CCMS – draft blog post #3

How to choose the right CCMS: ensure ease of use for everyone

To really get the most out of your investment in a component content management system (CCMS), you have to consider the needs of all your content stakeholders in the business, not just your team of technical writers. Chief among those stakeholders are the subject matter experts (SMEs) who collaborate on nearly every piece of content you create.

These crucial stakeholders usually outnumber your authors by 10 or even 100 to one. To choose a CCMS that does not address these collaborators would be an oversight, especially when there are some very sophisticated tools now available.

The traditional review process is painful

Traditional content reviews are managed with tracked changes in Word or marked up PDFs. It’s a manual, slow process to firstly make the changes, and secondly to update them in the core document. It terms of workflow, it’s not very sophisticated. These inefficient review processes rank as a major annoyance to SMEs, distracting them from getting on with their day jobs. It’s not unusual to hear of two- to three-week delays as SMEs review, edit and approve content this way.

And if you’ve ever wondered why you can’t get your content out the door more quickly, it’s worth looking at the time lost across all the various handoffs in the review chain. So at least from my perspective, it seems like a no-brainer to choose a CMS that provides a simple, central platform that both authors and reviewers can access directly to manage feedback and changes.

Who else is involved in content creation?

Your team of technical authors is probably the smallest group when you consider all the other people involved in the content creation process:

  • Engineers and product experts – your SMEs who know their technology inside and out, but probably don’t use a CCMS in their daily job.
  • Business reviewers – the group that makes sure that content is suitable for the business, but that doesn’t build it themselves.
  • Legal and compliance stakeholders – the ones who make sure you’ve dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s, but can’t comment on the accuracy of your XML tagging.
  • Local language validators – the ones who purely look at the accuracy of the translated content, but may be more familiar with Word as a content creation tool.
  • And finally, the technical authors themselves – the true CCMS aficionados in the business.

So while the needs of your technical writers feature high on your evaluation list for new system, the challenges they face are often the easiest to resolve. What’s not so easy to fix are the challenges of all the other business stakeholders who need to use the system as well.

What’s the problem?

The majority of the stakeholders in the list above want to complete their content review and make their edits quickly and cleanly. They don’t know (or care) what DITA is, and they feel the same about XML. They find tracking changes in Word frustrating and editing a PDF clunky. They want a user experience more similar to Google and Facebook, with the convenience they’ve come to expect when using their smartphones. But how realistic is that when selecting a CCMS?

A simpler way to manage reviews

What if every stakeholder in your content lifecycle could click a link in a notification email or from a mobile app and go straight to a portal that looks and works like Facebook? Content could be edited as easily and it can with the social media app. Your changes and revisions are highlighted on-screen, and you can leave comments just like you do on Facebook. You can even provide final approvals. What’s more, all those changes and comments are instantaneously synced back to the server.

The good news is that this is all possible today – you just need to know what to look for when you evaluate a new CCMS.

In my experience, more time is wasted managing the handoff between stakeholders across the business than at any other stage of content development. If you invest in a CCMS that solves the pains of the technical writers but does nothing to help other stakeholders in the content lifecycle, then you are missing a trick. And it could be an expensive mistake if the wider business doesn’t adopt your new system.

What’s your experience of content reviews in your organization? Is it time to find a better way?

Ease of use for SMEs is a central functionality a CCMS ‘Content Hub’ should offer.

Diagram: The principle areas of content production where a modern CCMS should offer solutions and where you should expect to receive clear and measurable benefits for your business.