opportunities for structured content
Companies create competitive advantage with technology by building on current practice in ways that others in their industries have yet to discover or implement. Structured content can support a wide range of business activities, from more common and well understood classic examples of structured content to emerging applications that help organizations become leaders in their fields. The rewards those leaders realize can be significant, in terms of revenues, operational costs, or other business measures, as well as in terms of new skills, knowledge, and expertise that create true, lasting competitive advantage. Below are real examples of companies taking a leadership role in structured content; pushing the envelope to illustrate its positive impact on revenue growth, cost reductions, and risk mitigation. And their advice reflects lessons learned along the way. Revenue growth. By adopting structured content, a pharmaceutical company can meet its regulatory requirements more efficiently and grow revenues by entering new markets. To begin with, all pharmaceutical products must have a document called the product label. Pharmaceutical companies must submit their product label to the relevant regulatory agencies for review and approval (such as the FDA in the United States) before they can bring their products to market. While the product labeling information has a prescribed structure, it is different in each market. To market internationally and sell products in different countries, the pharmaceutical company needs to publish the same product information in a number of different ways. The publishing challenge is fairly complicated and can include dozens of different renditions of the same document, each containing the exact same language about product information but formatted differently and produced for different purposes. Traditionally, these documents were managed as word processing files, a non-scalable approach that led to duplicate efforts and prohibitive product marketing costs. Using structured content tools, the pharmaceutical company can quickly and easily create documents, check their completeness, and generate multiple versions of the same content. Cost reductions. A software firm is experiencing rapid growth in the number of licenses sold, in the number of products they offer in their suite of solutions, and in the number of languages its product documentation must support. The software firm employs an agile manufacturing process, reusing components and supporting documentation in new products. A structured data model based on DITA enables information to be organized and structured into logical topic areas. The structured content can then be reused for each product to match the product development capabilities. Translating documentation into multiple languages is an expensive and time consuming activity that involves quality assurance, project management and coordination of the work, and formatting each language version into the proper format for each language. To enable efficient management of structured information components throughout the translation process, the firm chose a content management system (CMS). Now, instead of having to translate an entire manual each time it was updated, documentation editors could select for translation only the sections that had been modified, thus reducing total work to be done, costs, and the amount of time needed to complete the task. Also, the structured content produced can be formatted automatically instead of using slower, more expensive desktop publishing tools. Risk mitigation. Several aspects of risk can be mitigated when structured content is used to produce software documentation. Copyright enforcement and boilerplate language that appears in the content, for example, carry legal risks that structured content addresses by allowing copyright, patent, and legal information about products to be managed in a CMS. Also, licensing agreements, contracts, and other important legal documents can be managed in a similar componentized manner. A software firm also must meet specific needs in various markets. Variations in cultural and geographic preferences for how the information is presented can be better managed using structured content that is easily transformed into market-specific formats. For instance, the Japanese market is sensitive to the fonts and formatting used, page layout, and indexing provided. Structured content and CMS tools allow the firm to addresses these specific needs and reduce the risk of selling into each market. Leadership Lessons. Companies pursue and establish leadership positions by extending existing knowledge into new domains and experimenting with established principles. Here are some of their most important discoveries: * Validation of structure should be designed to support business needs, not be constrained by tool capabilities. Applications requiring robust structural validation to support automated processes most likely need a structured editor and CMS repository. * When planning to implement a structured content solution, look at the broader process and identify enterprise-wide objectives. The benefits of automated transformation, formatting, and reuse of content often extend beyond the department performing the content creation and management. * To stay competitive in a global market, organize process and underlying systems to reduce localization costs. A scalable solution based on structured content principles enables rapid expansion of product lines and supporting documentation, as well as better address translation and other localization considerations. * A system architecture and structured data model enable flexibility and scalability of content products and systems. Whether new or legacy, a powerful and extensible platform for content preparation and publishing supports — rather than constrains — business growth, reduced costs, and risk mitigation. The examples and advice above illustrate how an organization can take a leadership position in its market through the application of emerging structured content technologies. If structured content is already used within the organization, these scenarios may reveal opportunities to advance current practices to create new value.

About the Author

Dr. Bruce Sharpe brings over 23 years of technology leadership experience to JustSystems, including founding XMetaL and HoTMetaL content creation solutions. He held senior technical management positions at MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, Advanced Gravis, SoftQuad Software, Corel, and Blast Radius before successfully bringing XMetaL to JustSystems. Learn more about JustSystems at http://www.justsystems.com/ and contact Bruce at [email protected].