Question Do you think your job is a technical writer? Long gone are the days where we just wrote content all day until we were ready to ship
Content management is… Content is a business asset Words Videos Graphics All this cost time (money) to create and publish In your company, content: Describes how the company works Explains the products Trains staff More
Content management is… The process of understanding that content is a business asset and Managing it like any other asset in the business Other assets: Computers Furniture Money Staff Products Source code
Content management is… Critical to the business We need to think about our content development efforts in this context Big questions: What are we doing that adds value to the company? How do we preserve our content efforts? How do we secure our content? How do we decrease the cost of content development and maximize our efforts?
Why do we want ContentManagement?What are the benefits?
It all sounds good, but How do you manage all these pieces of content? What if we… want to move files? find out where content is being used? want to know if this has been written before? manage versions? many other issues That’s the Management part
The Management part Find and reuse content Security Standardization Collaboration Workflow
Find and reuse content You can’t reuse what you can’t find Opportunistic reuse People remember this content from before Maybe they can find it Big time sink Systematic reuse The system knows this content has been written previously Prompts the writer for reuse Tracks reuse and reports it
Security People should only be able to change what they know about Restrict access to content Who changed what? When? Why? Obsolete content Needs to be managed as well
Standardization Standard content can be reused most effectively Templates enforce standardization of content Both in Terminology Structure of information In other words, the corporate voice is enforced Content can be reused seamlessly
Collaboration Allows people to develop the content in pieces Assemble later Faster content development Meeting deadlines Leverage your staff more effectively
Workflow Improve your workflow Content is not sent for review 30 times Content is sent to localization when it’s done Manage who changed what Where is the content used? What content is obsolete? So much more
When do we need to thinkabout Content Management?After all, we’ve been doing it this way for decades…
At the start of a project From the first planning, you need to think What can I do to reduce the cost of this project? Cost = time What can I reuse that already exists? How can I develop content to make my content most reusable? How can I make my content available to others ro use? Who else might be developing content that I can use?
Yeah, but… Our products are totally silo-ed I don’t like the way Joe writes Who has time for this? I have deadlines! We’ll never translate our content We’re opening a new market? Spanish, you say? This is a stupid new “thing” that will be gone in a year Just like the 10 other “new things” in the last 10 years We have buckets of existing content and I have no idea how to start
How do we start with ContentManagement?Is this going to hurt?
Look at your tools You really can’t do this with Word You can but you really won’t like it But it’s not enough FrameMaker is better Structured Frame is even better But it’s not enough You can do this with Flare But it’s not enough A Content Management system is really good Author-It natively has CM 3rd party Content Management tools may be appropriate for you
Content Inventory What content do we have? Down to all headings Where is that content? Where are the source files for as far back as you need to go? How is that content structured? Is it task oriented? Narrative? Mixture? Where are the graphics and videos? Who is it for? Who is the audience for each piece of content? What is the point of each piece of info?
Develop your information types DITA has several information types Concept Task Reference These may meet your needs It’s a place to start Even if you’ll not be moving to DITA Perhaps especially if you’re not
It would be pretty to think Your legacy content is going to fit neatly in these categories It won’t take any time to figure this out We can do this as we need to It’s easy
The reality is Your legacy content is not going to fit neatly It’s at least not well written/structured/organized You don’t know where much of it is You can’t jump on your horse and ride off in all directions You need to analyze what you have before you can decide what you have One manual will not give you the real picture Especially if you have used a lot of contractors, legacy content has been around a long time, and so on This can be very hard People want their content to be the exception It’s special content, not like other content and needs special attention
So what to do? Consider making several passes For this version, we’ll do an inventory Next version, we’ll move to a CCM and rewrite to follow Structured Authoring Version after that, we identify the information types And so on This reduces project impact If you have a very experienced writer Let her/him start the content analysis/inventory They know the content well Pilot project They can set the guidelines and train the others
New Content Much better position You can do it right from the beginning You may encounter resistance from other writers It’s not possible It’s stupid I don’t like the writing guidelines I’m going to agree and then do what I want And so much more
Standards for content You need Writing standards Style guide Corporate style guide Structure guide Graphics guide And you need to implement these Style guide – MS has one that’s fine Corporate style guide – How do you talk about your stuff? Structure authoring guide – How are topics structured? Graphics guide – How and when do we use graphics?
Implementing People are not going to like having these thrust on them You may or may not care Tech writers seem to like fighting about these for years May want committees or may just impose Training is critical Brown bags are great Making everyone follow these guidelines makes the content more consistent And now you can leverage the content reusability/cost savings that Content Management provides
Further reading DITA 101, 2nd edition. Ann Rockley Information Development: Managing Your Documentation Projects, Portfolio, and People Joann T. Hackos Single Sourcing: Building Modular Documentation Kurt Ament Managing Enterprise Content, 2nd edition. Ann Rockley
Questions? This was a brief overview of a large topicSharon BurtonSharon@sharonburton.comTwitter: sharonburton