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Content Quality Management: Using Software to Manage Quality and Track Metrics
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Content Quality Management: Using Software to Manage Quality and Track Metrics


Presented at DocTrain East 2007 by Scott Abel, -- Increasingly, technical documentation, training, and support center managers are being asked by executive management to provide …

Presented at DocTrain East 2007 by Scott Abel, -- Increasingly, technical documentation, training, and support center managers are being asked by executive management to provide real metrics in order to justify costs, or find ways to cut them. How is that possible without tools to collect those metrics? In organizations that value content as an asset, managers are provided with relevant training and the requisite tools needed to effectively manage their departments and the products they create. You won't see managers in these organizations using an Excel spreadsheet to track metrics manually. Nor will you see them do dozens of other time-sucking tasks that most documentation managers have to do by hand today.

Being an effective manager means having an understanding of exactly what's going on in your department so you can deploy and manipulate human, financial, intellectual, intangible, and material resources to accomplish organizational goals. Managers need to stop using less-than-efficient mechanisms for collecting metrics and make requisite changes that allow them to collect metrics that can help make informed business decisions based on observable, measurable facts.

Managers need to be able to see everything at-a-glance -- who’s doing what, where the bottlenecks are, how many topics have been started, how many are done, how many are in editing, how many have been approved, how many have not yet been started, how many are being translated, how many already have been translated, how many have been retranslated, how much does it cost to create a topic, how much to translate one, what is the cost of a reusable topic, etc. These metrics, and others, can be captured automatically by content management systems that include tools designed to provide managers with real-time reporting information to help them make informed decisions. Using software tools to collect and disseminate relevant project information is a much more effective approach to managing technical documentation and training projects than relying on team members to guess. It's the difference between someone on your team saying “it’s about half done” and seeing the actual--trackable--progress and status data, and being able to act upon it in a professional, responsible, efficient manner.

Most managers don't have a good snapshot of what's going on in their departments, especially if they rely on spreadsheets and white boards to keep track of their efforts. While this approach may seem reasonable, it's not. It's based on a "good enough" mentality. When we can't seem to find a way to do it right, we say, "Well, at least we're doing something. That's good enough." Unfortunately, "good enough" is neither efficient nor sufficient. When others try using the "good enough" mentality, we staunchly object. We push back when software developers design systems that create unnecessary clicks or make using the software more difficult than it should be.When they say, "Hey, it works as it was designed to and that's good enough," we say, "No, it's not good enough. It's broken and here's how it should work." We often point out when things don't work as users need them to work.

The spreadsheet/white board approach used in many technical documentation departments relies on human beings to collect and manage data. Humans are error-prone and don't come with an audit trail. Humans also have other characteristics that get in the way of effective management of content: jealously, emotion, forgetfulness, illness, ego, etc. Content quality management software tools are designed to help managers of technical documentation teams and training departments get a grip on their content production processes and manage resources effectively, without any of the challenges human managers -- and their staffs -- can introduce.

Software vendors are starting to recognize the importance of providing software tools that automatically gather and report metrics for a wide varie

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  • 1. Content Quality Management The need for measurements and metrics with meaning by Scott Abel,
  • 2. What is content? The stuff that runs your business
  • 3. What is management? In a word: Control
  • 4. Are you in control? Chances are you’re not
  • 5. Why control? Content is a business asset worthy of being managed just like any other business asset
  • 6. 1 Paradigm shift Documents aren’t authored, they’re manufactured example: films and music
  • 7. 2 Paradigm shift We create content for reuse in a variety of mediums example: modular, reusable, structured XML, syndication
  • 8. 3 Paradigm shift Work shifts from authors to content managers example: managers track hours, personnel, cost per reuse unit
  • 9. 4 Paradigm shift New tools, standards, and customer-expectations example: DITA, XML authoring, “the perpetual beta”
  • 10. does anyone know? 1 Current state Tech pubs is often viewed as a cost center ...but no one really knows what the actual costs are
  • 11. 2 Current state It’s difficult - if not impossible - to get funding we chug along, doing our best with what we have
  • 12. 3 Current state We lack the ability to quickly see what’s going on ...we can’t easily provide actionable data to decision-makers
  • 13. 4 Current state We often settle for mediocrity ...and we make excuses for our inefficiencies
  • 14. 1 Solving the problem Admit that we must manage content as an asset ...content management involves imposing order
  • 15. 2 Solving the problem Capture exactly how we do our jobs today ...detect patterns that may have eluded us before
  • 16. 3 Solving the problem Make intelligent decisions based on metrics ...metadata must be accessible and used to guide decisions
  • 17. 4 Solving the problem Changing our roles and communicating business value ...sell both the value of improvements and their benefits
  • 18. 5 Solving the problem Speak to leaders in a way they understand’s about profitability, plain and simple
  • 19. 6 Solving the problem Work like a professional ...prove your ideas have merit and are based on fact
  • 20. Inmedius Horizon ® TM Dashboard acts as a content command center ...define and control tasks, employees, processes, and content
  • 21. see things that were previously invisible 1 Inmedius Horizon helps you ® TM Determine the cost of creating information products hours, number of staff, cost per unit
  • 22. process costs may surprise you 2 Inmedius Horizon helps you ® TM Determine the actual cost of reusable content ...measure creation, compilation, and reuse costs
  • 23. easily making the business case 3 Inmedius Horizon helps you ® TM Professionally manage your content life cycle processes ...and can help you make the case for change
  • 24. More information Scott Abel
  • 25. For more information about Inmedius Horizon call ® TM 1-800-697-7110 or visit