Bringing Reuse & Flexibility to Enterprise Content Management
We all played with them as kids… maybe we still do as adults.
Those famous building blocks we know and love spark our creativity and provide limitless opportunities for reinvention.
From a cityscape to an alien ship to a cozy cottage, the same pile of blocks can become literally anything — they are the perfect example of reuse.
The same concept can be applied to content, if we think about it a little bit differently.
Reevaluating "How We've Always Done It"
When we sit down to create a piece of content, we tend to start large — a new hire training program, a product user guide, a customer support reference materials. Our brains are almost wired to do this because of the traditional “rapid” tools we are accustomed to using. So we immediately start gathering or recreating all the different content pieces and components. We don’t stop to see if even part of what we need was already created, because if it is, chances are, it is stuck in a tool or format, or is saved on someone’s computer, making it all but impossible to find.
The reality is, traditional tools and processes are typically inflexible, packaging multiple sections of content and locking it into a specific sequence and format. The only way to reuse content in this scenario is start from scratch with each output type and copy and paste for individual deliverables — an inefficient and time-consuming process.
Flexible Content is Reusable Content
What if, instead, we created content in flexible, reusable chunks that we could essentially use as independent building blocks? Building blocks that could be used as stand-alone objects or assembled, personalized, and localized in an infinite number of ways based on the unique needs of each individual audience.
What if we could tailor those building blocks based on language, topic, audience, etc., into any number of outputs without duplicating efforts? If we started from independent, reusable building blocks from a centralized content library, we could easily reuse existing content and augment where needed instead of starting from scratch with each new deliverable.
Treat Content as a Business Asset
Traditional tools lock content into set formats, making it difficult to reuse without a lot of manual effort. One the reasons The Building Block Method is so effective, is because it hinges on separating content from presentation — the content is created independently and the formatting is applied later as each deliverable is published.
Time and again, we have found that content authors typically spend more than half of their time on formatting, styling and layout. By creating reusable content blocks independent of formatting, organizations can quickly pivot and create or redeploy content in new deliverables to respond to changes or serve additional audiences.
Why It's Time to Challenge the Status Quo
Relying on traditional processes and “rapid” authoring tools is no longer an efficient or effective way to manage large volumes of content. Creating each deliverable from scratch, trapping content into restrictive formats, and allowing content to reside in multiple incompatible tools or platforms all make it more difficult to create and manage content effectively — let alone pivot and respond to new needs and challenges.
It’s simply not sustainable at scale.
By adopting a flexible content strategy based on building independent, reusable content blocks, storing them in a central location, and separating content from presentation — what we call The Building Block Method — organizations can quickly respond to unforeseen changes, reuse existing content with new context and deploy new content iteratively at the point of need, in any number of formats.
Organizations must be willing to challenge the status quo and reexamine their existing content strategy, processes and tools to stay ahead of the curve. Shifting to a flexible approach designed for reuse and scalability is possible with the right foundation. That doesn’t mean throwing away the tools you have in place. Instead, integrate your Content Management Technology Ecosystem and figure out where you need to fill in the gaps. The more complex and diverse your content, the more you need to look at it from an enterprise level.
If content volume, maintenance and scale are not beyond the reasonable ability of an individual or team to manage, a simpler tool set is probably enough. If, however, an organization employs a more complex content management strategy — which can cause content deliverables to increase exponentially when multiple products, audiences, roles and languages come into play — a more robust configuration of tools and platforms is likely going to be required.