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What system should you use to manage your content?

You don’t need the most expensive system, but you do need ~the right kind of system.

More and more companies are moving to a Component Content Management System (CCMS) to power their organization. In this post, we’ll examine what a CCMS is and how it differs from a typical CMS.

If you’d like to watch a five-minute video summarizing a CCMS, watch here

 

What is a Component Content Management System (CCMS)?

A Component Content Management System (CCMS) is a system that lets you manage content at a component level. This system tracks links, versions, and metadata associated with each component.

A CCMS gives you unparalleled granular control of your content.

Who uses a CCMS?

Most organizations will benefit from a CCMS. We don’t use the typical external indicators (size, or industry) for determining if a CCMS is a good fit. The companies that will benefit from a CCMS are those who can take advantage of the impressive functionality.

A CCMS empowers organizations to do some pretty awesome things like:

  • Manage content as individual paragraphs and words instead of pages or documents
  • Maintain single sourced versioning, so there’s one source of authority
  • Reuse content instead of re-writing or copying and pasting
  • Translate once and track updates to translated content with Translation Memory
  • Multi-channel publish to any output or system
  • And much more

To understand why a component content management system offers this functionality, we’re going to contrast a CCMS against a typical Content Management System (CMS).

What is a Content Management System (CMS)?

A typical content management system tracks content in the form of posts, pages, or documents. We write these documents in a linear manner and often apply the formatting while we write. Because we write them as whole documents, the system manages the content as documents.

The primary difference between a typical CMS and a CCMS is the level of content management.

A typical CMS manages content at a document level.

A CCMS manages content at a component level.

A CMS gives you some control over your documents, but it is not granular enough to achieve the functionality that we previously mentioned. A CCMS provides this granular control because content is created in the form of components.

What is a Component?

A component is a chunk of structured content (learn more about structured content) of any length that is independent and self-contained. A component can be a single word, a series of paragraphs, an image, or a video.

Components are different from documents in size, but also in how they are created.

In a CMS, we write documents in a linear, contextual manner. This style is a natural way to communicate. When we write, the ideas bleed together, like the colors in a child’s watercolor painting.

In a CCMS, we write components in a modular manner. This style is independent and self-contained. The intent is to avoid contextual dependency if possible.

Content written in a modular vs linear manner is a crucial distinction because writers can then use these components to build the documents. Using components already written, authors can freely move, rearrange, or remove the parts to construct new documentation from existing components.

Components are Everywhere

Components aren’t unique to documentation. Most of the products for which we write documentation have embraced componentization.

Let’s take the example of a car. If your transmission fails, you will probably replace or repair the transmission rather than buy a new car. The vehicle manufacturer understands the importance of componentizing the product both for production speed and cost-effectiveness.

When a car manufacturer builds a new car, they are NOT creating a bespoke piece of art. They are selecting from an assortment of new and existing parts and then assembling those into a vehicle. By assembling from components, the manufacturer increases their production speed and they reuse the same components for different models.

The use of components in car manufacturing might all seem rather obvious, but that’s because componentization is old news in car manufacturing.

In other industries and practices, componentization is still gaining traction.

I once worked for a railing manufacturing company. Our railings were component-based. However, in North America, most people still think rails are something you hire a welder to build on-site.

Eventually, a welded handrail system would start to rust until it was too dangerous to use. Patching and painting over rust would only buy time. The only remedy for a rusted section of railing is to remove it entirely, something that you can easily do with components.

Rust is a product of time (along with water, oxygen, and iron) and we have similar corrosive effects with documents.

Rusting Documents

Documentation is also at the mercy of time and (metaphorical) corrosion.

Since our documents are written linearly in a typical CMS, the ideas are intertwined and difficult to isolate. When one idea contains content that requires updating, it’s tricky to update with precision. Linearly written documents are time-consuming and expensive to update, maintain, re-format, republish, re-translate.

Components are different.

Rust Free Components

Documents composed of components are resilient against the (metaphorical) corrosion of time.

Individual components are fast to update since they are short and self-contained, but the speed doesn’t stop at the component level, it extends to your whole content repository.

Instead of re-writing or copying and pasting content, components are reused and linked. If a writer writes a masterful product description, they reuse that component, linking it to every applicable instance where that product description is required.

If you have two similar products (or twenty,) you will likely build many documents that are 50%, 70%, even 95% similar by reusing components.

Linked components become even more convenient when it’s time to update your content. When our writer’s masterful product description needs an update, he updates the original component and…

Voilà

That update occurs in every instance of reuse.

Curious how much time you could be saving? Try the Cost of Maintenance Calculator.

Sounds like magic, but it’s just a CCMS at work.

How a CCMS Makes Components Possible

Components are powerful but only if managed with the right system. The right system is one that can track specific and relevant metadata about each component. Fortunately, this is precisely how a CCMS operates.

Metadata makes the functionality of a CCMS possible no matter what the scale.

Let’s focus on three particular points of metadata that a CCMS tracks:

  • Location of components and linked components within your system
  • Relationships or associations with other components
  • Uses or applications for those components

If this sounds familiar, it’s because…

Content Management is like… Parenting?

You can think of this content management like parenting.

Some parents manage to know everything about their kid’s activities. It’s incredible. They track daily schedules, friendships, food intolerances, soccer practice schedules, and (if you live in the pacific northwest) coconut oil intake.

These parents are like a CCMS. They know all the relevant, surrounding information such as location, activities, and relationships. If there’s a question about the “status” of their children, this parent knows the answer.

This granularity separates a CCMS from other content management systems.

  • A CCMS tracks the content on a granular, or component, level
  • It tracks the location of those components within your system
  • It tracks the relationships and associations with other components
  • It tracks the use and status of those components— things such as publishing outputs, workflow status, translation status, and audit trails

Granular control of components opens the door to amazing benefits.

More Benefits of Granular Control

Companies waste a ton of time searching for existing content. The average knowledge worker spends 19% of their day searching for existing knowledge.

A CCMS uses metadata to enable faceted search and reduce the time spent searching.

Users can search for components by:

  • Title
  • Workflow status
  • Author
  • Date
  • Keyword
  • File-type
  • Publish status
  • So much more

The possibilities are endless. You can even create custom metadata fields and tag the components specifically for your internal workflows.

With a CCMS, your team knows exactly where to look and exactly how to find it.

Single Source System

Your component content management system becomes your single source system.

This Single Source centralizes your content. This eliminates knowledge gaps and department silos.

A Single Source System also centralizes your content creation process. Write, edit, manage, and publish, all from one system.

A single source system eliminates questions about:

  • Versioning
  • Branching
  • Authoring status
  • Reviewing status
  • Publishing status

A single source puts everyone in the same system and on the same team.

You can learn more about a single source here.

Content Reuse

Components are perfect for powerful reuse across your documentation. Since the components are self-contained and modular, you can use them in many locations.

A Component Content Management System uses linking for reuse. Not copy and paste. This linking means that you write once, and reuse endlessly. Read more about the different types of reuse or learn about how reuse improves your document speed by 50%.

Multi-Channel Publishing

Components are excellent for publishing the same content to multiple channels, simultaneously.

Typical CMSs makes publishing difficult and slow. Writers waste time formatting the document manually for each publishing channel. One such example, Microsoft word users can often spend 30-50% of their “writing” time formatting their content.

With a CCMS, the formatting is automatically applied during the publishing process. By automating these time consuming and mundane tasks, writers focus on creating excellent content and publishing that content in a fraction of the time.

Future-Ready

Unstructured content in a document is difficult to build upon and deploy to modern technology. Many content management systems and their users fall behind due to the inability to freely exchange data with other systems and applications.

The content in a CCMS is ready to deploy to modern technology because it is ~structured content. For example, our easyDITA CCMS uses a structured open standard known as DITA. Since DITA is a widely used open standard, it is common to deploy to modern technology with APIs (Application Programming Interface). Technology such as REST (Representational State Transfer) API enables other platforms and programs to integrate with a DITA Component Content Management System quickly.

Content deployed from a DITA CCMS is also more useful than content from unstructured systems because components are more precise than delivering entire documents. When customers or services need nuanced and relevant content, a component delivers. We’ll see an example of how Allstate Business Insurance did just that.

How Allstate Business Insurance Leveraged Their CCMS to Improve Customer Satisfaction

The power of a CCMS sounds good in practice, but it also works in action.

One of our easyDITA customers, Allstate Business Insurance, wanted to find a better way to deliver content.

The problem? It turns out, agents weren’t keen on delving into a 20 or 200 page PDFs to find an answer to a customer’s or prospect’s question about a policy. Instead, they called Allstate Business Insurance’s own help desk to get questions answered over the phone. This knowledge gap was expensive, and it forced specialists to spend their day answering repetitive questions.

Allstate’s solution was to create a chatbot named ABIE. The chatbot system connected to their easyDITA CCMS. Agents and customers could type their questions, and the chatbot would deliver the exact component of content that answered their question with precision and accuracy.

No more PDFs, and a 25,000 monthly reduction in phone calls!

Allstate case study cover page

Read the full case study here

Summary

System CMS CCMS
Level of content management Document or page level Component level (words, paragraphs)
Single Source System No Yes
Content reuse method Copy/paste or re-writing Linking
Enables translation memory no yes
Multi-channel publishing no yes
Formatting process Manually Automatically on output
Updating documents Slow with manual find and replace Fast with linked components, conrefs, and key references
Search performance Limited and imprecise Granular, faceted search
Central review process No Yes
Open standard No Yes
Ready for future technology No Yes

Content organized at a component level is:

  • Managed effectively
  • Updated easily
  • Published quickly

This is the power of a CCMS.

For organizations struggling to keep their content under control, a CCMS offers a better way to create, store, and deploy knowledge.

See if you qualify for a free consultation or test the software yourself with a free trial.

A better way to manage technical documents

John Baker

John Baker is a Content Marketing Manager for easyDITA, a DITA Component Content Management System based in Rochester, NY. He works to produce articles, webinars, white papers, and case studies.
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