The session included two guest speakers addressing the topic of Content Reuse, and it was an excellent presentation and discussion, of which more in a moment.
I should introduce the speakers first though: Pamela Kostur of Parallax Communications and Bryan Lynn of ThirtySix Software. They were available to speak as Bryan had popped into Toronto on the way to an STC workshop in Montreal.
Pamela and Bryan were a good double act. Pamela is a consultant with considerable experience in content analysis and developing content management strategy, and Bryan a self confessed techie "geek" from a company that creates content reuse software. Now I have some experience (!) in the content reuse space, largely from my time running the Open University's Enterprise Content Management initiative, and I think they made some very solid points - and at no point did Bryan try to do any "hard sell" for his own product.
Pamela started with some of the generic benefits of content reuse, which can be many and varied depending on your particular context and requirements but include:
- Process efficiency
- Better customer service (seriously, you should see some of Pamela's examples from product user manuals and web sites)
- Easier translation management
- Easier updating of content
Both Pamela and Bryan reinforced the point that I always make on this blog, you need to have done a thorough analysis of your requirements, you need a strategy (or a vision) and you need plans for how your going to execute before you go any where near implementing software.
Bryan made some good points about the breadth of possible requirements and how you might go about implementing a content reuse strategy if you decide you need one. He noted that they can range from a requirement within a very large holistic ECM type of programme (i.e. the Open University model) or be a tactical project with very narrow scope to improve a particular process and make some easily identifiable savings. So depending on your requirements and where you fit in this continuum, and what your content strategy is, will depend on how simple or complex your solution needs to be. Bryan's company provides a product called SmartDocs which enables content reuse from within MS Word, and this might be considered to be at the simple end of the continuum, as opposed to buying the structured authoring, DITA based add on's to EMC Documentum for example.
Bryan made the point that the interface, indeed the product as a whole needs to be simple to use for the content creators and the reviewers / approvers etc. - this is very true, I have seen people who rejected using XMetaL Pro get on quite happily with an in-house structured authoring add on to MS Word 2003.
Bryan and Pamela both also stressed the point that content reuse does not automatically mean the use of XML structured authoring environments, custom XML schemas, DITA etc.......
It can, if you need to, want to go to those levels of complexity, but it does not have to (again, take a look at Bryan's SmartDocs, or many WCM products).
So, as with any aspect of content management, there truly is no "one ring to rule them all" and as Pamela quite rightly stresses, the more effort you put into the "up front" work of content analysis, strategy and planning, the more likely you are to get a successful project as the out put !
As such I introduced the group to the Royal Navy's 5P's - Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance :-)
Many thanks to the Knowledge Workers Toronto organizers and to Pamela and Bryan