Information Mapping helps a large federal agency improve operating efficiency by putting program operations handbooks online

imA large federal agency housed its program operations policy information in a set of 14 large manuals known as “handbooks,” each of which supported a different program or business process administered by the agency. The content of these handbooks totaled several thousand pages. They were used by agency personnel at offices throughout the country as well as by employees of organizations doing business with the agency.

Challenge

Users of the handbooks often experienced difficulty in finding and understanding the information they needed. The resulting confusion, errors and delays impacted the efficiency of the agency. There were several reasons for this situation.

  • Agency policies were revised frequently, but the handbooks had not been maintained or updated. Users had to search in other documents to be sure that they were working with current information.
  • Handbook content often directed users to other documents. Users had to search the agency’s Web site as well as other locations to find the information they needed.
  • Each handbook contained information unique to its particular program, but also included general information that applied to all programs. This made for a good deal of redundancy across the document set.
  • Content was densely written, full of confusing “legalese” and difficult to navigate. It often included significant amounts of redundant, irrelevant or trivial information.

Solution

Information Mapping’s professional services consultants were asked to revise the handbooks. These consultants

  • performed a complete content audit, including analysis of existing content and interviews with users and subject matter experts,
  • designed a content hierarchy that supported a logical, easily navigated and process-based structure,
  • developed modularized content that was clear and user-focused, and
  • deployed a custom portal that gave users quick, easy access to the information they needed while facilitating storage and ongoing maintenance of the content.

Results

Information Mapping’s work resulted in several benefits to the agency.

  • Users experienced much less difficulty in accessing the information they needed. They were able to locate it via a single source without searching through additional documents.
  • Errors and misunderstandings were reduced due to the clarity of the content.
  • Volume of the content was reduced by 30-40%, due to elimination of redundant, irrelevant or trivial information. This helped reduce search time and minimize confusion as well as reducing maintenance costs.
  • Updating and revision of the handbooks were greatly facilitated, since the portal enabled centralized control of the content. This meant that users were always provided with current information.

Conclusion: Information Mapping’s professional services helped this federal agency to significantly improve its operational efficiency. Employees were able to work more effectively and productively. Users of the handbooks within other organizations were able to do business with the agency more quickly and efficiently.