Create Once, Publish Everywhere: at its core, it’s about managing content, broken up into logical chunks, made intelligent with metadata, in a content management system. The benefits of COPE are around workflow efficiency, content search and retrieval; re-use and cascading updates; version control, format transformation, distributed publishing. COPE also supports translation and localisation workflows. It’s a content strategy therefore that addresses CIPD’s content problems as well as our content ambitions. At its heart, COPE is about developing content agility to support business agility – particularly around product innovation and multi channel distribution.
In this post I’m going to explore how we’ve worked with Mekon XML consultancy to choose, set up and configured DITA XML and a CCMS for our pilot project: CIPD’s first tentative steps towards COPE.
Choosing a CCMS – the Conference Room Prototype process
When it came to choosing a CCMS we followed Mekon’s Conference Room Prototype process. It’s a process that’s designed to help organisations evaluate two or more CCMSs and decide which they should invest in. Rather than IT deciding which system to buy, the CRP process engages the end users in the selection process, thereby helping to mitigate the risks inherent in technology projects – mostly those all-too human factors of ownership and training.
Mekon hosted and ran two two-day prototyping sessions for easyDITA and for LiveContent. Prior to the session Mekon worked with us to write user stories that described in simple, non-technical language typical workflows and tasks of individual users (for example: As a content creator, I want to be able to insert an image into a topic.) These user stories were MOSCOW scored and the feedback analysed.
User scoring was very close, with easyDITA just having the edge. LiveContent was seen as being more powerful. But easyDITA was seen to be easier to use, particularly in terms of its authoring interface.
EasyDITA = ease of use
We were always cognisant, when evaluating both systems, that CIPD’s researchers – our authors – are not in the least bit technical. The user interface needed to be as close a match as possible to what they were used to using – basically Microsoft Word.
Mekon worked with CIPD and with easyDITA to set up and configure the CCMS to our requirements. For example we spent some time with the chaps at easyDITA configuring the authoring interface to simplify it further – for example to better represent figure elements and to make the nesting of sections more intuitive.
EasyDITA is also very straightforward to use when it comes to reviewing and editing – again similar to Word. But unlike Word, a CCMS facilitates version control, collaborative working and remote access. That ease of use is something the researchers acknowledged and appreciated. One research advisor commented: “After an introductory session, and with a little bit of practice, the software is pretty easy to use; it’s not that different from reviewing and annotating a document using ‘track change’ in Word”.
Configuration and content modelling
We used Dita4Publishers and the chapter topic specialisation.
Mekon helped us to design the content’s info architecture. We kept the content model as simple as possible, balancing potential re-use and update requirements with ease of use (particularly in terms of authoring).
We spent some time working out which DITA elements to use and how. Bibliographic references are a big deal in research reports and we created hyperlinked bib refs that the authors could easily input, but also that could be extended to become a more extensive bibliographic database at some later date.
Metadata is a love note to the future
In terms of metadata we’ve been working with Mekon and information management consultants Metataxis for a while now to develop a global metadata framework including a corporate taxonomy.
Mekon helped us to import the metadata framework into the CCMS. We wanted to use the CCMS to facilitate CIPD’s thought leadership goals, rather than just efficient content management, so it was important to properly integrate the metadata framework. We had to make quite a few decisions around which bits of metadata worked better in the CCMS (for example taxonomy terms) and which were better in the DITA itself (like the website long description).
It’s important, I think, to get those authoring the work (those who understand the context of the content best) to apply taxonomy terms – not those who process the content further down the production stream. easyDITA mades the application of taxonomy straightforward and an integral part of the authoring process.
CIPD’s research reports have moderately complex designs, and we felt that a straight XSLFO transformation to PDF wouldn’t provide us with the right degree of flexibility in terms of workflow or design. We used Mekon’s IdXML Open Toolkit plugin to convert the DITA XML output into IdXML tags that were easily mapped to design elements in the InDesign template.
Mekon worked with CIPD’s in house design team setting up those InDesign templates and providing training and technical support. Giving the design team structured files that map to pre-determined design templates automated much of the page layout, shortening turn around times.
Training and support – don’t ever underestimate it
Mekon ran a two-day training course on DITA XML for the project team. But our authors needed just a very basic understanding of DITA XML, particularly the concept of structuring content to facilitate its management and future re-use.
In terms of CCMS training, Mekon and the guys at easyDITA trained the project team, and we in turn trained and provided technical support to the authors.
Our Research team aren’t a very technically astute group. They approached the project and the CCMS with enthusiasm, but they did find the system somewhat difficult to use. Don’t underestimate the amount of training and support you’ll need to give your authoring teams.
The EasyDITA InDesign plugIn worked well, automating much of the page layout process. But again, our in house Design team needed a lot of training and support. We had to set aside plenty of time and money for training and support.
Chaos reigns… until it doesn’t
Normally – to quote a famous meme – chaos reigns. Each report follows its own unique process. Nothing is standardised. Everything is slightly chaotic. Schedules are long and deadlines are missed. But with this project we established a standardised content templates and workflows.
Which, although we won’t be investing in a CCMS (at least for now; see my next post: Agile content strategy: flexing to changing and challenging business reality) we can benefit from those improved content management processes. We can capitalise upon and extend those project workflows across the Research department.
We mustn’t squander that opportunity.
So the final stage of our pilot project will be to put the CCMS into ‘cold storage’ (so to speak). To mothball the actual code, as well as document the various configurations and customisations and why they were set up that way – both for CCMS and the InDesign plugin.
That way – when the business is ready – we can pick up the project and implement a Create Once, Publish Everywhere content solution. Because, ultimately, all knowledge-rich organisations need content agility to deliver business agility.