Traditionally used by Technical Publications, Component Content Management systems focus on content reuse and translation management.
Component content management is all about managing content at the component level. And really what that entails is taking content and breaking it into smaller parts, those smaller parts then become reusable and a little bit easier to manage. So, at the start of the process, we have separation of the content or the de-composition of this content down into its smaller components, and all of those smaller components then get stored together in a common repository. From that common repository, then you can pick out bits and pieces of that content to form a new document, and this is where the re-use comes in, so you might have a component that gets used in more than one document. So, if you would need to update that information, it only has to be updated in one place, but that update becomes available in all the documents that it’s been included in.
The next part of that process, after you’ve sort of aggregated them together and put them into or identify them to be in certain documents, then you can then process those documents for a variety of different formats, so for example, you might want to have it in an HTML format, or you might want to develop it for an online help system, you might want to develop it for a PDF system, so these component content management systems not only have the ability to aggregate these components into new documents, but they also have the capability of rendering them out into different formats for you.
So, as we indicated, it helps to manage content at the module level, it facilitates reuse of content across documents. It also helps you deal with variations, and this is really important when you’ve got a circumstance where you’re putting out products, products are coming out with new versions, and so your documentation needs to reflect the new product versions, and in these circumstances, you might want to have variations on a paragraph depending on what version of the product you’re dealing with, and these are called derivatives or variables, and so your ability to say, “Insert product name here,” or, “This is the paragraph to use for version 1.2”; those are important aspects of component content management.
The other thing that we’re doing, because we’re reusing content across documents, we’re not having to author it over and over again, so you’re going to decrease your content creation costs. We’re also able to implement standardized vocabularies. And what that means is agreed upon words that we’re going to use when we’re describing our products, so that everybody – if you have teams of twenty, fifty odd people, everybody’s using the same language, and those vocabularies are available within these component content management systems. Some even go so far as to enforce that these words are used, so if it finds other words which might be synonyms to your control vocabulary, it can alert you, say, “Whoa, you shouldn’t be using that, you need to use the control vocabulary.”
In a lot of industries too, where there’s a lot of regulatory compliance concerns, these systems can ensure that you’re always compliant, so that you always have the proper updated documentation for the particular version of the drug or the product that you’ve got on the market.
But one of the most significant benefits of a component content management system is the reduction and translation cost. Now, there are two aspects of translation costs. The first is that you need somebody to actually take the English or whatever your originating language is and convert it into a number of different languages, and component content management systems are used by firms that generally translate into many, many different languages. Some even upwards of twenty, twenty-five different languages, so there’s a lot of cost to be saved there, purely in the translation if you are making use of re-use. In other words, “I’ve already got that written; I’ve already had it translated, so I’m going to re-use that content, and I’m going to re-use the translations. Therefore, in this new document I can reduce my initial translation cost.”
That’s one part of the translation cost. It turns out the most significant portion of translation cost is for somebody to take your document and the translated text and replace the text in the document. And this is a bit of a hidden cost, so normally when you’re dealing with translation firms they will give you a cost per word, but they hide this cost, and it turns out to be almost more expensive than the actual translation itself. So within the component content management systems, as we indicated, it can take these different components and process them to publish these other formats. So that you totally cut out that cost, and the cost savings can be in the millions of dollars. I’ve seen a lot of projects that have funded the entire implementation of a component content management system based upon that. So that’s fairly significant.
The last but certainly not least is time to market. If you are able to more quickly produce these different formats, and you’re going through fewer translations and you’re writing less stuff, you’re going to get out to market faster. And that can have a fairly significant benefit. There are lots of different component content management systems on the market; they all have their own unique approach. Many of them are focused slightly differently. Some have a very heavy authoring focus. Others have a very heavy translation focus, so it’s important to find the one that is best suited for you.