics to help you complete that goal. For application documentation, the processes are based on the customer model (http://www.microsoft.com/dynamics/product/familiartoyourpeople.mspx).

Walkthroughs

Walkthrough topics provide end-to-end processes comprised of two or more tasks. Using the CRONUS International Ltd. demo company, the walkthrough tasks enable you to learn the steps involved in a process before you perform them using your own data. Application walkthroughs provide the beginning-to-end steps for processes like tracking sales campaign results, or calculating work in progress for a job. Development walkthroughs step you through processes like designing a customer sales order report.

In coming weeks, we will begin sharing specific versions of these topics with you, and hope you’ll give us feedback on how well they meet your needs, and the specific content you’d like to see us develop.

Discoverability

We’ve had a lot of feedback that finding information in the NAV documentation is difficult, so we’re working on improving discoverability from several angles. In previous versions, platform documentation has been delivered in nearly 20 different manuals. We’re compiling some of the most strategic of these manuals into online Help files for development, installation, and C/SIDE reference. These logical collections reduce the number of places you have to look for information, and since they’re Help files, you get the benefit of other discoverability aids like Search, an index, and a table of contents. In addition, platform documentation is going to be published in the MSDN library, for easy online access to topics.

Other discoverability improvements include:

  • Role-based link pages that provide links to topics relevant to about 15 of the most common user roles.
  • Table of Contents remodel to incorporate all topics (except for field Help) into the table of contents, organized around the processes the topics support. This way, the TOC provides at-a-glance information about where you are in a process, and other information related to the topic you’re reading.
  • New overview topics like the one pictured above that provide navigation to high-level process topics, and link to the topics that support them.
  • Major index overhaul to make the index easier to use and a lot more robust. This includes adding keywords for business terms to help bridge the gap between NAV functionality and the terms you more commonly use for your tasks.

Again, we welcome any suggestions, concerns, hopes, and fears you have regarding these plans or on the documentation as a whole. You can contact us directly at nav-olh@microsoft.com. And if you are traveling to Convergence next week, please attend the User Education sessions we are running, on enabling partners to extend NAV Help, and on transforming forms for use in the RoleTailored client. Specific details are below.

NAV Help Extensibility
Tuesday, March 11, 12:30-1:30
Room W311E

NAV 2009 Form Transformation
Thursday, March 13, 12:30-1:30
Room W311E

- Michelle Fredette

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  • Great news... documentation and online help is one of the lacks that customers are asking always more.

    Nice to see that you're working also on this field.

  • Excellent initiative! It would be perfect if end users can add custom functionality to these areas, or modify the text in case they modify the process for their business requirements.

  • For this release, the docs can be modified using the standard process for customizing the Help. With topics like the one above, it's a matter of adding additional links to the process flow in the topic, updating the content of the topic, and adding steps as needed to the table below. You'd also want to add the topic to the table of contents.

    The session on extensibility at Convergence this week is largely about identifying the right tools and processes to make customizing the docs easier in subsequent releases.

  • Earlier this year, Michelle, my colleague on the Microsoft Dynamics NAV documentation team, wrote a blog

  • Earlier this year, Michelle, my colleague on the Microsoft Dynamics NAV documentation team, wrote a blog

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