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Published on May 10th, 2008 | by Rahel Bailie


Speaking of content management

The 2008 DocTrain West conference came and went, and unfortunately I didn’t get to attend much of it. I really wanted to hear Bob (“call me Bob or Dr. Glushko, but not Mr. Glushko”) Glushko speak on the topic of Document Engineering. When I was in the thick of organizing the Content Convergence and Integration 2008 conference, I ran across Glushko’s site and thought his work dovetailed so nicely with what we were promoting in terms of managing content well, not simply for operational efficiency but to solve real-world business challenges and to advance the user experience. I understand his presentation was well-received; I hope to get a chance to hear him speak again soon.

I did make it there for my own presentation on Content Management Success: Separating Fact from Fantasy, Marketing from Mayhem, and Silliness from Sensibility, but only by inching backwards out of a meeting at a client site and disappearing out the door and making a mad dash downtown. Despite being pitted against some industry heavies, the session was well-attended and a number of people stayed later to ask questions. What seemed to resonate was the whole SharePoint issue. Let’s be clear, folks. You cannot use SharePoint to create, manage, and generate technical documentation!

I often use vehicles as a metaphor for content management – CM is basically a vehicle to move content around in sophisticated ways to accomplish a business purpose. SharePoint is mainly for document management systems, and can manage some Web content. But for component content management, don’t bother. Let me explain.

There is a TV reality show called Jon and Kate Plus Eight about couple with twins and sextuplets, all under the age of six. They have serious vehicle needs. When they took a multiple-day trip to Disneyland, they packed up a full-size van for their eight children in their eight car seats, and towed a full U-Haul because they had very specific requirements: 8 children with car seats, food, supplies, and so on. If we were talking moving content instead of children, then giving them SharePoint would be like renting them a bicycle. Of course, the rental agency (a.k.a. the IT department) would talk about all the benefits: you get your daily workout while using it, a bicycle is good for the environment, your don’t have to pay for carbon offsets, and it’s so affordable. Yes, very affordable – if you don’t count the amount of lost productivity, sales, and deceleration in production (or marketing or other corporate area) roadmap due to efficiency loss. What you need is the work horse of the content management world: a component content management system that can process content in sophisticated ways and generate it to multiple outputs.

The audience members who do use SharePoint agreed that it is a good place to output the documents that come out of the super-robust content management system, as long as you have a good version control system to go with it. Having a good SharePoint integrator makes a huge difference in how SharePoint works, but there were some “big name” organizations in the room, and the common version control system in the room was eerily similar. It went something like this:
– Create a folder where the document goes.
– Create a sub-folder called “Archive”.
– Give the document a suffix that includes the creation date, time, and the author’s initials.
– Before uploading any new version, copy the old version to your desktop.
– Copy the old version to the Archive subfolder.
– Delete the old version from the main folder.
– Change the suffix of the document to reflect the new time and date.
– Upload to indicate that it is the latest version.

Enough said on that topic. More about DocTrain West in my next post.

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

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