Content systems and… baking?!
When you start looking at your content lifecycle and the content systems needed to support it, you’re going to end up with a decision between buying a suite of products from a single supplier or piecing together your environment with individual components.
That made me think about baking a cake. Perhaps this merits further explanation.
Let’s say you need a cake. You can go buy cake mix or you can bake from scratch. With cake mix, your cake will be done faster (less tracking down and assembling ingredients) and it will have predictable results. If you bake from scratch, you have a lot more options. You could adjust individual ingredients—less sugar? More chocolate? You could modify a recipe to make it gluten-free. Working with separate ingredients means you can make adjustments. Of course, it also means that things can go spectacularly wrong when I, er, you forget the baking powder.
Professional bakers work from scratch, but let’s be realistic. Is this cake for a huge wedding or are you making cupcakes for your second-grader’s class? Also, do you have professional-grade baking skills? A cake mix is just the ticket to avoid dumb mistakes, like omitting the sugar. OR SO I’VE HEARD.
You see where I’m going with this. When you buy a suite of content products from a single vendor, the idea is that you can skip some of the integration (ingredient selection) work. If you buy individual components, you have more flexibility in the result, but you also increase your overall risk, because the final result depends on the skills of the people combining the products.
When you buy a suite of content products from a single vendor, the idea is that you can skip some of the integration (ingredient selection) work. If you buy individual components, you have more flexibility in the result, but you also increase your overall risk, because the final result depends on the skills of the people combining the products.
Unfortunately, my analogy now breaks down, just like over-mixed cake batter (sorry). For content systems, we’re talking about a complex set of components, which might include:
- Content management system (CMS)
- Component content management system
- Headless CMS
- Knowledge base
- Learning management system
- Knowledge graph
- Authoring environment
- Authoring assistance
- Review workflow
- Product information database
- E-commerce and fulfillment
- Taxonomy and metadata
And so many more. No single vendor provides a full stack of all of those items. Ultimately, it’s not an either/or decision. You can buy a couple of things from one vendor and incorporate content systems from other vendors where appropriate.
Eventually, you have to glue it all together, and that’s where things get really challenging. Look for tools that are standards-based and offer fully featured APIs. Consider how to get information in, how to get information out, what connectors are available, and what the integration effort required to make connections.
Setting up a new content system is going to be painful and so your choice is really between flexibility and configuration effort. More flexibility requires more configuration. If you are happy to work within the bounds of what the tools currently support, you can limit your configuration effort.
NOTE: As I was finalizing this post, the news broke that MadCap (maker of Flare and a suite of content-related tools) is acquiring IXIASOFT (maker of a DITA CCMS). With that, MadCap adds another building block to their offering.
If you’re not sure which approach is best for your organization, contact our team to get expert advice.
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