by Ann Rockley and Steve Manning, The Rockley Group Inc.
Selecting the right content management system (CMS) can be challenging. Too often, CMS shoppers skip critical steps in a mad rush to get their projects started. They jump into the purchasing cycle without having analyzed organizational needs nor having performed a content audit. Often, they mistakenly rely on marketing materials and analyst reports to help them decide which system to purchase. In this quick-read article, Ann Rockley and Steve Manning of The Rockley Group explore why it's important to manage components (i.e., single topics, concepts or assets) of your documentation, rather than just managing whole documents, in order to create greater consistency and accuracy, and reduce creation, delivery, and translation costs.
They use a recent analyst report as an example and define a much-needed category of content management that is more-often-than-not overlooked by analysts.
A recent discussion on the absence of Component Content Management (CCM) in the Forrester Wave Report: Content Centric Applications (edited by Kyle McNabb) provoked a lot of discussion about the difficulty users face in sorting through the functionality being offered by an ever-increasing number of content management product vendors. As systems are developed to address specific niches (web content management, enterprise content management, digital asset management, etc.), it becomes more difficult to weed through the product offerings to find the right tools for the job; one that will actually meet your specific content management needs nothing more, nothing less.
Each component represents a single topic, concept or asset (e.g., image, table, product description).
The Forrester report is focused on Enterprise Content Management (ECM), which AIIM (an ECM trade association) defines as the technologies used to capture, manage, store, preserve, and deliver content and documents related to organizational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow the management of an organization's unstructured information, wherever that information exists.
There are a number of key words in the AIIM definition of ECM in need of exploration: capture, preserve, content and documents related to organizational process. Capture implies imaging or knowledge management. Preserve implies records management. And organizational processes implies corporate information (policies and procedures, transaction information, email, etc.). The last sentence is a key differentiator between ECM and CCM. According to AIIM, ECM is focused on the management of unstructured information. CCM, on the other hand, is not about unstructured information--it is very definitely about structured information, usually customer-facing content (e.g., marketing, product usage, training, service, and support) of the XML variety.
What is Component Content Management?
Component Content Management Systems (CCMS) manage content at a granular level (component) rather than at the document level. Each component represents a single topic, concept or asset (e.g., image, table, product description). Components are assembled into multiple content assemblies (content types) and can be viewed as components or as traditional documents. Each component has its own lifecycle (owner, version, approval, use) and can be tracked individually or as part of an assembly. CCM is typically used for multi-channel customer-facing content (marketing, usage, learning, support). CCM can be a separate system or be a functionality of another content management system type (e.g., ECM or Web Content Management).
What are the benefits of managing content at the component level?
The benefits of component content management include:
Greater consistency and accuracy (content is the same wherever it is reused)
Reduced content creation and maintenance costs (there is less content to create, review and manage because content is reused)
Reduced delivery costs (content is separate from format so content can be published to any channel with no reworking of the content)
Reduced translation costs (content objects not documents are translated reducing the cost of matching content, and once a component is translated it is translated wherever it is reused)
What's in a name? CCM or ...?
It should be noted that most vendors of CCM systems don't use this term to describe their wares, making it increasingly difficult to determine which systems support CCM. Instead, they may describe their systems as appropriate for structured content management, XML-based content management, multi-channel publishing, publishing, or just plain content management.
Note: At press time, Chip Gettinger of Astoria Software had released an interesting post on this subject entitled, Analyst Reports on ECM Don't Tell The Whole Story - Why You Should Research What's Not Said, which offers some advice about using analyst reports when shopping for a CMS.
...the lines between content management system vendors are beginning to blur.
While in the past it was necessary to use a specialized component content management system to manage content components; the lines between content management system vendors are beginning to blur. Increasingly, component management functionality is showing up in ECM and WCM products. Some product vendors have recognized the needs of technical publications, support, and marketing departments and have began including more granular content management support in their product offerings.
Summary and next steps
The important message here is simple. Component content management is a methodology for managing content, not necessarily a type of content management system. Your mileage may vary as you explore what functionality content management vendors offer and how they categorize their products. To avoid making an expensive mistake, consider conducting a content audit designed to align your content management strategy to your business requirements, optimize your content life cycle, select the right technologies, and reach your goals.
About Ann Rockley
Ann Rockley is President of The Rockley Group, Inc. She has an international reputation for developing XML-based content strategies. She has been instrumental in establishing the field in eContent, content reuse, intelligent content strategies for multi-platform delivery, eBooks, and content management best practices. Rockley is a frequent contributor to trade and industry publications and a keynote speaker at numerous conferences in North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. Ann was ranked among the top five most influential content strategists in 2010. Rockley is the primary author of "DITA 101: Fundamentals of DITA for Authors and Managers" ISBN 978-0-557-69600-0, "Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy" ISBN 0735713065 and soon to be released "eBooks 101." Ann is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication and has a Master of Information Science from the University of Toronto.
About Steve Manning
Steve Manning is a Senior Consultant at The Rockley Group. Manning is a content management software evaluation specialist and co-author of Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy (with Ann Rockley and Pamela Kostur).