Optimize Your Content: Fragmentation and Structure
In our last post, we introduced the Knowledge Value Maturity Model, designed to help you see where your organization “places” compared to others in the industry regarding knowledge and content utilization. Now let’s focus on some specific tracks in the model. While the various tracks of the knowledge value model are independent, some can be easily combined for maximum benefit. Future blog posts will explore the different tracks using these optimal combinations. This week: fragmentation and structure.
Fragmentation and Structure
The logical first step in knowledge optimization is to reduce knowledge fragmentation and add structure to the creation of corporate content. This effort is usually led by the technical documentation department. The technical documentation team can most clearly see the costs of knowledge fragmentation in resources and employee hours, as well as the potential benefit that optimization will bring.
The “Lagging” Business
A business that is lagging in this area has unstructured documents that are barely accessible, stored in difficult-to-search shared file folders or on SharePoint. Corporate content is stored in a number of silos that are not connected with each other. For example, the technical support team may maintain their “how-tos” and the solutions they provide for customers in a knowledge base that has no connection with the official documentation that is carefully composed, updated, and edited in the technical documentation department. When this support knowledge base is also available online to customers, it can create confusion and even misinformation – for example, if the knowledge base is not updated with changes to a new version of the product, even if these changes are reflected in the official documentation.
Getting to the “Performing” Level
The motivation for optimization at this stage is obvious. For customers to receive accurate information, they need a way of accessing all the content that the company creates. At the same time, content authors within the company need to keep up with numerous incremental changes needed for the documentation of new versions. To do this effectively, content authors need to structure new content so that topic-level changes can be easily implemented and spread to the rest of the organization and to customers through multi-channel publishing. (For more on intelligent content, see our last post.)
This “performing” level is achieved through the parallel activities of making corporate documents more accessible as a whole and of creating content in a structured format. Before all content is available in a structured format, accessibility can be increased through document-level search engines that index the company’s different silos.
|Example: Let’s look at the well-known but fictional company, Acme Widgets. All of Acme’s content is in static PDF files. If Maria, a customer of Acme Widgets, needs to know how to install Widget 3 on Platform A, a document-level search engine will provide Maria with the manual for Widget 3. She will then need to search through the manual for the answer she needs. This basic access to corporate content is considered the absolute minimum in terms of self-service, but falls far short of what many customers expect today.|
But by switching to structured, topic-based XML content (that is, intelligent content), content authors within the organization can both increase findability for customers and easily keep track of topic-level changes to documents. Changes made to a single topic are updated throughout corporate documentation, sent automatically for translation, recompiled, and published to web and mobile.
|Once Acme Widgets has successfully implemented intelligent content with a robust taxonomy, it will achieve considerable savings in resources. For example, as soon as the Acme technical documentation team updates the Widget 3.0 manual to reflect the changes in Widget 3.1, all the topics that they have changed are automatically updated and compiled in new manuals that are accessible by web and mobile. Only the revised topics are sent for translation, leading to lower translation costs and more effective content management.|
The World-Class Level: Where It All Comes Together
It is at the world-class level that the company’s advances in the “fragmentation” and “structure” tracks can truly come together. Once the content is structured at the topic level, it is possible to give customers topic-level access via a single enterprise portal that draws content from all the silos in the company. The effective use of metadata, taxonomy, and classification in the authoring process ensures that this portal gives customers immediate access to relevant content and the exact topic they need, regardless of where it “sits” in the organization.
|After Acme Widgets has switched to intelligent content, Maria becomes a much happier customer. When Maria needs to install Widget 3 on Platform A, she can go to the online portal and immediately find that specific topic, drawn dynamically from Acme’s content, the first time she searches. In the same view, thanks to the effective use of metadata and classification, Maria sees a how-to article on installing widgets on Platform A drawn from the technical support knowledge base, and an update alert noting the changes needed when installing Widget 3.1.|
This same access to relevant content is available to employees such as support personnel who need quick access to specific solutions. Since support personnel access content through the same portal, they can add how-to articles in the same structured system and propose updates to technical documentation based on their contact and experiences with customers.
The result of the combination of intelligent content, content consolidation and content accessibility is evident in the company’s interactions with customers and in employee productivity. Customer satisfaction rises and support costs fall as customers are more easily able to access the content they need quickly and without calling support. Support personnel have easier access to content throughout the company and the content itself is improved. Moreover, content creation is less expensive as more new versions are released: less time is needed to update manuals and less money is spent on translation.
The clear and immediate benefits that you can achieve by moving your organization up these two tracks make them a good focus for your initial investment in optimizing the use of your corporate knowledge. We will discuss other tracks that go together in our next blog: Distribution, Display, and Search Methodology.
Comments? Questions? Let me know in the comment box below!