Friday, October 30, 2009

Countering the Content Conundrum

Posted by Mark Brousseau

In the article below, Bruce Sharpe of JustSystems takes structured content to the enterprise, showing how it can solve problems most people didn’t know could be fixed, problems that we all have if we work with content.

Have you ever spent hours poring over a document to ensure accuracy and inclusion of all edits made to earlier versions? Have you — or has your company — ever suffered consequences from taking content written for an internal audience and using it for sales or marketing — without thoroughly vetting it for external use?

No matter the department — HR, sales, marketing, legal, administration, etc. — many of you find that kind of content pain to be an unavoidable fact of work life, standard operating procedure. Unaware of a better way to create and manage content, you suck it up. Well, you can stop sucking because there is a better way, and that way is structured content — documents that have been chunked into meaningful component parts and tagged in a systematic fashion.

While it remains one of the best-kept enterprise secrets, structured content has long proven its value in technical communications where it mitigates risks, reduces costs, and increases revenues. Better still, the road to mature, standards-based structured content has been paved by organizations such as IBM and OASIS and standards such as DITA. Now, it’s time for other enterprise functions to realize the same benefits associated with structured content.

In brief, structured content brings organization and automation to content. Structured content lets content creators efficiently create, collaborate, manage and reuse high volumes of information, which can be repurposed into the languages and formats your customers demand.

The result? Organizations accelerate the cost-effective delivery of accurate information products — whether those products are for internal or external consumption, e.g., sales RFPs, marketing brochures, HR forms, legal contracts or any other department’s content.

So, what does structured content look like in the enterprise? It depends where you look.

In research & development, you can use structured content to create and manage engineering documents, technical publications, and strategy and planning documents. Here, structured content can help increase revenues by improving the ability of key employees, partners and vendors to share and discover documents, resulting in faster time to market for new products.

Meanwhile, costs can be reduced through content repurposing and reuse, which eliminates the duplication and re-creation of existing content. And structured content can mitigate R&D risk, for instance, helping companies avoid noncompliance, and improve customer satisfaction by ensuring the consistent use of authoritative content in product documentation.

In manufacturing, contracts, manufacturing operations, standard operating procedures and regulated documents all benefit from structured content. Revenue growth can come from streamlined creation of contracts and agreements, ultimately accelerating time to revenue. Cost reductions may be seen in reduced rework, recall and aftermarket service costs otherwise caused by inaccurate information in manufacturing documents. Risk can be mitigated by reducing the risk of inaccurate or inconsistent contracts, and by reducing the risk of human error associated with reviewing one-of-a-kind, complex legal documents.

In sales and marketing, structured content can be applied to sales and marketing collateral as well as contact center documents. The revenue opportunities in the sales and marketing department include developing a reusable library of proven RFPs and content to improve win rates. That reusable library also helps to reduce the costs of goods sold by reducing the time and costs associated with developing proposals and business correspondence. Predefined, reusable content components with approved language and standard terms and conditions mitigate risks by ensuring the accuracy of contracts and legally binding agreements.

In service and support, you can use structured content for maintenance and repair, technical support and training documents. To increase revenues, you could increase aftermarket sales through maintenance and repair operations supported with structured content. Cost reductions may be realized through content reuse, which reduces editorial and publishing costs. Structured content helps mitigate the risk of noncompliance and potentially catastrophic equipment failure by ensuring personnel have consistent, up-to-date maintenance and repair information.

In corporate administration, structured content can benefit legal and regulatory, human resources, and finance and operations documents. Revenue growth can come from improving the ability to discover patents and IP documentation for ongoing growth and protection of revenue streams. Cost savings may be realized by reducing redundant editorial and publishing costs, which lowers the cost of publishing and maintaining standard documents. Finally, structured content can help reduce the risks of errors during the review process and through regulatory filings, demonstrating that you have compliance policies in place.

Clearly, these are just a few of many examples in which structured content can benefit the organization. The important takeaway is that you don’t have to live with your current content conundrums. You can relieve the pain and realize significant advantages by embracing structured content, in whatever department you happen to work.

Dr. Bruce Sharpe brings over 25 years of technology leadership experience to JustSystems, including founding XMetaL and HoTMetaL content creation solutions. He held senior technical management positions at MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, Advanced Gravis, SoftQuad Software, Corel, and Blast Radius before successfully bringing XMetaL to JustSystems. Learn more about JustSystems at and contact Bruce at

No comments: