How to Choose The Right Content Management System for Your Technical Documentation

The job of a technical documentation team is not an easy one. The materials you produce are vital to the success of your product in the market, no matter what industry you operate in.

Issues with content quality or production delays have a knock-on effect for both the customers who read your content and for divisions within your company: for example, support who deals with calls from customers who don’t understand how to use the product; sales and marketing who need customers to have access to accurate information during the purchase process; and from R&D who wants to ship products simultaneously in multiple markets.

For many tech docs teams, this process is fraught with pressure, tight deadlines and complexity. A component content management system (CCMS) simplifies technical documentation creation and review processes as well as the management of multiple content versions and translations. It improves the efficiency of your writing team wherever they are based using standardized methods of working while automating governance and maintenance of content quality and consistency.

But how do you know which CCMS is right for you?

In this blog series, we’ll explore some of the key attributes you need to be aware of when selecting a CCMS for your business.

Scalability and performance

If you manage a team of authors, who work in different locations around the world, on multiple publications and publish to multiple channels and in multiple languages, then you need a CCMS optimized to perform across all these areas.

Performance for authors

A CCMS should allow writers, subject matter experts, reviewers and approvers to work effortlessly, no matter where they are in the world. You need a system that is responsive in all geographies, so no one is slowed down or frustrated by a sluggish user interface that harms productivity. This is not just an issue of network speed. If all parts of the system are not optimized for distributed and remote working then things can very quickly become painful.

Publishing output performance

At publishing time, your CCMS should be able to handle the throughput of hundreds and thousands of permutations of topics, variables and versions efficiently and to a predictable schedule. If you ship products with multiple versions in multiple languages, you should not need to wait for hours (or days) for your CCMS to process the content and apply the stylesheets – delays that could have a knock-on effect on shipping, launch dates and costs.

We often hear about Content Management Systems that grind to a halt, or worse, crash completely when faced with processing the typical load of a busy docs team working in as little as a few languages.

Software performance

If you’ve already moved to topic-based authoring, you know how quickly you can get to thousands of topics. The architecture of your chosen CCMS needs to be able to handle that complexity. A capable CCMS in this regard should have a highly scalable GUID-based architecture and manage tens of thousands of DITA topics. Even at that scale, you should be able to effortlessly combine topics, assemble maps, or books, and create snapshot publications (we call them base lines).

Enterprise performance

Finally, your CCMS cannot work in isolation within your company. At the enterprise level, it should work within your existing IT architecture and integrate with other systems via standards-based APIs. It should cope with the demands of integration with other core systems. We typically see integration requirements with DevOps systems like GitHub, CRM systems such as Salesforce, and of course other content management systems like Share point or Web Content Management. Without the capability to integrate with the rest of your IT infrastructure, you create another data silo in the business. These silos ultimately damage productivity and team performance and negate many of the benefits that a structured content strategy can deliver.

Food for thought? Look out for our next blog post outlining what to look for in Open Standards Support.


Find out more about the SDL Solution, SDL Tridion Docs.