- Organizing language localization
- Publishing new versions
- Reusing content across different systems
- Publishing in multiple formats
Thinking beyond static document formats like PDFs is undoubtedly essential to driving improved outcomes with content creation. In the following article, we outline what structured content is and how your organization can tap into the benefits while keeping Subject Matter Experts happy with tools that support their workflow.
What is structured content?
In a nutshell, structured content is about splitting large documents into collections of components. These smaller snippets of content can be managed independently like baby documents. A large document may be split into a handful or even thousands of components.
The benefits of structured content are numerous, including:
- Facilitating content reuse
- Reducing duplication across a library that shares common content
- Facilitating a single source of truth
- Enabling metadata/tagging at the component level
- Enabling automation of publication cycles
- Simplifying single-source publishing
Structured content and XML
‘Structured content’ and ‘XML’ tend to be used interchangeably. XML can be used to model anything from books to financial reports. However, its built-in support for hierarchical structuring means there is no technical reason to split a document into components.
XML allows content to be modelled to a microscopic degree – right down to tagging individual characters in a sentence. Yet, this can bring challenges. While the engineering team might see the value of adding more and more levels, the value for the business side of the organization can quickly diminish. There are, of course, use cases where modelling to a fine-grained degree is necessary to achieve optimal business outcomes. You will likely need an XML editor tool to work with documents in this way.
These tools can introduce real complexity for SMEs and professionals accustomed to Microsoft Word. If you are a knowledge management professional or policy specialist, in theory, content creation may in theory flow from top to bottom – in other words, you will logically start at the beginning and work to the end. The reality, however, is that editing work is the opposite of structured and linear. You may experience tool abandonment by the SMEs as the tool becomes a hindrance to this work rather than a help. And without the SMEs, there is no content.
So first, it is worth assessing whether your organization needs to model content to a fine-grained degree in order to achieve its outcomes.
Component-based content models
Policies and procedures are a natural fit for component-based content models. A component might represent a clause, a section, a procedure, an appendix, etc. A component content management system (CCMS) manages content at a component level and allows you to publish assemblies of components.
- The ability to create re-usable content
- Reduce duplication
- Manage metadata and tagging at the component level
- Create source content once and publish it in multiple formats
- Create publications automatically based on metadata query selection
XML doesn’t necessarily structure content as components.
Microsoft Word-integrated CCMSs
Ability to control metadata
Tagging components with metadata helps sort content and make it more findable.
Implementing a component-based content model allows for example, a clause to be reused as needed.
Full audit trail
A full audit trail is essential to having visibility over your content and being able to establish how a document came to be in its final form.
Workflows for managing editing cycles mean that your organization can work with formalized processes and controls, for example, around steps taken in your review and approval procedure.
Permissions and role-based access controls help your organization manage who can access and edit your content and put in place robust security measures.
Over time, hyperlinks (for example, to an internal policy document) break or link to something different. Link tracking features automatically identify lapsed links, so staff know when something needs to be updated.
Your organization may need to revisit content from a previous point in time. A time-aware CCMS lets you compare document changes, revisit historical content and set alerts.
Towards the future
As your organization looks at driving greater efficiency, for example, tapping into technological advancements in manufacturing and engineering processes, you might find that static document formats are becoming increasingly not fit for purpose. You might be relying on copy and paste to update documents and find that you are leaving yourself open to risks, such as inconsistencies or human error.
If you want to hear more about how your organization can reap the benefits of structured content and allow SMEs to continue working in Microsoft Word, book a demo today.