Commerce, Content, and Conversion

Featured session: Commerce, Content, and Conversion Of all the different functions and systems that need to be integrated to provide a clean consistent customer experience, content management systems and commerce systems are the most obvious. Speakers look at three areas: e-commerce and CMS integration, why content is so critical to e-commerce success, and strategies for […]

This post originally published on https://gilbane.com

Categories: DITA

Building Chatbots with Intelligent Content

The Content Wrangler - Mon, 2017-10-16 08:12

Industry analysts predict that chatbots and intelligent personal assistants will overtake traditional web interfaces as the primary consumer touchpoint, that they will replace or augment mobile apps, and they will completely transform customer service.

If those predictions don’t boggle your mind, read them again.

Is your content team ready for that future? Most aren’t.

The good news is that with some engineering, chatbots can employ and extend an existing content repository. Intelligent content allows us to use single-source publishing to push content out to interactive channels, including those that involve chatbots and intelligent assistants.

Possible benefits:

  • Boost the ROI of existing content
  • Increase sales cycles
  • Improve conversions
  • Reduce customer-service costs
  • Improving satisfaction

In his August 9, 2017, webinar in The Content Wrangler series, Building Chatbots with Intelligent Content, Cruce Saunders—founder and principal at [A] and author of Content Engineering for a Multi-Channel World—discussed chatbots as a new content-distribution channel that businesses can’t afford to ignore. Cruce covered basic chatbot content requirements, components and construction, and a future-proofing model that can make your content chatbot-ready.

Why is Cruce so passionate about this topic? “I’ve been in the content structure business for twenty-plus years working across lots of media,” he says. “I’m passionate because I believe that structured content is the path to a more intelligent world.”

Read on for some highlights from Cruce’s talk. For the details, go to his webinar and listen to the whole hour’s worth for free.

Here come the new technologies

Question-and-answer (Q&A) content is everywhere in our organizations. It’s in customer documentation, in frequently asked questions (FAQs), in knowledge bases, in online help—and now, increasingly, in chatbot interfaces.

We’re all in the habit of asking robots questions already. We search every day in text and, more and more, we’re using our voices. Some 60.5 million Americans now use a virtual assistant of some kind at least once a month. According to Gartner, chatbots will power 85% of all customer-service interactions by the year 2020.

Q&A content has been around for a long time in various forms. The new forms fall into three main types:

These are simply new forms of delivering answers to questions. You might say, “The FAQ is back!”


Although today’s chat-related technologies are often implemented in simplistic and limited ways, they have the potential of making humans capable of doing smarter, better things, Cruce says. “Customers want an immediate way to interact with our content in a conversational way. Chatbots are answering.”

What organizations need to be doing today (and most are not)

We’re moving toward the conversational commerce of the next generation. And we’ll get there only if we can reuse the content we already have, says Cruce. Ideally, companies would publish their Q&A content out in multiple forms, including bots, from a single source. It only makes sense to set up a single repository for all Q&A content, following the principles of the unified content strategy: write it once, use it where needed.

It’s counterproductive—and quickly becomes expensive and messy—when companies create a whole new repository of Q&A content for bots.

Yet, all too often, that’s exactly what happens. Companies take an expedient approach rather than an intelligent approach. As a result, Cruce says, “duplication between content repositories is becoming a bigger and bigger problem for organizations that are answering lots of questions in lots of ways.”

We’re asked to copy and paste existing content into new repositories or platforms all the time, Cruce says.

“Stop! If we don’t start centralizing Q&A content, we will hit the Q&A apocalypse where everything is going to be out of date in various channels, and we’ll have a mischmasch of customer experiences. We’ve got to say ‘no more’ to new content silos. We can’t allow our organizations to continue hiring people to move content from one repository to the next. It’s time to put our foot down.”

The goal—which will require the help of content strategists and content engineers to achieve—is to unify your Q&A content across all delivery channels and platforms. Yes, this is a challenging goal. But shying away from this effort has big consequences for the bottom line. “If we can’t keep our content lifecycle and our publishing infrastructure up to date, “ Cruce says, “we’re going to accrue technical debt in the millions of dollars.”

We need to keep evolving our Q&A content to include voice. As recently reported in Forbes, by 2020 half of all searches will be voice searches. The voice-powered bot market is expected to grow from $1.6 billion in 2015 to $15.8 billion in 2010.

If you’re going to invest in a chatbot, you’re not buying a thing. You’re investing in a process that needs to evolve our way of working. The technology is secondary or even tertiary. “It’s uncomfortable. It’s hard. It takes work. Anybody who tells you it’s easy is selling a widget, a thing. Making the widgets sing with our content requires training, innovation, and change of the culture that supports those customer interactions.”

To make the new technologies and processes work, we must move toward intelligent content, including such elements as structure, schema, metadata, microdata, taxonomy, and content modeling. “Knowledge lives in containers and can make an impact only when those containers are connected with an audience.”

All this talk of chatbots may sound daunting, but there’s no avoiding the importance of these new options and the processes they’ll require us to develop. “Organizations should not play chicken with the future,” Cruce says. “Invest in engineering content now before competitors’ robots steal customer mindshare. This is clear to executives and C suites everywhere.”

Related resources

Watch the full webinar

For the rest of what Cruce has to say on this topic, including lots more detail on content engineering and designing chatbot conversations, watch the full webinar: https://www.brighttalk.com/channel/9273

The post Building Chatbots with Intelligent Content appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide

The Content Wrangler - Wed, 2017-10-11 09:23

The following is an excerpt from Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide, by Kevin P. Nichols, the fifth book in The Content Wrangler Content Strategy Series of books from XML Press (2015).

Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide
Chapter 7. Publish and Measure Phases

Anyone who has written anything or aspires to be a writer knows that the word publish can bear a profound power. However, within a content strategy, publish functions as a mere step within a content lifecycle where content becomes exposed to an audience. Publish represents the culmination of several steps, and as a step itself, it lives within a larger content lifecycle. In a world where anyone can publish any content online via a blog, tweet, or personal website, the power of the term sometimes becomes lost. But make no mistake, publish does create finality in that the content will be seen, heard, read, and felt by an external audience.

The publish phase brings the content experience to life.

As soon as your content lives in the published or external realm and a consumer can access it, it travels down paths, journeys, and experiences over which you have little control. Tracking the path of your content, its use, and its exposure proves essential to its success.

An effective content strategy requires a performance-driven model, so measuring your content performance ensures a successful, sustainable content experience. By definition, successful content must resonate with a consumer and meet his or her needs. Only through constant evaluation will you know what works and what does not. An effective enterprise content strategy must include a well-defined metrics strategy. Metrics should reflect the strengths and weaknesses of the solution design and provide the impetus for content and solution optimization.

This chapter combines the publish and measure phases since the two go hand-in-hand. It defines measuring content performance, demonstrates how to create metrics, and provides information on reporting.


Let’s define a few key concepts to frame this effort.

  • Analytics: The capture and assessment of data, particularly with performance in mind. In the case of enterprise content strategy, analytics includes the measurement of content performance and the analysis of those measurements.
  • Metrics: Units of measurement. A metric can reflect any kind of measurement. This chapter provides the common metrics used to indicate the performance of content, such as the number of consumers who download an article.
  • Key performance indicator (KPI): A metric used to evaluate the performance of an organization’s objectives, for example, the number of products sold.
  • Conversion metrics: Measurement of a specific conversion, for example, when a content consumer completes a desired task.Typical conversion activities:
    • Purchase a product
    • Add an item to a shopping cart
    • Download a white paper
    • Share a video
    • Create a profile
    • Click to make a call on a smartphone
    • Register a product

    A successful metrics strategy begins in the assess, define, and design phases. During those phases, identify the metrics needed to ensure a successful experience so you know exactly what to evaluate after you publish.

    Identify metrics early during technology implementation, because you may need to customize your technology solution to track the metrics you need. Some systems require programming or database changes to enable measurement, so identifying metrics early will help avoid delays.

Creating performance metrics

A successful metrics strategy starts with business goals and objectives. A business goal frames a general aspiration to which you create specific, measurable objectives. You should always start with a strategic intent for your experience and a goal. Let’s use a desktop website as an example. In this case, the strategic intent, goals, and objectives of a desktop website might look like this:

  • Strategic intent: Answer the question why our company? in a way that competitively differentiates us for the consumer, investor, career seeker, financial analyst, and media.
  • Goal: Become the premium website in the industry and go-to source for all products, outperforming all other competitors in purchases, traffic, and brand perception.
  • Objectives:
    • Sell X number of products within X amount of time to X audiences.
    • Generate X number of articles in (names of media) over X time due to exceptional media experience in news and media section.
    • Increase overall website traffic by X percent by X time.
    • Increase the amount of socially shared content by X by X time.
    • Increase number of consumer profiles created by X over X time.

    The strategic intent provides an umbrella strategy for the experience; the goal, a lofty aspiration; and the objectives, specific and measurable desired outcomes.During the plan, assess, and define phases, identify the key criteria for success. At that point, you should identify the strategic intent, goal, and objectives at a high level. Through the design phase, hone them all so each is specific to the solutions you create, down to the page, template or even module level. Metrics will measure whether you meet each of these objectives.

    To develop metrics, first look at an objective, and then extract a metric from that objective. Then define what success or finality of the metric means (for example, through analytics applications, dashboards, consumer surveys, conversion rates, or sales reports). Example:

Objective: Increase online sales by X% over X time with X consumers.
Number of website consumers who purchase a product within a given time period as measured by web analytics and sales data. Make the metrics as specific as possible by asking these questions:
  • For whom is the objective targeted? Customers, potential customers, analysts, career seekers, etc. You can also include persona or segment.
  • When or how will we complete the objective? Example: within 6 months we will sell 20% more products.
  • How many consumers, products, downloads, the piece of content shared, etc., are we aiming for?
  • Where are we targeting the objective? Example: the geographical location, the channel, or a specific area on the site.
  • Why are we doing it? Example: to increase sales, to increase downloads, to increase shared content, to increase the number of content consumers.

Incorporate as many of the above points as you can within an objective to make it as specific as possible.


Adopt the SMART approach

You can also use the SMART approach to develop your objectives. The SMART approach generally applies to setting business goals and objectives, requiring objectives to have these characteristics:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Accountable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Example: Increase the number of new visitors to the home page by 20% within the next 6 months.

From your objectives, you can glean what to measure. See Table 7.1, “Common metrics” for a list of common metrics.

Table 7.1 – Common metrics




  User/consumer path and clickstream Measures the path a user takes to complete a task. To use this metric, assume user journeys or paths for the completion of specific tasks (for example, purchase an item or download a white paper). This metric helps you determine what a content consumer does within a journey. This metric helps to validate what you think your consumer journeys are versus the actual path a content consumer takes. For omnichannel experiences, measure this journey across multiple channels.

  Length of visit Captures how long a consumer stays within the experience. For example, how long does a content consumer stay on the website?

  Depth of visit Shows how far a consumer goes into an experience, such as a website. You can also look across channels to see which channels a content consumer engages and where and when.

  Conversion Measures the completion of a task. Many types of conversion metrics exist. You will want to measure number of consumers, tally bounce and exit rates prior to conversion (noting where the exit happens), and review the journey taken to convert. For each conversion metric, create one or more user/consumer journeys.

  External keyword search terms Identifies which terms are used in search, both within your digital experience and through organic search (for example, Google.com, Bing.com). You may want to review both mobile and desktop experiences. Google Analytics or other tools can help track this information. Stay informed regarding changes to algorithms by major search engines, which can render this task difficult.

  Onsite search keywords Shows which key terms are used within your digital experience for search, as opposed to an external search engine. These indicate people’s interests. Note when a consumer jumps to use online search, often indicating that the consumer cannot find what he or she seeks via navigation. In addition to top search keywords, look at failed searches or searches that return no results. Also note when the consumer refines the search terms, and capture facet usage, if relevant. Preferred search terms (canine over dog) are another important metric.

  Number of visits to convert Identifies the number of times a consumer leaves and return before converting. Where does the consumer go (if you can track it) upon leaving the experience?

  Point of entry Identifies where a consumer enters the experience or content. This metric may provide a starting point for the consumer journey. How does a content consumer get to the experience: via a keyword search? via a banner ad? via a competitor’s site?

  Value of interaction Calculates the total revenue generated from the visit. This metric can be itemized or can account for all visits to the website by dividing the number of visitors by the total revenue.

  Cost to convert Demonstrates how much a conversion costs a business or an organization. This metric looks at internal spending and the total number of conversions as well as revenue of conversions when relevant.

  Exit metrics Measures where a content consumer exits an experience. Note the length of time spent and which device the consumer uses prior to exiting. An exit does not necessarily correlate to a cause for concern; perhaps the visitor accomplished what he or she needed to do and, thus, left your experience satisfied.

  Bounce rates In contrast to exit rates, bounce rates inform you that a visitor reached your experience and left immediately. In other words, a consumer might reach a product-landing page through an external site and – without spending any time there or going further into the experience – bounce out of the website by going to a different URL. Track whenever this happens, as well as point of entry, length of time of visit, where the consumer went after, etc. This metric may help you detect under-performing content.

  User-interaction history Indicates how often a consumer visits an experience. What does he or she do while within the experience? For consumers with profiles (users who are logged in), which features, functions, and content do they use?


In addition to the metrics in Table 7.1, “Common metrics,” you might need to capture social media metrics. Table 7.2, “Example social media metrics” provides some common social metrics:

Table 7.2 – Example social media metrics




  Post rates Tracks which content (for example, a product or video on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest) is shared by whom and when. Look at how often a consumer re-shares the content (for example, by retweeting).

  Share of voice Captures how frequently social media mentions your experience, brand, or organization.

  Referrals from social media Indicates which social media refers visitors to your experience, for example, a link in Twitter that results in a visitor landing on an article on your website.

  Social sentiment Tracks what others are writing about you in social media. Sentiment can be tracked with regard to perception of a brand, an experience such as a website, specific pieces of content such as a video, or even the experience with a product or service.

  Repeat engagement Indicates which consumers, and how many, continue to mention your experience or content, for example, repeat likes within Twitter, repeat shares of your content on Facebook, repeat mentions of your brand or organization, etc.

  The metrics in Table 7.2, “Example social media metrics,” can all be attained in various ways, including Google Analytics, Bing Analytics, social-tracking tools, and web analytics software. Additionally, many content management systems include this functionality, and there are applications that track a variety of metrics. In many cases, you may require more than one application.

Operational Metrics

So far, I’ve covered metrics for digital experiences. Obviously, though, digital metrics do not capture all the objectives that an enterprise should measure. Let’s consider the following operational metrics, which can prove equally important for showing the value of content within your organization.
  • Reduction in cost to produce content: Measured by data supplied by business units, internal audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Reduction in cost associated with finding and leveraging content within an organization: Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Reduction in localization cost due to improved processes and systems: Measured by audits and operational metrics dashboards
  • Cost per word (used in translation cost assessments): Measured by audits and operational metrics dashboards
  • Time saved authoring, maintaining, and optimizing content: Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Increase in internal satisfaction with information and content: Measured by surveys and operational metrics dashboards
  • Decrease in content redundancy: Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Reduction in cost due to content reuse: Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Time saved in taking a product to market: Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards
  • Decrease in employee attrition through improved employee tools, self-service tools, and resources (portals): Measured by user and consumer surveys, audits, and operational metrics dashboards

Content experience metrics

Finally, you should look at other evidence related to content experience. User/consumer/customer feedback, surveys, and user-testing tools can show how your content performs and why content consumers may or may not respond to it.

Additional content experience metrics:

  • Consistent brand experiences with all customer touchpoints (facilitated by content that is on-brand and effectively targeted across multichannel platforms): Measured by consumer surveys and audits
  • Retention of customers: Measured by customer databases, sales data, surveys, and audits
  • Acquisition of new customers: Measured by analytics, sales data, and audits
  • Optimized content quality (means consistent content across channels, free from errors): Measured by quality standard audits, customer feedback, and time-to-publish updates and modifications
  • Up-to-date, relevant content: Measured by quality standard audits, customer feedback, and time-to-publish updates and modifications
  • Efficacy of content related to its value proposition and key selling points: Measured by analytics, testing (for example, A/B testing or multivariate testing), customer feedback, audits, and sales data
  • Improved localized content with fewer errors and revisions: Measured by quality standard audits

Identifying the types of metrics to capture only provides you with partial success; what you do with the metrics is what really matters. Let’s discuss how to analyze metrics data and report on it.


Analyzing and reporting metrics

Metrics provide you with data that helps you draw conclusions about your content and its performance. But metrics by and large do not answer the question why? Metrics do not tell you why consumers do or do not view or share your content. To find out why you must dig deeper.

Let’s first discuss when and where you should look to answer this question. If content performs well, that is, it’s meeting its objectives, then perhaps you will want to produce more content similar to it and make investments in its ongoing success.

When content fails to meet its objectives, you have a problem. Look at every place where content does not perform well. After you have a list of the problem areas – which can be anything from consumer journey to conversion to content not receiving any visitors at all – find the cause. For content not viewed at all, are consumers interested in the topic? Do they seek it out? Are issues in search or navigation preventing them from getting there in the first place? Have you received negative feedback on the content?

When something seems amiss, first check to see if there are issues with the user experience. Then, see how the content performs elsewhere in the industry. Do competitors use the same content? If so, how does it differ from yours? Are there social metrics to indicate interest? You may need user testing to see why content fails to perform successfully. In some cases, you might need to modify your objectives. Maybe, content you consider important is not important to your audience.

As you determine the causes, build and maintain a list of resolutions.

Report to the content team any findings, perhaps using a dashboard. Present internal metrics, track efficiencies, costs, etc. quarterly. For metrics that track your content experience, determine how often you wish to review and present. In many cases, you will want to analyze metrics monthly. In other cases, you might want to do so quarterly. In some larger e-commerce environments, organizations track metrics hourly. Chapter 8, Optimize Phase, deals with how to optimize your content based on your findings.

To read more from Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide, check it out on the XML Press website, or buy the book now on the Amazon, Barnes & Noble or the O’Reilly Media website.

The post Enterprise Content Strategy: A Project Guide appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

How Cisco Uses DevOps-friendly Publishing for Dev Docs

JustWriteClick - Sat, 2017-10-07 14:48

Cisco DevNet is our developer program for outreach, education, and tools for developers at Cisco. From the beginning, the team has had a vision for how to run a developer program. Customers are first, and the team implements what Cisco customers need for automation, configuration, and deployment of our various offerings. Plus, the DevNet team thinks learning and coding should be fun and exciting.

With the help of Mandy Whaley and the team, I wrote up how Cisco DevNet (developer.cisco.com) created a system called PubHub to publish developer docs. The docs are stored in enterprise Git-based storage, either Bitbucket or Enterprise GitHub. The source files can be Markdown, Swagger/OpenAPI, RAML, or even a Stripe-like source file. Read more on docslikecode.com in DevOps-friendly Docs Publishing for APIs.

Categories: DITA

Gilbane Advisor 9-27-17 — Killing keyboards, conquering healthcare, framework churn, GDPR

Will Microsoft’s new augmented reality patent kill the keyboard? Well, there is a difference between the function of a keyboard, typing, which has legs for the foreseeable future, and its physical instantiation, which will eventually be eclipsed by something virtual. There are those who think voice will replace keyboards, and perhaps even typing, but it is […]

This post originally published on https://gilbane.com

Categories: DITA

Podcast interview talking about docs as code with Ellis Pratt of Cherryleaf

JustWriteClick - Thu, 2017-09-21 02:30

I had a great talk with Ellis Pratt of Cherryleaf Technical Writing consulting last week. Here are the show notes, full of links to all the topics we covered.

Podcasts are great fun to listen to and participate in, if a bit nerve-wracking to think on your feet and make sure you answer questions succinctly without too much meandering. I think it’s difficult to determine the depth to go into for docs-as-code techniques. I can go down a deep rabbit hole while explaining webhooks, continuous integration, and bash scripts, not to mention static site generators based in either Python or Ruby. Whew! Great chat, well worth the listen. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Wow, and the last time we spoke on a podcast was in 2009 after Conversation and Community: The Social Web for Documentation was released! Thanks Ellis for another engaging chat.

Categories: DITA

How To Estimate The Impact of Business Decisions on Content Teams

The Content Wrangler - Fri, 2017-09-15 08:00

Every strategic business decision has an impact on content. Entering a new market creates the need for localization. Images that work well in our home market may need to be altered or replaced in order to avoid offending members of new audiences. Mergers and acquisitions create a need for content updating and adaptation. Content obtained from others requires rebranding, creates the need for new metadata tags, and training content creators on new tools and workflows. A new product feature may require your content team to update your content strategy.

Unfortunately, business strategists don’t always foresee the impact of their decisions on content. They can find themselves surprised by the amount of time and money required to tackle the challenges they introduced.

Who should be involved in making such strategic business decisions, and what process would they follow, ideally, to avoid such rude surprises? Ann Rockley and Charles Cooper of The Rockley Group have a model for you.

Ann and Charles have spent decades consulting with big companies and their content teams. They’ve seen processes that work and processes that don’t. At the Intelligent Content Conference, in a talk they gave called Playing Well with Others: Using Workflow and Approval Process to Smooth Communications & Content Flow in Your Organization, Charles used his turn at the mic to walk the audience through a process that works.

Recommended reading: Adopting Intelligent Content: Practical Advice

While your process may not have exactly eight stages, and while you don’t have to use exactly these labels for them, “You need everything that’s in here,” Charles says.

As you read this post, which sums up Charles’s take on this process, look for opportunities for your company to smooth out its process and to unite people in your organization around it.

Why put this kind of process in place?

The process that Charles maps out—although it may seem, to some, like a series of roadblocks—enables corporate leaders to make strategically sound decisions in a timely manner, guiding the company toward activities that forward the business and away from activities that don’t.

The process also increases the chances that strategists will take into account the full impact of their decisions on their company’s content. I’ve been involved in situations where that didn’t happen, and the scrambling that resulted wasn’t pretty.

Ideally, this process keeps a company’s whole body of content consistent and up to date. As a result, even as the business evolves, customers and content teams alike get to have the kind of satisfying content experiences you would expect from a brand you love.

“This process gives companies control without over-controlling,” Charles says. It does this by giving people in various departments a regular opportunity to talk and get aligned—a critical benefit for content teams that operate in silos.

“If you have one team doing videos and another doing podcasts, you want to keep them moving in the same direction—hitting the same talking points, delivering the same messaging—as they create the content.”

Who belongs on the decision-making team?

Charles suggests that companies appoint four or five people (referred to variously in this post as “decision makers,” “strategists,” “approvers,” and “the team”) who have a stake in both the short- and long-term repercussions of the decisions.


  • The appropriate project manager
  • The person who manages the project managers
  • Someone who understands the relevant content systems and teams
  • Someone from the legal team
  • Someone from the brand team
  • Someone from the region in question

The people you choose to involve may vary. Not every strategic decision needs to involve legal representation. And maybe your product or service isn’t international. It may even be hyper-local, requiring no consideration of regional concerns. Don’t force these roles onto your team. Identify the roles your company needs to support its business decisions, and choose people who can fill those roles.

Subject-matter experts (SMEs) don’t need to be on this team; the team reaches out to them as appropriate.

If the team is focused on a product, the product manager might be at the appropriate level. If the team deals with a number of products within a brand, the brand manager might be at the appropriate level, calling on individual product managers, as SMEs, between meetings. In some cases, those product managers might be invited to a team meeting to provide extra input.

The goal: Create a stable team that provides strategic consistency.

How much time does this process take?

Depending on the nature of the request, this decision-making process may take a concentrated hour, or days, or weeks.

The team may want to hold regular decision meetings—maybe weekly, maybe monthly—depending on the number of requests that roll in. Organizations with a large backlog of requests may want to meet frequently at first, perhaps weekly or biweekly for three to five months, Charles says, tapering to monthly meetings after that.

The conversations that happen between meetings don’t have to take long. A quick Google search or 30-minute conversation may yield a pivotal discovery. At the same time, some requests merit in-depth research.

Companies that rush their strategic decisions or follow inconsistent methods shortchange themselves; they may suffer expensive—and avoidable—consequences.

Don’t be a slave to consistency, though, Charles says. Flex as needed to support your business requirements. If you’ve settled down to a monthly meeting cadence, for example, and an important issue comes up, don’t wait for the next monthly meeting to address it.

“Use the process—gather information, distribute it for discussion, research the situation, and come together to decide—to support your business needs. Don’t force your business needs into a defined meeting schedule if that would cause more problems than it would solve.”

In short, this process takes however long it takes. Wise leaders give each phase its due.

A walk through the process

The following sections detail the stages of the decision-making process that Charles recommends for strategic leaders of any company.

Stage 1. Someone submits a request, following a defined method

Strategic ideas may come from any number of sources: people anywhere in the organization, customers, the public. The ideas may come in via email, web forms, tweets, phone calls, hallway conversations, meetings—any way that human beings communicate.

Somebody somewhere asks somebody at some company to do something different. Charles calls this input a “request” (aka an idea, a change, a suggestion).

To smooth out the infinite variability at this stage, he suggests that companies define and streamline the ways that people submit requests. “If you’ve got 50 ways of receiving requests across all your touchpoints, see if you can cut that down to a smaller number, perhaps to five,” Charles says. “Come up with a consistent approach.”

Stages 2 & 3. A sanity checker reviews the request, rejecting it if appropriate

When a request comes in, someone must determine whether the idea merits further assessment (Stage 2). Charles calls this the sanity check.

Your company may want to establish a separate group of people who do the sanity checking. Choose people who know enough to understand the requests, the audiences, and the business needs and who can spot ideas that should be immediately rejected (stage 3) rather than waste everyone’s time by moving it on to the decision-makers (stage 4).

Sanity checkers may reject a request for several reasons:

  • It may not make business sense.
  • It may not be described clearly or fully.
  • It may not include enough information for the decision-making team to consider.

Where appropriate, the sanity checker returns the request to the requester, asking for whatever additional information is needed. From the requester’s point of view, this feedback loop takes the guesswork out of submitting a request. From the company’s point of view, it keeps underdeveloped requests from wasting the team’s time.

The goal: Improve requests so that they are more likely to be approved (and approved efficiently).

Stage 4. The sanity checker distributes information about the request to the team

When a content request passes the sanity check, the sanity checker creates and distributes a packet of information to the members of the decision-making team. Like anything worth reading, this information must be fair, accurate, concise, and easy to understand, giving the strategists everything they need to make a good decision.

What does this packet contain? Whatever it takes to sell the idea.


  • The request. (Exactly what is being proposed?)
  • The rationale. (Why do this? What problem would be solved or what market advantage gained?)
  • The scope. (Would this require action locally, in certain regions, or worldwide? What departments would be affected and how?)
  • The consequences of rejecting the request. (If the company doesn’t do this, what’s likely to happen?)
  • The concerns. (If the company does this, what concerns might need to be considered?)

This packet must be distributed far enough in advance of the decision meeting (Stage 7) that the team can examine it and have the necessary conversations with SMEs (Stages 5 and 6).

Stages 5 & 6. Team members examine the request, getting input from SMEs as needed

In most companies, decision makers have too little time to examine requests (Stage 5) and then to reach out to SMEs for further input if needed (Stage 6). Sometimes companies skip these “incredibly important” stages altogether.

“It’s not unusual for five people to come into a meeting to approve a bunch of requests without having looked at any of them. They’ve had no time to understand the requests, no time to ask their own questions, no time to talk to people across the organization.”

In that situation, no one can make good decisions.

Although it sounds like a lot of work, this research often doesn’t take much time. A brief conversation with an expert or knowledgeable colleague– via phone, email, desk visit, hallway encounter, or electronic exchange in a formal approval system—may be all it takes to address the questions.

“Ask SMEs what they think,” Charles says. Give them a chance to weigh in, especially on changes whose ramifications will resonate for years.

Charles uses the term “SME” to describe someone knowledgeable about anything—a product, a country’s culture, a group of customers—anything that the decision makers need to understand.

Budget sufficient time for Stages 5 and 6. To give strategic direction is to take the time required to understand and wonder about the requests you’re being asked to approve.

Stage 7. The team meets and decides whether to approve the request

At this penultimate stage, decision makers meet to decide which requests to approve and which to reject. In this meeting, no one is looking at the requests for the first time. People walk in having done their homework, ready to make informed, considered decisions.

Occasionally, in the course of the meeting, it becomes clear that more information is needed. Issues come up in the conversation. People go back, get the information, and make a decision at the next meeting or through email. No problem. But the goal of this meeting is to say yea or nay.

Stage 8. The team passes on the approved request to be implemented

After the decision makers approve a request (Stage 7), they let the appropriate teams know what they need to do to implement the request (Stage 8). Sometimes, though, especially when a process like this is just getting started, the decision makers don’t know whom to pass the approvals on to. “That education is crucial for the process to work,” Charles says.


Charles’s insights ring true for me. I’ve worked in situations where business decision makers underestimated the impact of their decisions on content teams. Stress abounds, and expenses soar. A process like the one described above could have made all the difference.

How about your company? To what extent do strategic decision makers anticipate the impact of their decisions on content teams across the company? What would you add to what Charles has to say?

Recommended: How Questions Drive Innovative Solutions

The post How To Estimate The Impact of Business Decisions on Content Teams appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Meet the Gilbane Conference keynote speakers

Join us in Boston to learn how your peers and competitors in marketing, IT, business, and content across industries integrate content strategies and computing technologies to produce superior customer experiences for all stakeholders. Keynote presentations The Gilbane Digital Content Conference is focused on content and digital experience technologies and strategies for marketing, publishing, and the workplace. […]

This post originally published on https://gilbane.com

Categories: DITA

Orbis Heading to GEOINT Portfolio Conference Next Week

Really Strategies - Thu, 2017-09-14 14:31

Orbis Technologies, Inc.’s to Showcase REnDER Product at Key Geospatial Intelligence Industry Event

Annapolis, MD – September 14, 2017 In less than one week, Orbis’ REnDER team will make the short trip over to Chantilly, VA, for the 2017 GEOINT Portfolio Conference. Hosted by the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), this two-day classified event takes place September 20th and 21st, featuring noted speakers, industry-specific presentations, and discussion of current and future GEOINT capabilities and challenges.

Categories: DITA

The 10th Annual RSuite® User Conference is Upon Us!

Really Strategies - Thu, 2017-09-07 15:38
The 10th Annual RSuite® User Conference is Upon Us!

RSuite Enterprise Content Management System Hosts 10th Annual User Conference

Annapolis, MD – Orbis Technologies, makers of the RSuite Enterprise Content Management System, will host its 10th User Conference and Tech Day on September 18th – 19th at the Convene Cira Centre in Philadelphia, PA.  This annual event allows both current members of the global RSuite community and those considering RSuite to interact, discuss trends, and get a sneak peek at what’s next with RSuite.  

Categories: DITA

Adobe Event Focuses on DITA for Marketing and Technical Communication

The Content Wrangler - Tue, 2017-09-05 23:46

There’s been a lot of talk about convergence between marketing and technical communication over the past few years. Most of the ideas being discussed are focused on finding ways to improve customer experience by unifying content production and distribution efforts, but few companies are actually making a concerted attempt to break down the silos that prevent collaboration. Adobe aims to change that.

This October 10-12, Adobe will attempt to bridge the gap between technical communication and marketing professionals by bringing together content creators from both camps to learn about structured content. The effort is called Adobe DITA World, an online event to which the software maker expects to attract over 1,000 marketing and technical communication experts from around the globe.

The three-day virtual confab aims to showcase experts in the fields of content management, content strategy, content engineering, translation, and localization in order to help “connect the dots” between marketing and technical communication content.

The Content Wrangler is pleased to be named the official media partner of Adobe DITA World. Founder and Chief Wrangler, Scott Abel, will serve as the opening keynote presenter. He’ll discuss the impact of cognitive content, artificial intelligence, and agentive technologies on technical communication and marketing.

Abel will join a roster of on outstanding guest experts including technical communication and content strategy notables, Val SwisherRahel Anne Bailie, Tom Aldous, Andrea Ames, Robert Anderson, and Kristen James Eberlein.

Adobe DITA World offers three-days of programming for free. But, to attend, you’ll need to register.

Take a peek at the line-up—and if it’s a good fit for you—register today! It’s free.

If you can’t make the live event, register anyway to gain access to recorded presentations. And, make sure to follow the event on Twitter.

The post Adobe Event Focuses on DITA for Marketing and Technical Communication appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Publishing process got you in a pickle?

Really Strategies - Fri, 2017-09-01 15:28
Publishing Process Pickle.png

Long, long ago Jeff Wood made me a t-shirt that read "Publishing Process Got You in a Pickle?" accompanied by a hokey animated pickle graphic. It came up during today's planning meeting for the upcoming 2017 RSuite User Conference and had us all roaring.

Categories: DITA

Artificial Intelligence

The Content Wrangler - Thu, 2017-08-24 21:50

The following is an excerpt from The Language of Technical Communication, the seventh book in The Content Wrangler Content Strategy Series of books from XML Press (2016).

What is it?

A branch of computer science that focuses on the development of software agents, also known as cognitive technologies, capable of performing tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as finding, interpreting, and manipulating visual and textual information.

Why is it important?

Artificial intelligence is producing cognitive technologies that are radically changing, and even automating, many traditional communication tasks. Technical communicators need to adapt accordingly.

Why does a technical communicator need to know this term?

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been advancing rapidly recently, and, as cognitive technologies, its impact has been spreading. Here are some of the reasons why AI has become so important today including:

  • Cognitive technologies have become much more practical, shifting the focus to performing human tasks rather than emulating human thought.
  • Massively scalable big data acquisition, storage, and processing infrastructure has become broadly accessible.
  • Decades of research and experimentation in AI, while not successful in emulating human thought, has been successful in improving problem-solving and learning algorithms.

A key area of application for AI is Natural Language Processing. Here, tasks commonly performed by people are being increasingly automated, or at the very least facilitated, by intelligent software applications. These tasks include text translation, summation, validation, classification, interpretation, and even generation.

Another area of AI advancement is computer vision, where image and video processing automates the selection, interpretation, and manipulation of visual resources. Yet another important area of AI advancement is information discovery, where contextually aware applications help select relevant information resources for users based on real-time data.

For technical communicators, these changes could not be more significant. More and more traditional communication tasks will be subjected to automated support and even replacement. What this means is that the focus for technical communicators will shift more and more towards the human side of the equation, such as facilitating all-important cross-functional collaborations, the value of which will in fact be increased and not diminished by the advance of AI.

About Joe Gollner

Joe Gollner is the Managing Director of Gnostyx Research, which he founded to help organizations leverage content standards and technologies as the basis of scalable and sustainable content solutions. For over 25 years, he has championed content technologies as an indispensable mechanism to help organizations manage and leverage what they know.

To read more from The Language of Technical Communication, check it out on the XML Press website, or buy the book now on the AmazonBarnes & Noble or the O’Reilly Media website.

The post Artificial Intelligence appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Gilbane Advisor 8-23-17 — Health data computing, PWAs, blockchain & syndication, don’t “get started”

iPhone health-computing hub CB Insights found a new Apple patent for an “Electronic Device That Computes Health Data”. The examples use an iPhone, but the patent covers any computing device with “a camera, an ambient light sensor, and a proximity sensor”. This covers Apple’s current main products, and will certainly cover future versions of some of their wearable […]

This post originally published on https://gilbane.com

Categories: DITA

Adopting Intelligent Content: Practical Advice

The Content Wrangler - Wed, 2017-08-23 23:32

By Ann Rockley, Charles Cooper and Scott Abel

The following is an excerpt from Intelligent Content: A Primer, the sixth book in The Content Wrangler Content Strategy Series of books from XML Press (2015).

Adopting intelligent content—Practical advice

In this chapter, we provide tips and first steps to help kickstart an intelligent content project.

Let’s examine a few recommended first steps. Consider these before adopting intelligent content.

Understand the impact of corporate culture when adopting intelligent content

Adopting intelligent content requires technological change, but these changes are smaller and easier to overcome than cultural changes. As Douglas Adams said in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy [Adams, 1979], “to summarize the summary of the summary, ‘people are a problem.’”

The typical response to change is to push back, and if we’re trying to change the way we’ve always done things, we should expect push-back. After all, change can be hard, and it’s often uncomfortable. It can even be scary. It breaks our patterns. It erodes our confidence. It makes us feel out of control. But, despite the challenges, change is necessary to make progress.

Human beings are creatures of habit. Even if we realize that the way we work is slow and inefficient, we may not want to change. Even when the work we do is frustrating, we still find ways to rationalize why we should keep working the way we always have. Some behavioral scientists say that we resist change because we are more comfortable with what we know and understand. People who feel this way believe it’s better to stick with the devil they know than to make uncomfortable changes.

To succeed, we must educate our stakeholders about the need for intelligent content. And to explain the benefits, we have to first understand the pain. The desire for change is more-often-than-not dependent on pain. According to Pip Coburn, “Users will change their habits when the pain of their current situation is greater than their perceived pain of adopting a possible solution.”

The best way to increase the probability of success is to focus on what executive coach and business strategy consultant Mario Raia refers to as the four Cs:

  • Clarity: We have a strategy, goals, and a plan. And we have a process to help us achieve our goals.
  • Confidence: We trust our strategy, plan, process, and people.
  • Competency: We have the expertise to execute our plan.
  • Collection of past experiences: We have assessed past experiences, looking for any that might lead us to believe we won’t be successful. If so, we have addressed them.

Practical advice: Find out what’s causing the team pain today. Make sure the proposed changes will alleviate as much pain as possible. Educate everyone. Evangelize often. Help others see the potential benefits. And, always be honest and forthright about the need for change and its impact on the organization.

Recommended reading: The 5 Characteristics of Intelligent Content

Take advantage of existing processes and procedures when adopting intelligent content

Take advantage of existing processes, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and methods of work. SOPs and existing business processes determine what happens when, where, under what circumstance, and by whom. Examine existing SOPs and extract the salient points. If official SOPs don’t exist, find out how things work by examining formal and informal processes. Look for things that we must do (for regulatory or valid business reasons) and get rid of those things that aren’t essential.

Ensure our new way of working supports the things we need to do, and enables us to eliminate unnecessary processes, halt production of unneeded deliverables, and reduce unreasonable delays.

Practical advice: Build on existing processes, modify these processes to reflect the new way of working. This will make it easier for everyone to transition.

Look for change champions before adopting intelligent content

Change champions help their organizations lead transformation. They must see the vision, understand the goal, and advocate for change. Transformative changes are often dramatic and profound innovations that take an organization in a new business direction, a direction that often bears little or no resemblance to the past way of working.

Transformative changes take an organization in a new direction, one that often bears little resemblance to the past.

The first and most obvious change champions are leaders who are visible, strong, and active members of our organization. Champions lend support, provide guidance, and communicate the importance of the change to others. They are often called upon to evangelize the strategy, publicize milestones and achievements, and unify lower level and department management. Champions are especially useful in helping leaders whose departments are interdependent understand that although the changes may be uncomfortable, they are necessary for the organization to achieve its broader goals.

Selecting a champion

To select a champion, look for someone whose organization would benefit from faster delivery of more accurate content. Make sure the potential champion is influential, willing to commit, and high enough on the corporate ladder for their support to carry weight.

If we encounter difficulties recruiting a particularly influential champion, we can try talking to someone who works for our candidate. Explain the benefits of intelligent content and why it would matter to the champion being targeted. Then work together to develop an approach that will appeal to the target champion.

Practical advice: Find out who will benefit from faster delivery of more accurate content. Approach them. Make sure they are influential, willing to commit, and high enough on the corporate ladder (the higher, the better) for their support to matter to others.

Ask the right questions when adopting intelligent content

Implementing an intelligent content strategy and realizing the benefits does not happen overnight. The importance of planning transformative projects ahead of time can’t be overstated.

Implementing intelligent content is significant and consequential. There are moving parts, dependencies, people, culture, language, and technology involved. While it would be nice to put everything on hold while we implement, intelligent content projects often must be implemented in parallel with other projects. To transform our organization, we have to manage our current workload, while designing a new-and-improved process for the future.

To determine what needs to change, it helps if we first examine how we work today. The first step is to ask questions, a lot of them.

Questions to ask and answer

How do we create content? Who creates it? Who helps? Why do they create it? For whom? Who is collaborating? On what? Who is sharing content? Who could – or should – be sharing content, but isn’t? How can we get them involved? Who is in charge of that department? Are we required to produce content for regulatory reasons? Are we required to track metrics, provide an audit trail, or prove we follow our own policies and procedures?

What type of information are we creating? In what languages? In which formats? For what devices? Do we create interactive content? Audio? Video? Multimedia? Do we use any content standards, and if so, are those standards shared across the organization? Does everyone follow the rules? What happens if they don’t?

Analysis is time well spent. Without it, our chances of success are greatly diminished.

The analysis phase of an intelligent content project is where we start to see the complexity, understand the dependencies, and get a good idea of where the pain points are. A proper analysis will help us reimagine our processes in the future. Understanding what we do today – and how we do it – will help us uncover the hidden productivity-draining tasks that should be streamlined, automated, or eliminated. Analysis is time well-spent. Without it, our chances of success are greatly diminished.

Practical advice: Talk to everyone involved in content development. Ask them what works and what doesn’t. Identify the pain points. Assure everyone that it is important to identify problems so that they can be reduced or eliminated.

Need help creating a content strategy? Get help from the experts.

Promote the possibilities adopting intelligent content may provide (but don’t over promise)

Adopting intelligent content is a cultural change. It relies on people, processes, and the power of technology to deliver maximum value. Like any technological project, it’s best implemented in a phased manner.

To ensure success, start by identifying short-term goals and work toward achieving them. Resist adding-in more features until after the initial roll-out. Make sure team members understand the importance of getting the basic mechanics working first. Even if a request is simple to fulfill, it can derail the project. Stick to the plan. Nice-to-have is not a necessity. Projects that are controlled and follow a predetermined strategy and plan of attack are far more likely to succeed than projects that get sidetracked by requests for “just one more little feature.”

Projects that follow a predetermined strategy are more likely to succeed.

That said, don’t discourage team members from suggesting new features and capabilities. Encourage them, but within the confines of existing priorities and the project plan. Don’t promise people anything that can’t be delivered within a reasonable timeframe.

Practical advice: Educate everyone to the possibilities, but support them with a business case that demonstrates return on investment. Be conservative. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver.

Select the right first intelligent content project

Selecting the right first project to begin an intelligent content adventure is extremely important. Picking the wrong project can lead to failure. Don’t pick a mission-critical project with a very short deadline; developing an effective intelligent content strategy takes time to do properly. Mistakes will be made (that’s guaranteed) and we need time to learn from them. The pressure to perform too quickly may also sabotage the development team’s desire to do it right.To have the best chance for success, pick a project that is certain to show

To have the best chance for success, pick a project that is certain to show return on investment. The best candidates are projects involving content that already exists, but will require a major revision to meet current needs. The changes required to adopt an intelligent content strategy will be less taxing if the content being structured needs to be updated anyway. And legacy content gives content analysts and information architects real content work with from the beginning.

Practical advice: Start with a project that is not mission critical, but which is large enough to test the design and vision. Avoid projects with significant amounts of new content; stick with projects that mostly have legacy content.

Think big, but act small when adopting intelligent content

Thinking big means considering the larger needs of the organization so the solution will meet future needs. Acting small means starting with one area, or one project, and then using the smaller project success to fuel future efforts and to gain experience. Without the knowledge gained from the smaller initiative, we might implement a solution that is too narrow, a mistake that can prove costly later.

Practical advice: Start with a small, manageable project, but talk to anyone who might benefit from intelligent content. That will help ensure that when the time comes to take on a larger project, there will be fewer surprises, and the scope will be better understood. Be agile. Iterate to grow. Don’t try to tackle too much with the first project.

Plan ahead–and, plan for changes in your plan

Winston Churchill was reputed to have said, “planning is invaluable, but plans are useless.” What he meant was that examining facts, understanding the situation, and evaluating the possibilities are the keys to preparation. However, schedules slip, people leave, new products are created or are moved up in the release schedule. Companies are bought or sold, staff is cut, and new team members are hired. Target markets shift. Nothing is set in stone.

As Louis Pasteur said, “chance favors the prepared mind.” Proper early planning can help us manage changes, even unlikely ones.

Practical advice: Think through possible problems. Identify ways to solve them. Enlist the help of the project planning team early in the process. Their experience will prove invaluable.

When adopting intelligent content, communication is key to success

Moving to intelligent content is a significant change that we must discuss and explain in detail. We can’t just unveil it at the last minute.

It should go without saying that the project team needs to be in the loop – they are the loop, after all. But they’re not the only people we need to communicate with. We need to keep other interested parties informed. Communication is the key success.

Who do we need to communicate with?

It depends on our organization, but typically we need to be talking with anyone who has expressed an interest in improving content quality, accuracy, usability, consistency, or timeliness. These people might not be directly related to our project, but keeping them informed is a great way to build interest in the project.

Create a communication plan designed to get everyone on the same page. Communicate the vision, milestones, expectations, successes, set-backs, and lessons learned regularly. Engage a team member to act as communication manager for the project.

Practical advice: Communicate frequently. Communicate reasons for change, adjustments to the plan, and project updates. Communicate successes and setbacks. Never hide problems. Be open and honest, but have a plan of action. Get change management personnel involved early.

To read more from Intelligent Content: A Primer, check it out on the XML Press website or buy the book now on the Amazon, AppleBarnes & Noble or the O’Reilly Media website.

The post Adopting Intelligent Content: Practical Advice appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Preparing Your Content For Chatbots and Voice Interfaces

The Content Wrangler - Mon, 2017-08-21 15:23

Profound and accelerating change is coming to the content world. New ways of thinking about content—how we create, manage, translate, and deliver it—are required to take advantage of the fast-approaching artificial intelligence revolution. The traditional methods we have used to produce content for the past few decades are no longer sufficient. Content is a business asset that must be prepared—and delivered—with business goals, customer needs, and the requirements of technology in mind.

Enter Information Development World: Creating Machine-Ready Content

Information Development World (IDW) is the conference for technical, marketing, and product information managers—the folks responsible for managing the people, processes, and technologies involved in creating exceptional customer experiences with content. IDW takes place November 28-30 at the Quadrus Conference Center in Menlo Park, California, the heart of Silicon Valley venture-capital land.

There’s nothing like IDW. Not even close.

IDW is an intimate, three-day, laser-focused, guided journey designed to prepare you for the coming artificial intelligence revolution. We bring together an impressive roster of knowledgeable content professionals—innovators, artists, scientists, engineers, academics, and business leaders—in one big room and take you step-by-step through the topics that matter.

Shorter sessions. Laser-focused. No nonsense. No amateurs. No meaningless blabber.

What you will learn.

Your guided journey begins with a focus on the business activities, processes, competencies, and tools required to take full advantage of chatbots, voice interfaces, and intelligent agents. Each day has a specific focus and is divided into bite-sized chunks, making it easy for you to have a-ha moments. Daily mini-workshops help you identify next steps you’ll need to prepare your content for the future.

November 28, 2017—Understanding Chatbots

  • LEARN — what chatbots are, how they work, what they can do for you (and for your prospects and customers)
  • SEE — chatbots in action; discover ways to use chatbots to deliver engaging content experiences
  • UNDERSTAND — why you need content strategy to support chatbots and the creation of conversational content
  • DO — learn from those who are working in the trenches; attend mini-workshops designed to get you thinking differently about content

November 29, 2017—Understanding Voice Interfaces

  • LEARN — what voice interfaces are, how they work, what they can do for you (and for your prospects and customers)
  • HEAR — case studies and voice interfaces in action; discover practical use cases for voice interfaces
  • UNDERSTAND — how to develop and implement a content strategy that supports conversational content
  • DO — learn from those who are working in the trenches; attend mini-workshops get you started in the right direction

November 30, 2017—Understanding Agentive Technologies

  • LEARN — what agentive technologies are and why they’re needed; discover how to become AI-driven
  • HEAR — from machine learning, intelligent content, and artificial intelligence thought leaders
  • UNDERSTAND — the impact of neuroscience on successful chatbot, voice interface, and agentive technology solutions
  • DO — learn to write for emotional response, incorporate conversational content into existing intelligent content models; attend mini-workshops with industry experts with deep expertise in the topics that matter most

Who should attend?

IDW is designed to serve the needs the people who plan, create, design, manage, translate, prepare, and deliver content to the prospects, customers, systems, devices and other machines that need it. The conference will be particularly valuable for those whose job it is to create exceptional customer experiences with content.

Check out the roster of presenters and buy your ticket today!

Questions or concerns?

Got questions? Email info@informationdevelopmentworld.com.

The post Preparing Your Content For Chatbots and Voice Interfaces appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Document Engineering

The Content Wrangler - Fri, 2017-08-18 20:05

The following is an excerpt from The Language of Content Strategy, the first book in The Content Wrangler Content Strategy Series of books from XML Press (2014).

What is Document Engineering?

A methodology for specifying, designing, and deploying the digital documents needed to automate business processes and web services.

Why is Document Engineering important?

Using a systematic approach to modeling documents and the processes that use them ensures that documents make sense for the people and applications that use them. A systematic approach also makes documents more robust and adaptable when technology or business conditions change.

Why does a technical communicator need to know the term Document Engineering?

Document engineering systematizes and synthesizes concepts and skills from information and process analysis, electronic publishing, business informatics, and web architecture. Content strategists may already be familiar with some of these disciplines, but document engineering brings them together into a focused, document-centric methodology.

Document engineering builds on the simple ideas that documents formalize the interactions between businesses and their customers or partners, and that the exchange of documents between these parties follows common patterns. Supply chains, web-based stores and marketplaces, government services, auctions, and numerous other types of network-enabled business and services models are examples.

Document engineering bridges seemingly incompatible approaches to designing and deploying document models. Narrative or publication document types have generally been designed using qualitative or even informal methods. Such design methods make narrative documents seem very different from transactional document types, which are generally designed using formal methods such as those of relational database theory to optimize them for automated applications.

Document engineering proposes that analyzing and understanding narrative and transactional document models involves reaching the same goals with different techniques: identifying content components, refining them to ensure that they are sound, organizing for reuse, and creating new document models from the collection of reusable content parts.

This enables document engineering to be applied to the entire range of document types, which is essential because most document-intensive processes involve a mixture of narrative and transactional types—think of filing personal income taxes, where you go back and forth between the instructions and the tax forms. In this light, document engineering is a natural consequence of audience analysis and user experience.

To read more from The Language of Content Strategy, check it out on the XML Press website, or buy the book now on the AmazonBarnes & Noble or the O’Reilly Media website.

About Robert J. Glushko

Robert J. Glushko is an Adjunct Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. He has three decades of research and development, consulting, and entrepreneurial experience in information systems and service design, electronic publishing, and Internet commerce. He founded or co-founded four companies, including Veo Systems (1997), which pioneered Extensible Markup Language (XML) in electronic business.


The post Document Engineering appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

How Questions Drive Innovative Solutions

The Content Wrangler - Mon, 2017-08-14 08:32

By Scott Underwood and Leon Segal

  1. How many design thinkers does it take to change a light bulb?
  2. Does it have to be a light bulb?

All kidding aside, this joke captures the true essence of design thinking. It sees that the original question contains an assumption that the light bulb is the problem — but the real issue is that the room is dark! What if we instead ask:

How can we light this dark place?

By taking a step back to reframe the original question in a larger context, we give ourselves the opportunity to solve the problem in a new way, to find methods that don’t rely on light bulbs, fixtures, or even electricity. It may turn out in the end there is no other better option — but unless we keep asking questions, we risk seriously limiting our chance to discover innovative solutions.

The process of innovating is what physicists call “infinitely sensitive to initial conditions;” that is, it is shaped and defined by the definition of the problem at the onset. And just as the gentle breeze from a butterfly’s wings can develop into a hurricane, the definition of the challenge at the start of a design thinking journey has a huge impact on the outcome.

There are many factors that affect the outcome of the creative process, but asking questions is probably most critical to the success of any exploration and venture. That’s why practicing design thinking is so valuable.

What is design thinking anyway?

Design thinking fuels innovation efforts in almost every industry around the world, but its definition can seem somewhat elusive.

Design thinking is a creative process that uses tools from the world of design — asking questions, observation, brainstorming, prototyping, and more — to gather inspiration, build empathy, find real needs, and create actionable solutions.

The light bulb joke we started with contains a fundamental truth about design thinking: it asks us to fall in love with the challenge before we start to answer it. It tries to ensure that we question the parameters, identify our assumptions, and pick the right problem to solve. And it continues to ask questions at every step we make towards a solution.

This can be uncomfortable for people used to the typical business method of spotting and solving problems rapidly — but it’s necessary. Innovation rarely happens from choosing the swiftest or most obvious solutions.

That said, design thinking complements but does not replace the valuable work done by marketers, business analysts, and trained design professionals. What it uniquely brings to the development process is a focus on — and sensitivity to — the personal experience of real people. How do they see my product or service? What images and mental models do my instructions conjure up? How might we design an experience for them that is useful, friendly, and delightful?

Inspiration for innovation comes by gaining understanding and empathy for people’s experiences, and we start by taking that mental step back to see the bigger picture.

What kind of work is design thinking good for?

Despite its name, design thinking isn’t just for designers in a studio.

Design thinkers in all roles and industries have worked on an endless array of challenges: the new-employee experience, hospital procedures, restaurant flow, city district redevelopment, school systems, water in the developing world, health insurance application, and of course new products, services, and digital experiences of all kinds.

Content creators — whether in marketing, gaming, social media, music, or other endeavors — who practice it in the development of their work can better understand their audience’s perspective. This empathy allows them to create content that speaks directly to a reader’s needs or desires, which can result in a boost of engagement, adoption, purchases, downloads, and so on.

Enlightened organizations also use the process’s method of thinking and acting to transform the way they engage individuals and teams, and change the way they deliver value to the world around them. That’s because design thinking builds creative collaboration in users by teaching them how to think differently, develop teamwork skills, and express their unique point of view in a way that amplifies their potential to arrive at an unexpected, unique, solution.

This mindset can be available to everyone in an organization, not just those with certain backgrounds. Collaborators at every level can practice design thinking if they are given the support and resources necessary to apply it. It starts by continually asking questions, keeping an open mind, and truly listening to people’s answers.

Great ideas can come from anyone. So, the next time you are confronted with a problem that has an immediate, obvious answer, make sure to pause for a minute and ask yourself: does it have to be a light bulb?

The image at the top is from Liter of Light, a global project of the MyShelter Foundation that cleverly repurposes empty soda bottles to provide solar light to communities with limited or no access to electricity: http://literoflight.org.

Related content: Learn more about design thinking, November 16, 2017 when the authors of this post present a free, one-hour webinar entiteld, Any Questions? How Listenting Sparks Innovation.

The post How Questions Drive Innovative Solutions appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

Categories: DITA

Global Content Strategy: A Primer

The Content Wrangler - Thu, 2017-08-10 15:59

The following is an excerpt from Global Content Strategy: A Primer by Val Swisher, the third book in The Content Wrangler Content Strategy Series of books from XML Press (2014).

Chapter 1. What Is a Global Content Strategy?

Content. Our world revolves around content. These days, buying decisions are often based on experiences not with products, but with information about products. People consume more content in more ways than ever. We have printed books, newspapers, and magazines. We have e-readers, smartphones, and tablets. We have TV, radio, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Hulu. We consume more content in more ways than ever before.

No one can dispute the increasingly important role that content plays in our lives, our work, and just about everything we do.

Naturally, with the growing importance of content, a lot of attention is being paid to content strategy. This is a good thing. Companies need to stop throwing content out to the world without a good reason. They need to manage content strategically to contain their expenses, control brand, avoid confusion, improve search and findability, and more.

But what about global content? What about all the content that your company produces for people in other parts of the world? Content professionals who focus on in-country strategy, failing to think strategically about millions of words, images, and media that are destined for other languages and locales, do so at their peril.

According to Common Sense Advisory, in 2014, the translation industry (that includes both tools and services) was US$37 billion and growing over six percent per year. They predict that by 2018 the language-services market will increase to US$47 billion.

Companies that spend big bucks on translation need to spend time, energy, and money creating strategies to manage all that content.


Let’s start with a definition of global content strategy:

A global content strategy is a plan for managing content that is intended for people whose main language is something other than the source language.

Components of a global content strategy

A global content strategy can be broken into three parts.

Part I – Understanding where you are and where you want to be

  • What are your goals for managing global content?
  • How is your global content currently created and managed?
  • How do you currently create and translate content?
  • What content do you currently have?

Part II – Analyzing the gap

  • How far off is your current situation from your goals?
  • How far off is your current situation from industry best practices?

Part III – Moving ahead

  • What do you need to do to narrow the gap?
  • What tools and infrastructure changes do you need?
  • How can you improve the quality of your source content before it is translated?
  • What changes do you need to make to your workflow to support your global content strategy?

Why you should care

Here’s why should you care about having a global content strategy:

  1. You care about the money you spend translating content.
  2. You care about the quality of your content in all languages.
  3. You care about the time it takes to localize and translate content.
  4. Someone told you that you’d better figure out this mess (probably because of reasons 1–3).

Global content strategy is a large topic. Think of it as putting the topics of structured authoring, single sourcing, and web-content management into a global blender. Puree on high, then add those cumbersome tasks of tracking the number of languages, the number of translation vendors, the content created in other countries, and more. Garnish with a nice chunk of pineapple.

You need a global content strategy if…

“But wait!” you say. I don’t really need to care about my global content, do I? Isn’t that someone else’s problem? Isn’t that the job of the localization team (whatever it is those people do in that other building on that other campus)? Why would anyone other than the localization and translation people need to care? I’ve got enough content to worry about.

Well, my friend, I’m here to tell you that if you care about content for customers who are located in your country, then you must care about content for your foreign customers, too.

You need a global content strategy in any of these cases:

  • You translate content into four or more languages. In my experience, after you hit four languages, you’d better start managing your global content strategically. Many companies chose to implement a global content strategy with three languages. If you are in a situation where the number of languages will grow, it is never too early to plan to manage the growth.
  • Multiple groups in your company translate content independently. Often, multiple groups translate content with no coordination or even awareness between the groups. I’ve seen product groups release datasheets or web pages in multiple languages without anyone in marketing ever participating in a review. International offices are creating content in their native languages, and no one at corporate ever sees it or knows about it. I’ve seen sales teams located in Asia, for example, create their own materials without informing the localization team in the United States. It’s common – and often beneficial – for regions to create unique content in their native languages. After all, who knows a market better than the people who live there? Still, it’s important for you to know where all your content is, who is managing it, how many languages it is in, and where it lives.
  • You don’t know the name of the head of localization. If you are responsible for content – any content – that is being translated, you must have a direct line to your localization team. Siloed efforts at translation and localization might work for a while, but eventually, they fail.
  • You have so many translation vendors that you can’t remember which ones you sent what content to. Many large companies work with more than one translation vendor. That’s a common practice. Unfortunately, I’ve seen companies work with so many translation vendors that they can’t keep track of who is translating what. This lack of coordination results in some content being translated multiple times and some content never making it to translation. In some cases, the lack of coordination can even delay a product launch.
  • You don’t know what TM stands for. TM stands for translation memory. If your content is being translated, you need to understand what TM is and how it works. You also need to manage your TMs. Having multiple vendors, each using its own version of your TM can be ridiculously expensive and can create mismatched translations and overall confusion. Know where your TMs are, and keep them to a minimum. In an ideal world, you have a single TM that is used by all your translation vendors.
  • You are considering using machine translation. There are different kinds of machine translation: statistical, rule-based, and hybrid. Machine translation (MT) systems can be complicated and expensive. To do it right, you need to use best-of-breed MT software and have experts help configure the software for your content.
  • You have tried using Google Translate for real work. Many companies think that using free machine translation software is good enough. It is not.

Even if you have only one of the factors listed above, it is important to strategically manage all the moving parts in the global content workflow.

Google Translate is not a global content strategy

We would all love to believe that free MT suffices as a translation strategy. In fact, some companies use free translation engines, like Google Translate or Bing Translate, for real work. I’m here to tell you what you already know: you cannot rely on free MT engines if you want to be certain that your translations are accurate.

Free MT is fine if you’re translating a letter that your great aunt sent you from Italy. It’s also fine when you want to tell a new friend Welcome to the United States in his or her native language. But free MT is unacceptable in any setting where you depend on the quality of the translation. This includes all business communication more significant than an email to your colleague in Uruguay telling him that you look forward to seeing him soon. If you care about your brand, if you care about your customer, if you care about your job, hire a professional translator for content that matters.

Will there come a day when free MT is as good as professional translators or even specially programmed MT? Perhaps. But that day is far off.

Content strategy versus global content strategy

You would think that any thorough content strategy would include all of the concerns that are important for global content. Unfortunately, this is not the case. These days, there are several types of content strategy. Examples:

  • Web content strategy, which focuses on content delivered via the web
  • Technical content strategy, which usually includes structured authoring and content reuse
  • Global content strategy, which includes all content, everywhere, in every language

I think it is time we stop segmenting content strategy into global and non-global. If all companies included global content from the beginning of the planning phases, and if all content developers planned for translation as they created the source content, companies would avoid many problems – and we wouldn’t need the term global content strategy. Ideally, the term content strategy would cover global considerations implicitly.

Until we get there, we need to put the global in content strategy. And we need books like this to show how it’s done.

To read more from Global Content Strategy by Val Swisher, check it out on the XML Press website, or buy the book now on the AmazonBarnes & Noble or the O’Reilly Media website. To learn more about the global content strategy services Val provides, check out her company website, Content Rules.

The post Global Content Strategy: A Primer appeared first on The Content Wrangler.

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