Content vs. Delivery Management:
Much of what passes for content management today is actually
Delivery Management, dealing with content already prepared and available
for access, either for bulk information products (such as books or CDs) or in
support of interactive queries. The key
difference between this and true content management is its assumption
that content is complete, properly structured and ready for delivery. Most web server software firms offer a brand
of CM that is really delivery management.
Content management, on the other hand, supports the
functions required to create and finalize content not yet ready for
delivery. Sometimes called "work in
process management," CM includes functions that relate to authors, editors,
collaborators and other personnel involved in the preparation of content,
always assuming that the content it supports is not yet ready for use in final
information products. The difference could be likened to that between managing
a factory and managing a retail outlet.
If you are responsible for the acquisition, creation and
finalization of content for hand-off to delivery management, you need CM that
goes well beyond what most delivery management systems offer (or do well.)
Building your Content Management List:
If you're responsible for content creation and finalization,
you likely face some or all of the challenges listed below (and maybe
more.) Determining which ones and
understanding what it will take to meet them in your environment is the
critical first step in solving the CM riddle:
authors to create richly tagged XML content as a part of their original
editorial process. Using a
word processor to capture content and then putting in the XML tagging
later means you end up with a smart version of a not-so-smart source;
guaranteed to be no more useful than its parent. This means that you will want your authors to use an XML
editor. The editor must be highly
configurable to give the authors an environment they understand and can
work with. People and software
systems are what they eat and you can't deliver content your authors can't
or won't capture. In the end,
(though the details are another story) the value calculation of your
entire endeavor is based on how much of what your authors know you can effectively
capture for delivery.
authors to locate, create and manage associations and links among parts of
content. On the web, links,
tags that point elsewhere in the content, are everything. Rich content must contain rich links if
it is to fulfill its intended delivery mission.Without support, links can be a nightmare to author and are
notorious for breaking somewhere between creation and delivery. A major publisher found that when
authors are forced to break their train of thought to create a link, fewer
links result despite their best efforts to find and create them.
authors to create content suitable for multiple audiences. In a multimedia world, content must
be delivered in slightly different form to each segment of the total
audience. Whether different
delivery media, user interest or skill levels, product variations or what
have you, every content provider faces a layered audience that wants even
common content tuned to its unique needs.
Your ability to support this kind of targeting is closely linked to
the way you decide to manage your content and must be a consideration in
selecting the CM software you will use.
collaboration and communication among knowledge providers. Rich content passes through many
hands on its way to delivery. Add
the pressure of deadlines and the situation can degenerate into
chaos. Any CM system must support
collaboration among actors within and outside the primary content
site.Many vendors address this
challenge with classical workflow software designed to support
claims processing or other highly structured applications.This is usually too restrictive for
professional knowledge workers and can be expensive out of proportion to
its value. The answer is a CM
environment based on individual decisions by each actor as to what thenext step in content preparation should be. While a system might set certain limits on whom could do
what under what circumstances, laying out rigid workflow paths ahead of
time almost always degrades the productivity of the intellectual process.
and track revisions to content at a granular level. As information moves ever faster,
knowing how it got to its current state becomes a growing factor in
satisfying your audience. One
approach to this has been to keep each version of a document in work, comparing
each version to the previous to determine what has changed.This approach leaves much to be
desired, like not being able to find the changes without running the
compare program. Moreover, the
comparison method doesn't collect information about who made changes and
for what reason. A better approach
is to make content revision a specific transaction and support it with
tools and tagging. Revision
tracking can add much to the content management process. Some publishers, for example, tie
revisions to specific projects, turning them on selectively as events
possible, keep content in its original state. If you'e creating XML content, the best approach is to
keep the XML in its originally authored format until time for
delivery.Some CM approaches
translate the content into a proprietary (often database) format, and then
retrace the process to extract the XML.
This can be made to work somewhat but suffers from the fact that
rich content structures tend to have problems when theyre mangled and
glued back together again.
Moreover, the transformation is based on complex computer
processing so these systems become resource hogs as soon as the volume and
complexity of the content grows.
portions of content in multiple places but keep the ownership
centralized. Frankly, beyond
sharing inherently common content like warnings and boilerplate, the
entire concept of "reuse" is somewhat overblown. You may find that content authored for one place in your
collection is difficult to lift and use elsewhere without at least some
modification. Change even one
character in order to reuse content and you aren't really reusing but
paraphrasing. Some vendors suggest
that you deal with this by breaking your content down into ever-smaller
pieces so you can collect them in different ways for reuse. Beware; the
complexity and risk grows in direct proportion to your usage.
the content safe and under control.
I list this last because everyone knows that controlling access
and data integrity is part of CM.
Vendors, especially those from the database world, often lead with
this function and construct their demonstrations around it (given that
authors spend, on average, only 5 percent of their time in the CM system,
one might wonder what this adds.)
In truth, most do the basics well, making it less of a
differentiator than a ticket punch.
The important variable in this area is the extent to which a system
must "decompose" rich content in order to manage it. Content richly tagged in XML (or SGML)often contains structures simply not capable of being snipped and laid end
to end. Systems that require this
kind of content fragmentation limit the richness of content they can fully
support and are likely to encounter technical problems.