Old-fashioned content production workflows manually research and extract content from the output of one project - say, a chapter in a user manual paper - for reuse in a new form - perhaps a white paper, a blog post, a web page, or an FAQ document. From start to finish, it might take 6-12 months to craft original content and rehash it in all the required formats, but that was perfectly acceptable back when software release cycles averaged 18 months.
But the realities of today's development environments have pressured content managers to find new ways to reduce manual work, boost productivity and consistency, and accelerate multi-channel content production. We'll explore modern approaches to content authoring in the first post in our series on Component Content Management Systems (CCMS).
The advent of CCMS
CCMS tools support the creation, editing, organization, storage, publishing, and maintainance of content "chunks" from a central interface.
Rather than working individually to create an entire deliverable in isolation, writers work in parallel creating “content components.” These are single concepts such as a feature, topic, process description, or even an image. Those content components are assembled in different combinations to create a variety of content types for distribution across multiple channels. The same content component would be used in several of these combinations, stand-alone or “embedded” into other components.
Picture 15 ingredients coming together to make multiple different meals. The assembled end products can then be published to final output such as HTML Help, PDF manuals, web and smart device adaptive content. For a list of common CCMS, see here.
In addition to faster document assembly and greater leverage of past work, a CCMS enables content teams to:
- Reach target audiences in multiple ways, as appropriate for that demographic — for example, via a downloadable document, in a help system, within an FAQ — all at the same time.
- Save the time and cost associated with creating differing formats and deliverables because you are dealing with text only, not the structure of a deliverable. (That structure is imposed later, due to the publishing mechanism).
- Address the short “shelf life” of some types of content. If you don’t create it quickly, it will cease to matter.
- Handle increasing volumes and design complexities that are in direct conflict with the pressure for accelerated time to market.
- Drive faster time to market due to automations.
Also, those benefits create parallel improvements in the localization process. You will be able to:
- Translate one time and collate translated deliverables in the same manner.
- Handle only the delta when updates are made.
- Lower the cost of localization due to increased leverage.
With its emphasis on components, a localization-savvy CCMS authoring process stands to benefit translation quality and cost efficiencies right along with content creation, but an uninformed approach can wreak havoc.
Watch out for our next post on the process shortcomings of a CCMS and how to overcome them.