Hello. We’re still working on the business case for an investment to build a Create Once, Publish Everywhere content management solution at CIPD. And for those of you who’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that we’re couching the arguments around agility – one of CIPD’s core organisational values, and a principle that has become increasingly important for businesses looking to remain viable and relevant in the global, digital economy. In this post we’ll be looking at why we need to build agility into our content, what content agility means (in broad terms, this isn’t a DITA tutorial ;-)), and how content agility delivers value for CIPD.
From content sluggishness…
We’re left with cul de sacs of insights, when what we want are roadmaps of discoveryWithout searchable content managed in a central repository, we have no overarching view of our content portfolio at CIPD: what we own, or what can be re-used. Without a complete picture of what has come before, the Research Team are hampered in their efforts to create a rich body of content that builds on previous work, creating what my colleague Perry Timms (who has a flair for a rich metaphor) describes as ‘cul de sacs of insights, when what we want are roadmaps of discovery’. Updates to content are sluggish, ad hoc and inconsistent. Findings from the latest research reports do not cascade into our training output: it is extremely difficult to flow what we know into what we teach.
..to content agility
The proposed implementation of Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) at CIPD involves the following four components:
- Content marked up using DITA XML standard
- Content enriched with metadata and taxonomical terms
- Content ‘modelled’ into logical, modular units
- Content managed in a CCMS and distributed via API
(See the previous post on COPE for more on this.) The proposed COPE framework, in tandem with robust editorial governance, will deliver content agility. We will be able to quickly and easily update and evolve CIPD’s content portfolio in a managed and systematic way, to adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities, and to meet customers’ growing expectations of first-class digital experiences.
So what makes content agile?
With COPE, content is ‘atomised’, broken into logical chunks, self-contained topics covering a particular concept or idea, stored and managed as modular units in a powerful database (a CCMS). These atoms of content can be re-assembled in countless combinations. Think of it in terms of Lego bricks, interlocking units with an almost infinite number of variations.
Each chunk is made intelligent with metadata –
<tag>s that express the meaning and function of all of the elements within a unit of content. Metadata is the context and information that tells software programs how to handle content, that makes it meaningful wherever and however it is consumed. The more structure, the more meaning you add to content, the more agile it becomes.
Ironically, it’s more structure that makes content nimble and sets it free
Rachel Lovinger, Razorfish, The Nimble Report
The talented Judi Vernau and team at Metataxis have developed a new global metadata framework for CIPD that includes an expansive corporate taxonomy. The taxonomy is, in its simplest sense, the words we use to describe ourselves and the areas in which we operate, our ‘domain space’ if you will, and will be fundamental to our ability to search our content.
Rather than re-using content by copying and pasting, DITA XML supports re-use by ‘transclusion’, coordinating content updates in a revolutionary new way. A chunk of content is authored in/for one product (created once) and is used by reference (a hyperlink) wherever it is re-used in other products. This means that if the transcluded (ie the original) chunk of content is updated, it is also automatically updated in all other instances where that chunk appears. So the same information lives in many places, but is managed as a single asset. This supports both production efficiency, and content agility.
Image from DITA Best Practices, Laura Bellamy, Michelle Carey & Jennifer Schlotfeldt
XML makes content agile. XML is not concerned with presentation. Content is encoded with structural and semantic meaning, but free of system-specific formatting. Other technologies take the instructions encoded in the XML (the metadata) to deliver the content in a specific way according to the audience accessing the content, the device its being accessed on.
Being presentation agnostic means that XML can be quickly transformed into other formats, into HTML for online channels and e-books and into PDF (and from PDF into print). Fast transformations considerably reduce time to market. Easy transformations mean that we can meet customers’ diverse and sophisticated digital expectations.
Search and locate
Content encoded in XML can be programmatically and instantaneously queried and located. With CIPD’s content managed in DITA XML in a CCMS, we can search across the entire portfolio thematically – for example on the taxonomical term ‘organisational design’ or on a particular search string, for example ‘Ulrich’.
Some practical applications of content agility at CIPD
1. Exploit commercial opportunities
To fully realise the equity of our content portfolio we must be able to quickly and easily exploit our existing assets. CIPD develops a lot of training courses for large and small organisations. Our Client Development team currently spend a lot of time searching for content. We commission trainers to design training courses that very likely already exist but cannot be found or cannot readily be updated or re-purposed. The proposed COPE framework will increase the findability and availability of appropriate content, it will enable colleagues in the Client Development team to prepare tenders more efficiently, reduce course design costs, and improve course preparation and delivery times. And if we incorporate and build these courses around existing (up to date) content, we’ll be able to leverage our authority, expertise and our point of view – the core of what makes working with CIPD an attractive proposition for B2B clients.
2. Care for and cultivate our knowledge assets
Content is a business asset worthy of being managed efficiently and effectively.
Scott Abel, thecontentwrangler.com
Stale information undermines CIPD’s authority and relevance and our customers’ confidence in the brandStale information undermines CIPD’s authority and relevance and our customers’ confidence in the brand. With a single, holistic view of our content in a central management system we can more easily manage the post publication content lifecycle. We can search the database for particular date ranges and topics and review, refresh and (where appropriate) retire content accordingly. With CIPD’s content managed as discreet, logical units in a CCMS, it is relatively straightforward to extend the ROI of individual knowledge assets. We need only swap in a newer ‘chunk’, for example a new case study, to keep a report, for example, consistent, fresh, and relevant. Similarly the modular management of content supports the automated inclusion of region-specific case studies to tailor existing CIPD content to specific markets and territories. COPE helps protect the CIPD brand.
Inconsistency or contradiction damages your brand’s credibility and confuses users about what you stand for.
Colleen Jones, Clout, The Art and Science of Influential Web Content
With all content assets stored in a central, searchable library, we can compare content that covers the same subject area to check that it does not contradict, and consequently confuse. And where necessary we can – through transclusion – correct inaccuracies in an efficient, systematic and coordinated way.
3. Make ad hoc updates
When the language of our domain space shifts, we can quickly flex and adapt our messageWhen the language of our domain space shifts, we can quickly flex and adapt our message. For example, in an emerging field such as human capital metrics, language can change very quickly, the term ‘big data’ might no longer be seen to be very helpful, not scientific or specific enough; or the term ‘HR metrics’ might suddenly be displaced by ‘predictive analytics’. We will be able to search across content held in the CCMS to find where the older, outdated word is used, and update and refresh content with the newly dominant terminology.
4. Make predictable updates
There is some content that needs updating on a predictable basis, for example the four National Minimum Wage rates that change each October and statutory rates including maternity and paternity pay which change in April every year. These rates are referred to across the content portfolio. With content held in XML format in a CCMS, we can run a query to quickly locate such content wherever it appears. Content that is known to require regular or predictable updates can be managed as a ‘variable’ (eg
@conref attribute), that because of transclusion can be updated efficiently and in a coordinated fashion across our content portfolio.
5. Respond to breaking news
When news breaks on a subject where CIPD has (or should have) a position, for example zero hours contracts, we can be agile in our response. Where the sum of CIPD’s knowledge is held in a central database we can interrogate our content, find and swiftly disseminate out the relevant messages, or re-assemble and re-position existing content according to changing priorities and shifting opinions.
6. Remain relevant and consistent in fast moving subject areas
This content agility will be particularly beneficial in the most dynamic space in which we operate: employment law. Not only can we update content as new law comes into effect, but we can also reflect and respond to legal rulings as they progress through the justice system, flowing updates through to the appropriate training materials, guidance notes, case reports, FAQs, etc. We can search and locate the relevant content that needs amending, and update in a connected and systematic way as the legal process develops.
7. Cascade research through the content value chain
The implementation of COPE at CIPD will give us a framework to routinely evaluate and update content across the portfolio based on latest research findings and CIPD positioning. We can cascade the latest research findings into existing assets, managing small updates through transclusion, and larger changes by adding in newer chunks of content from the research report. And when our research output challenges ‘received wisdom’ we can identify what needs updating and quickly make the necessary changes.
Speedy transformation and dissemination
For all of the examples above, efficient transformation and APIs connecting the content management system to our distribution channels enables the speedy dissemination of fresh, and relevant and consistent information.
And with the second phase of investment in a dynamic publishing server updates to existing content can be automatically pushed to customers who have already bought or are interacting with the content.
COPE is the architect of agility
The dictionary definition of agility is ‘able to move quickly and easily’. COPE is the architect of agility. With a Create Once, Publish Everywhere content management framework CIPD will have the ability to respond quickly to new commercial opportunities, to keep content fresh and relevant, to efficiently manage ad hoc as well as predictable content updates, to stay on brand with a fresh, relevant and consistent message.