8 Signs You Need Content Automation
Content automation helps organizations modernize and streamline systems and processes for creating, managing, publishing, and delivering content. And the reality is…to stay competitive and meet customer expectations, most organizations need to go beyond enterprise content management (ECM). How do you know if your company is one?
While there are a variety of issues that drive businesses to implement a content automation platform, you may not appreciate you have a problem with your content process. Here are eight signs that suggest the time has come to leave your traditional content process back in the 90s, where it belongs:
- It takes you so long to publish content that it’s nearly out-of-date by the time it gets to your customers.
- You need to publish more without increasing the size of your team.
- It is harder than ever to track who last updated your content.
- There are too many errors in your regulated documents or they are out of date.
- You need to find a way to reduce the cost of localization (or translation) of your content.
- Your customers are dissatisfied with the inconsistency of content across your web, mobile, PDF, and print collateral.
- Your employees have a hard time finding standard operating procedures.
- You are spending too much time re-creating content that you know already exists.
Sound familiar? It might be time for you to think about a content automation platform for your business.
Choosing Your Approach to Content Management
The term “content management” can mean different things to different people, especially now that the demand for engaging, multi-channel content is at an all-time high. Like many professionals who deal with the creation, management, publishing and delivery of content, you are probably searching for the solutions that are right for your team and the content you generate. Is it really “content management” that you need…or is it time to consider new approaches to getting more value from your content solutions?
Let’s take a look at some of the categories of solutions that cross into the realm of content management.
Web Content Management (Web CMS)
Web Content Management Systems are solely for managing and deploying web content. Though a Web CMS is needed for the delivery of content to your website, they are not optimal for managing structured content, or the processes for creating content destined for more than just a website.
Digital Asset Management (DAM)
Digital Asset Management refers to the storage, retrieval, and rights management of digital assets such as photos, videos, graphics, and other multimedia content. While DAM systems cannot support intelligent storage and management of structured content, they can be successful when used in combination with other content management tools.
Enterprise Content Management (ECM)
While ECM solutions provide a collaborative environment for sharing information across your business, this category of software has its roots in document management and includes a wide range of areas such as document scanning and imaging (capture), storage, collaboration, and records management. However, despite being called “content management,” ECM solutions are predominately designed to support document-centric workflows. (In this context, “document” usually refers to an individual file.). Although ECM solutions are fantastic for managing documents, their capabilities tend to be limited in both content creation and delivery.
Content Automation Platforms
Content automation platforms enable the creation and automated publishing of content to multiple publishing channels. These platforms can include print, PDF, the Web, mobile devices and more. Unlike content management solutions, which only allow for content reuse through manual copy and paste, content automation platforms maintain a single source of content and will point back to that source whenever you need to incorporate the information into a document. This enables the automatic update of documents when the source information changes.
However, not all content automation platforms are created equal. When it comes to content automation, a platform requires a more mature set of capabilities to help you achieve certain business goals such as multi-channel publishing, digital publishing, workflows for collaboration, and business system integration.
Which content solution (or combination of solutions) is right for your organization? Contact Quark or download the Beginner’s Guide to Content Automation for more insight on making your next content-related technology decision.
Quark Releases the Content Automation Trends Report 2017
Today Quark released the Content Automation Trends Report 2017, a complete look at our second annual study conducted in conjunction with market research firm InfoTrends. This year we surveyed 252 businesses worldwide with respondents spanning a range of industry sectors, departments, and job roles.
As Quark continues to push enterprise content management (ECM) to the next level with content automation, we set out to gain insight on current practices for managing content throughout its life cycle, uncover challenges content teams face, and better understand technology spend and investment outlook.
Our findings confirm that while digital transformation is driving content initiatives for most organizations, content teams continue to struggle to meet the need for engaging, device-specific content. In fact, less than 20 percent of study respondents are confident their content is consistent across channels. This, along with other research findings, indicates a need for large organizations to move beyond basic file sharing and traditional ECM in order to remain competitive.
- Businesses spend on average $779K a year on content-related technology with the highest budgets reported in financial services ($1.4M in 2017).
- The key objective driving businesses to invest in content-related technology is improving customer satisfaction, which mirrors results from 2016. However, efforts to reduce costs and improve compliance increased noticeably between 2016 and 2017.
- Digital transformation initiatives are driving a focus on content. The top two initiatives noted by respondents are improving the intranet/portal content consumption experience for employees and moving content online.
- Email and PDF are still major pain points. Most respondents indicated they spend too much time managing content and have difficulties with PDF (70%) and email (78%) as tools for reviewing content.
- Most businesses do not accurately know who is consuming their content (13%) or on which device it is being consumed (14%). Meanwhile, stakeholders continue to require an increasing amount of Web and mobile content.
- The use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) or machine learning technology for content is still very nascent with the strongest application found in customer service-related content (22%).
Download a free copy of The Content Automation Trends Report 2017.
Quark Named a Gartner Cool Vendor in Content Services
Quark is thrilled today to announce that we have been named a Cool Vendor in Content Services for 2017 by Gartner. Quark is one of four companies included in the report for displaying innovative offerings in the realms of content creation, automation, integration, and protection that can extend how content is accessed across repositories in a secure and compliant manner.
Content Services is the new research category that replaces Gartner’s coverage of enterprise content management (ECM), as is noted in the blog article “The Death of ECM and Birth of Content Services.”
For more details, download the full Cool Vendors in Content Services report from Gartner, which also features ActiveWrite, Votiro, and Xillio.
About Quark’s Content Automation Platform
Quark’s content automation platform is comprised of a centralized component content management system along with fully integrated capabilities for creating, managing, publishing, and delivering multi-channel content. The platform enables the creation and management of content components that can be tagged, searched, updated, and reused across multiple channels throughout the content lifecycle. With componentized content – rather than static files – organizations can deliver business-critical content to the right audiences at the right time – automatically.
The world’s most recognized enterprise organizations choose content automation to dramatically improve processes for creating, managing, and delivering a range of content and content types, from standard operating procedures and product documentation to investment research reports, legislation, and more.
Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Garter’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.
New Content Automation Trends Report Coming Soon
Last year Quark, in conjunction with market research firm InfoTrends, conducted the first Content Automation Study to learn more about content strategies, struggles, and successes among enterprise organizations. The results were eye-opening…and also very much in line with trends that have taken hold in the past year.
For example, our study last year found that more than 50% of respondents considered customer satisfaction to be the most important business initiative related to content for the year to come. We also found that 30% of respondents considered their enterprise content management (ECM) solution to be difficult to configure, while 25% reported their ECM doesn’t support automated content reuse and updating.
These findings and more reflect similar trends reported by analyst firms such as Gartner, which earlier this year replaced their coverage of ECM with a new category called Content Services. Here at Quark we continue to study the major content challenges faced by mid-to-large enterprise organizations, the need for modern ECM solutions, and increasing adoption of content automation.
In fact, next week at Information Energy we will release the Content Automation Trends Report 2017. Information Energy is an annual gathering of content, information management, and technical documentation professionals. This year’s event will focus on structured content, content automation, cognitive computing, AI (artificial intelligence), and more.
Keep an eye out for this year’s Content Automation Trends Report or join us at Information Energy where we are presenting a variety of sessions, including:
Content Automation – The Future is Now
Wednesday, May 17 at 10:30 am CEST
Presented by Dave White, Chief Technology Officer for Quark
Building an Enterprise-wide Content Platform
Wednesday, May 17 at 2:00 pm CEST
Presented by Dave White, Chief Technology Officer for Quark
Content Automation in Action
Thursday, May 18 at 3:00 pm CEST
Presented by Ulrich Haag, Technical Sales Consultant for Quark
Using Content Automation to Improve Cognitive Computing and AI
Thursday, May 18 at 4:00 pm CEST
Moderated by Dave White, Chief Technology Officer for Quark
If you can’t make it to the event next week, check the Quark Content Automation Blog where we’ll make our findings available.
Research Reveals Content Challenges Faced by Asset Management Firms
Today at TSAM London Quark revealed the findings of a survey we conducted among asset management professionals to learn more about their approach to content creation, management, and delivery. The research was conducted among the TSAM community, which stands for The Summit for Asset Management. Global TSAM events attract financial services organizations interested in staying competitive.
Our research, based on 111 survey respondents, uncovers universal content challenges asset management companies face – from reliance on outdated technology solutions to increased demand for Web and mobile content. The findings highlight how content teams struggle to effectively produce and provide multi-channel information to internal and external audiences.
- Asset management companies are struggling to create and maintain a wide range of data-heavy content types including fund fact sheets, product profiles, commentaries, pitch books, financial reports and more
- 83% of respondents said their customers want more Web content, more mobile content, or both
- Almost three quarters of asset management companies are dissatisfied with their digital content capabilities with more than 50% of respondents having no confidence in the consistency of their content across print, Web, and mobile channels
- The vast majority of asset management companies still rely on shared or local file systems to manage their business-critical content, speaking to the fact that 62% of respondents stated that they find it hard to manage document variations/changes needed to support country and business unit requirements
- There are a wide range of digital transformation initiatives being undertaken with the top 3 stated as being reducing reliance on paper, moving content online, and improving intranet/portal content consumption experience for employees
Ultimately, our research confirms that the demands for content have changed dramatically in the past decade while tools used to create and manage content have changed very little. This makes it almost impossible for asset management firms to deliver timely and accurate multi-channel content, which is a competitive requirement in today’s business landscape.
To address and solve content challenges, we at Quark advocate content automation, an evolution of enterprise content management that minimizes risk, improves the customer experience, ensures compliance, and eases the burden most content teams face today.
Gavin Drake is Vice President of Marketing for Quark Enterprise Solutions where he drives the adoption of content platforms that leverage automation to improve every stage of the content lifecycle. By moving away from creating static, siloed documents to creating reusable content components, it’s possible to reduce costs, improve content quality, and operate more competitively.
InfoTrends Content Automation Survey 2017
Quark would like to hear from you! How does your organization create, manage, publish, and deliver business-critical content? Which solutions and strategies work? What are your major challenges?
For the second consecutive year Quark has teamed up with InfoTrends, the market research firm, to conduct the Content Automation Survey. The goal of our research is to uncover insights into how large organizations develop and disseminate content.
Help us understand your content challenges and successes. Take ten minutes to complete a short survey and you’ll receive a copy of the report detailing the results when they become available. In addition, you can opt into a prize drawing to win one of three Amazon Echo Dots.
Take the survey: Quark and InfoTrends Content Automation Survey 2017. To note, your individual responses will be held in strict confidence and will only be used in aggregate by InfoTrends for analysis purposes.
ECM Sheds its Skin
Gartner recently announced the death of ECM (Enterprise Content Management) and the birth of Content Services! In his blog, Gartner Research Director Michael Woodbridge describes this more as a change in definition, and it’s clear from the supporting Gartner notes that this change in definition reflects a broader scope in a changing marketplace.
No technology market changes overnight or in isolation, but it’s refreshing to see Gartner frequently refer to this change as an evolution. However you phrase it – death, change, or evolution – let’s examine this transformation from managed content to “content services.”
Content is very much alive
Any snake owner will tell you (perhaps more than you want to know) about the rich process that takes place when a snake sheds its skin. I’m referring to the cliché we use to describe transformation in positive terms as a kind of renewal, just like the skin-changing process so vital to a snake’s survival and healthy growth. This doesn’t happen instantly and if you know the signs you can see the change coming.
Significant financial investment, resources, and time have been devoted to enterprise content management systems over the years. Much like a snake’s belly begins to turn color days before it actually begins to shed, the ECM market has also long indicated a need for this change. For example, going some ways back, there’s this quote from Alan Paterson, author of Office Systems: Planning, Procurement, and Implementation (1985):
Storage can be achieved easily…the difficulty lies…not so much in storage, but in how to manage the vast masses of knowledge in an orderly form and reasonable response times.
Quite apt for today’s enterprise content management systems, search and retrieval help surface content and fuel insights, especially with the growth of enterprise data and changes Google has made related to its Search Application. This is only one specific use case around content, but this need and others like it have always mattered.
What is Content Services?
According to Gartner, Content Services are a set of services and microservices, embodied either as an integrated product suite or as separate applications that share common APIs and repositories, to exploit diverse content types and to serve multiple constituencies and numerous use cases across an organization.
Why should you care?
It’s really about time we had new definition in this market. ECM-centric systems and processes have resulted in key gaps that hinder the delivery of true business value around content. Generic ECM systems often lack the user experience around the content lifecycle, which can impact adoption and therefore maximum benefit in the investment. To maximize the return on investment for any enterprise system, successful initiatives driven by visionary business leaders should think differently as they shop for new platforms. Many already do.
The focus on function and features, by way of Content Services, paves the way to a better overall user experience within a managed context. This directly improves adoption and return on investment for embedded enterprise systems. Woodbridge (2017) describes four historical ECM goals to help explain how we got here:
- Regulatory compliance and risk management
- Retention and dissemination of business knowledge
- Cost and process efficiencies
- Innovation and new ways of working
While ECM excelled at meeting the first goal, the others proved more challenging and outcomes included some less than perfect user experiences.
Where does Quark fit in?
Quark leadership saw the opportunity for content services and content automation almost ten years ago. Moving beyond the traditional ECM approach of managing files through a process, content automation is about extending from content creation to content delivery via reusable content components. The result is a modernized technical architecture with a rich RESTful API infrastructure and a focus on usability for subject matter experts. Allowing expert end users to “just write” as they produce content within a managed workflow and remove the typical distractions of copy/paste, formatting, email-based review processes, and duplication of effort are benefits enjoyed by many Quark customers.
Successful adoption of the Quark Enterprise Soltutions has enabled significant business value for many industry verticals:
- Banks around the world can ensure their tellers have up to the minute geo-specific content for their customers
- Information products focused on industry research expand the market for thought leadership and drive new product channels focused on targeted, engaging high-value communications for content consumers
- Major global players connect donors to economic development projects thanks to timely, personalized, and automated delivery of narrative content and relevant data
- Governmental organizations enjoy modernized, automated process around collaborative review of emerging policy to deliver end results in a fraction of the time
Learn more about the Quark content automation platform and how it can help expand the business value of your content. And, just like every time my snake sheds her skin, I am looking forward to radiant new colors as the content industry continues to embrace this trend.
Is Your Architecture Truly Open?
Enterprise system architecture can be evaluated from many different perspectives. Similar to conventional building architecture, a solid system design must consider several different criteria to maximize the pragmatic features of the engineered construction. When we talk about Enterprise Architecture, several criteria are commonly used to gauge the success or failure of the architecture:
- Ease of management
- Ease of integration
- Response to failure
- Reporting and analytics for the above
Among the various best practices is the question raised in the title around open architectures.
Why does open architecture matter?
When engineering an enterprise solution architecture, many criteria matter. Open architecture matters because practically every enterprise solution must meet the non-functional requirement of co-existing in an established technical ecosystem. Enterprise systems must interact with each other to accomplish business tasks and these systems may be provided by separate vendors, built in-house, or rely on 3rd party APIs as a layer for interfacing with various web services and systems.
This article highlights the benefits of truly open and relevant standards as related to enterprise architecture.
Some key terms
Open architecture differs from open source. Open source software involves sharing raw source code to facilitate crowdsharing benefits in building out the code. Open architecture is focused on easily decoupling data from the proprietary layers of the code, so that data can easily be transferred with other systems and business logic. It also has to do with the architecture being easily and highly extensible on the back end, so that any front end (user experience or integration to other applications) can be applied through a robust, fully-featured API. System to system communications must be easy, reliable, and efficient.
Even when an architecture is implemented by proprietary technologies, we still consider it open if the architecture is able to facilitate data transfer in and out of the system and support data transfers across systems. In addition to direct API support, this includes access to system functionality via meaningful layers of abstraction to serve as the glue between business rules and other enterprise systems.
Best practices for enterprise system architecture
Quark Publishing Platform is an Enterprise Java Web Application built on the open source Spring Framework. That means it’s scalable, secure, incredibly extensible, and easily adopted by IT departments with sophisticated and challenging requirements. We support major investment banks with their extremely complex IT requirements, as well as small 20-person shops that just need “out of the box” to work well.
Extensibility is core to every product we build and every enhancement we make:
- We support adding a custom service which can automatically be exposed through our REST interface to rebuilding the entire web-based user experience for a custom business portal using nothing but our APIs.
- We support many server-side Java integration points (such as JMS), as well as our robust RESTful interfaces which expose API access to the features a customer needs (and we use the same APIs ourselves for our cross-product integration).
- When there is a gap in the API based on a new customer requirement, we can address it very quickly. In response to customers’ requests, we have added new content markup in Quark Author to drive new publishing features in QuarkXPress Server – all in a single development cycle. This was true for “regions” in Quark Author and in our next release cycle (due in September) we’ll be adding two more: Index term markup and Index sort/format publishing.
- In the content design space, Quark – via QuarkXPress – invented the use of an SDK for 3rd parties to extend the application in ways that were extremely useful. We even created a marketplace for eXtensions, as they’re known, that at one time was larger than many software companies in their entirety. Other desktop design software vendors directly duplicated that model in their products. The eXtensions model was certainly the first such commercial retail “add-in” marketplace in the 1990s that current Quark CTO Dave White was aware of – long before he was directly involved with Quark.
A tremendous amount of Quark capabilities come from our integration with XML:
- Authoring tools content models
- Most of our products’ configuration files
- REST API posts and responses (also available in robust, modern JSON)
- Even our QuarkXPress Modifier format for automated publishing
It’s a common best practice to avoid attaching your data to a proprietary system or application. At a recent professional conference, Eliot Kimber humorously compared some highly proprietary content management systems to roach hotels: “content checks in but it doesn’t check out.”
At the simplest level, an enterprise component content management system architecture must provide rich methods to extract data. While this is commonly available in one-off operations, it’s important for enterprise systems to consider orders of magnitude when it comes to the execution of any single task. In other words, extracting a single asset or collection of assets from your system is only the beginning. Enterprise applications often need to import or extract data based on a number of factors including business process, queries based on traceability or auditing, or when making global transformations to data entering or existing an enterprise system. Doing it once is part of the answer, but doing it at scale is often required by customers with requirements for automation during multiple steps of the content life cycle.
How is this done? It depends on the system, but a common best practice is to provide import/export features to various data formats or even .zip archives representing a data dump of variable scope. It’s even better when these transactions can be managed by REST-based calls which may be invoked programmatically. Better still, rich REST-based APIs should provide a headless and efficient means of extracting all assets, including every version and all metadata for each asset, without introducing proprietary structures that interfere with the usefulness of the extract. These mechanisms do very little good if the customer’s original data structure is changed or rendered useless. For example, if references use a proprietary model instead of a standards-based approach like a URI pattern. Yes, this still happens.
Every elegant design should seek to simplify the most common tasks for end users, but also consider the administrative needs required to properly care and feed the system. It’s the rare design that also takes into consideration these additional unforeseen use cases and exposes additional layers of tooling to simplify configuration without high-cost services. Every system architecture should also consider its own end of life and the necessity to interact across initially incompatible systems in the enterprise ecosystem.
How current is your understanding of the solution architecture?
From time to time, technologists conduct due diligence and feasibility analysis to help them arrive at decisions on acquiring new/replacement products or services. More often, such research is based on some quick Internet searches. To remain relevant, the best technologists will read as much as they can every day. They will also go beyond the research to get hands on experience with those same products and services on a periodic basis to better understand exactly how the offerings have changed and validate or invalidate their understanding. Sometimes the technology changes significantly and in very good ways. At other times, the review is nothing more than the regurgitation of some fluffy buzz words used as click bait and the technology has actually stagnated. How will you know the difference? For example, one vendor might state “A robust API for integration with any other system,” which sounds pretty good. But what if you learned that the vendor only offered their API technology in an older standard called CORBA, widely considered a dead technology since 2004? Understanding how to ask the right questions is crucial to making good decisions.
Change is abundant, increasing in frequency, and far-reaching in scope. Technologies come and go, and yet it’s common for many business not to see a return on technology investment for 3 to 5 years. Therefore, the solution architecture must be robust enough to withstand and embrace the inevitable changes. These may be impossible to predict in every case. If the system is to remain relevant and deliver its value over the system’s life cycle, this additional layer of research is invaluable. Almost every vendor is willing to give a demo or build a snazzy web site, but how many of them will stand up a live proof of concept solution and let you play with it to test it out against your actual requirements versus the filtered language that appears in an RFP or its response? And how much of your RFP is devoted to ensure that reasonable architectural requirements are identified?
Open means easy integration
Easy integration starts with proven architectural frameworks for web-based applications. Those frameworks are constantly evolving and changing, so any solid architecture will build out further tooling, back-end improvements, 3rd party technology partnerships, and flexibility for the continuously evolving front-end frameworks as well.
Let’s look at another example of easy integration. Many organizations manage assets using proprietary formats and aren’t ready to make the full transition to XML across the enterprise. That’s why the Quark Publishing Platform also supports managing InDesign documents and components (though we don’t provide any automation of InDesign documents). Otherwise, InDesign is treated as a first class application and content type for those that need it. Similarly, MS Office documents have robust support and some, such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Visio can be a source of reusable components in XML. Of course, Platform also supports reusable components for QuarkXPress projects, Quark XTensions, and QuarkXPress server publishing channels to assemble reusable pipelines for omni-channel publishing and delivery to HTML5, ePub, App Studio, PDF, 3rd party ECMs like FileNet and SharePoint, and more.
Why proprietary can be good
Quark owns all of the major technology in our enterprise system architecture that provides the business value for content automation. One of the strengths of having a broad solution stack is that we can manage and synchronously release updates and enhancements according to our schedule and prioritization without having to wait for a 3rd party to decide if they agree, shall prioritize, or deliver in a timely manner.
Of course, we still integrate several components into our system that do rely on 3rd parties. It makes perfect sense in many cases, so we carefully evaluate and select those open-source and proprietary partners who work with us to provide the best value for our customers at a reasonable cost. One significant driving factor is the underlying technical architecture and how responsive these 3rd party vendors can be to us. Just like our customers expect high quality and tight turnaround for fixes and features, we expect the same of our partners and appreciate when we have a strong rapport based on results.
Even proprietary technologies can and must play more nicely together. The underlying Quark technical infrastructure has recently captured some attention for supporting other proprietary formats:
A key measure for proving an architecture starts with asking the right questions. A truly open architecture is not present if it is dominated by proprietary software that simply imports/exports formats from one product to another. We must dig deeper to examine the underlying technical landscape.
Here are some questions worth asking:
- If key proprietary components are removed or replaced, does the architecture still hold together?
- How well can the architecture be extended by standard web-based technologies and modern development frameworks?
- If your solution is focused on content automation for the creation, management, publishing, delivery, and analytics of business-critical content, how easy is it to mix and match authoring tools for the content?
- How many different types of content can truly be managed as components which can be assembled for publishing, reviewed and approved, and ultimately delivered to various formats using reusable channels?
- How easily can you replace the publishing engine used to render various output formats?
- At the database layer, how many different databases are supported?
- Do your requirements force you into a relational database model?
- Do your requirements include supporting a native XML database and why?
- How well can your data tier scale horizontally and vertically for increases in assets and transactions by orders of magnitude?
- How do you know?
- Do you have benchmarks or test cases which help add quantitative analysis to the discussion?
- How responsive is a vendor to your needs as a customer and how well can that vendor address end-to-end enhancements at the velocity of business?
- Does the vendor have more than one or two reference customers in production for over a year who can back up their claims?
Cleaning Up Your Office
It’s getting late on a Friday afternoon and your partner is asking if you can come home early. You’re trying to wrap up one more thing, and then your boss asks for the latest copy of the project’s Excel workbook with a few slight changes for a key prospect.
You open up your copy. You like the formatting in your latest version, but you remember seeing some other versions via email. You check your email history and find two other copies, each of which are newer than yours.
- One is from your team
- One is from another team which you know doesn’t have the complete story your boss will need
Remembering the last team meeting where everyone agreed to upload these to a shared file location on the network, you look there only to find several more versions with recent time stamps.
How do you find the right file?
Looking at the set of recent files, you can decide among the following choices:
- Your file, which will need some updates to make it current
- Most recent file on the network share, which has been uploaded by someone only yesterday
- One of the recent files in your email history, which may need some alterations and additions after you compare the most recent file stored in the shared network location
You soon realize you will be busy for some time sorting out the appropriate version for your audience.
Embedded in this scenario are several common problems associated with an unmanaged process:
- Re-created content – at least three parties have spent time tweaking copies of the original content to accomplish a specific outcome for their target audience, with each copy taking valuable time to perfect.
- Redundant content – in this single example, it’s quite likely that as much as 80% of the original content has now been duplicated in each copy.
- Formatting docs – you may have good reason for formatting your version just so, but wouldn’t it be better to have a consistent layout that would be suitable for all audiences, including your customers?
- Formatting for every media delivery type – we’re only talking about an Excel file, but if this contains data which must eventually appear in a final product delivery, can you guarantee it will appear appropriately on every device your customers may use to view the content?
There’s clearly too much time going into this file and very little thought as to how to maintain it over time.
Almost everyone works every day with common Office applications. Whether you create documents, presentations, spreadsheets, other artifacts, or some combination of those, you have encountered this problem before. This is but a single example of an out-of -date process for a single file created in a common Microsoft Office application. Depending on your business process, you may have something more formal built around your Office files. You may not.
When you factor in the scale and complexity around frequent updates for delivery to multiple audiences, it is absolutely essential to your success to take the time to build a more formal process. In this scenario, the team or teams mentioned did take that time to at least agree to a single source of truth: the shared network location.
That network location still didn’t allow anyone a way to see deeper into the content to quickly ascertain its relevance. A time stamp on a file system also doesn’t tell you who updated that file and why. Unless you take the time to open the file and reach out to one or more colleagues, you don’t know what you have and whether or not it is in the state you need for delivery.
Many organizations have taken the time to mature their process already, especially around their own business critical content and the underlying technologies which facilitate execution of the defined process. No business focused around content delivery is able to survive if they don’t have some kind of formal process or tools in place already. This may be one reason why Content Management as an industry has been around for decades.
Most of these systems are really good at providing additional data about the content (metadata) and may even manage its workflow state. However, very few of these systems provide a live preview of the content in different delivery channels or manage various file formats at the component level. Even if they do, they often require additional products provided by separate vendors to manage the creation and distribution of those content components.
In the scenario above, it’s a standard feature of Quark Publishing Platform to be able to manage content like Microsoft Office files and minimize some of the confusion around which file is the latest, most relevant artifact for update and delivery.
For example, your component may need to differ from the original source file in several ways:
- You need 10 years of data, as opposed to 25 years of data
- You want to change the look and feel so that Excel renders the information as a colorful chart rather than a bar graph or a table format
- You also want to know when the original source receives an update so that you can have the very latest data captured in your version
With Quark Office Adapters for Platform, Excel workbooks can be separated into sub-components that allow all of those differences and more. Each sub-component is managed with its own life cycle and has the ability to present a unique format, using the full power of Excel. The relationship between the master and source is maintained, so that an update to the master can pass on to the new sub-components. This relationship is maintained even for very complex workbooks that link to many other Excel files, even when these master workbooks exist outside any Content Management system.
However your organization uses Microsoft Office files and distributes them for review, make sure you take the time to consider more formal process and technologies around your business critical content. Using Quark Enterprise Solutions for content automation, you can leverage efficiencies that help reduce unexpected delays late on a Friday afternoon.