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January 29, 2024

Our demands for enterprise content operations software (podcast)

In episode 161 of The Content Strategy Experts Podcast, Sarah O’Keefe and Alan Pringle share their ideal world for enterprise content operations software, including specific requests for how content management software needs to evolve.

SO: “When I envision this in the ideal universe, it seems that the most efficient way to solve this from a technical point of view would be to take the DITA standard, extend it out so that it is underlying these various systems, and then build up on top of that. I don’t really care. What I do care about is that I need, and our clients need, the ability to move technical content into learning content in an efficient way. And right now that is harder than it should be.”

AP: “Oh, entirely. And I would even argue it should go the other way, because there is stuff possibly on the training side that the people in the product content side need. So both sides need that ability.”

SO: Right, so give us seamless content sharing, please. Pretty please.

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Sarah O’Keefe: Welcome to the Content Strategy Experts Podcast brought to you by Scriptorium. Since 1997, Scriptorium has helped companies manage, structure, organize, and distribute content in an efficient way. You may have heard that Madcap has added a learning content management system called Xyleme to their portfolio. In this episode, we are providing an entirely unsolicited roadmap to the vendors in this space, including but not limited to MadCap, for enterprise content ops software as we move forward. Vendors, welcome to the show and think of this as your roadmap to success and call us if you need help. You totally do. Hi there. I’m Sarah O’Keefe and I’m here with Alan Pringle.

Alan Pringle: Hey there, I’m not sure this is the best idea, but we’re about to find out.

SO: Yes, it’s going to be great. We will totally not get in trouble. Alan, let’s dive in and maybe get in trouble as fast as possible. What is the number one item on our list of demands for content ops enterprise software?

AP: Going to vote for seamless content sharing and with a little asterisk here this is not just about us as consultants I think this is as much about our clients and what we have seen over the past few years in the content operation space. We need some kind of way where you can author in a component content management system and then turn around and use that information, for example, in a learning content management system. And there’s, well, exactly, and I was just getting to that. There’s some logistics here. It would be maybe nice to have the same content model underlying all of this, but considering the different authoring audiences, I don’t know if that necessarily has to be the case.

SO: And does that have to be DITA?

AP: I really I’m not even sure if it’s possible. We can discuss that right now. It’s really not possible. I don’t think.

SO: Yeah, as far as I know, nobody can do this right now. You cannot take DITA content and efficiently ingest it into a learning content management system. If I’m wrong, call me.

AP: Yeah. That said, I do know some people, including our clients, who are on the learning training side, and they have chosen to use DITA as their model. But that is not true for every learning organization on this planet, not by a long shot.

SO: And they’re in CCMSs. They’re not in “L” learning CMSs. So they’ve, you know.

AP: Exactly.

AP: The LMS is a target. It is not the place where they are actually building the content.

SO: Yeah. And so, I mean, when I envision this in the ideal universe, it seems that the most, you know, efficient way to solve this from a technical point of view would be to take the DITA standard, extend it out so that it is underlying these various systems, and then build up on top of that. I don’t really care. What I do care about is that I need, and our clients need, the ability to move technical content into learning content in an efficient way. And right now that is harder than it should be.

AP: Oh, entirely. And I would even argue it should go the other way, because there is stuff possibly on the training side that the people in the product content side need. So it’s both sides need that ability.

SO: Right, so give us seamless content sharing, please. Pretty please.

AP: Yes, and I’m going to throw the ball to you this time. What’s number two on our list of demands?

SO: Number two on our list of demands is a unified portal for content delivery. So setting aside the authoring issue for a minute, you know, maybe it’s unified, maybe it isn’t. Give the end user a seamless user experience where they’re going in and they can get all the content they need across all the different, you know, technical content types. Now, there are a couple of specialized portal vendors that do have this and have solutions in this area. But if you’re going to position yourself as we are the solution for all things content, then this needs to be in your portfolio in some way, not just, oh, you know, go talk to this other vendor. So I think a unified content portal, again, I don’t really have a strong opinion on how this needs to be done from a technical point of view, other than words like seamless and good customer experience.

AP: I do have some opinions on how technically it should happen and that is copy and paste from one tool to another better not be part of this picture at all because today it is and it kills me. Especially on the product content side, we got over this hump of automated formatting or manual formatting. We’ve pretty much handled that. I think on the learning side, they’re starting to understand they should not be futzing and manually touching things. And right now, especially on the training content side, to get things to go to different delivery targets, there’s entirely too much copying and pasting between and among tools. It’s like every delivery portal requires you to do that. This is the 21st century people and it should not be happening, no.

SO: So okay, I would like to revise my opinion too. I do have some demands and they are those. I am co-signing Alan’s demands. Okay, what’s next?

AP: Hahaha! Okay, let’s talk about classification, taxonomy, because you gotta be able to label your things to sell different versions. If you’re selling software, you’ve got a light version, you’ve got a professional version and maybe an enterprise level solution. You gotta build in that taxonomy, that intelligence. How are you gonna do that? And how are you gonna do it across multiple content types? That’s tricky, that last bit in particular.

SO: Yeah, and so, you know, the terrible keyword here is enterprise taxonomy, right? You have to build out a classification system for your content, both for the authors and for the end users. Like, the end users need the ability to say, oh, I bought the lite version, only show me that. Not, all these enterprise level features that you don’t have. And how many of us have seen the infamous like car manual that says, oh, if you have the XYZ CXE extended edition, you have this feature in your car. Well, I didn’t buy that version and I don’t have that feature and.

AP: That just happened to me with a printer. I will not name the manufacturer because I’ve been happy with it overall, but the user guide, it actually came with a printed user guide, which was shocking for 2023, which is when I bought it. It was like, and then it will do this, and this. And then it’s like a little parenthesis later. And this model only. Well, that’s not the model I have, man. You’re killing me. So yeah, that’s not where you need to be with that kind. New.

SO: Oh man.

SO: Yeah. And you’re not going to run out and buy the upgraded printer or car. That is not happening. Yeah, it’s too late. So OK, so we need labels so that we can do versioning. But additionally, in this sort of enterprise content ops demand, we need those labels to be consistent across shared content. So for example, in the.

AP: Too late.

SO: And I’ve seen this happen. In the technical content, we have free, pro, and enterprise. And then the learning content, we have light, intermediate, and enterprise. And they’re referring to the same thing, but the labels are different. And hey, guess what? That’s not going to work. So fix it and give us a classification system, a taxonomy that we can use across all these different content dimensions. Now again, there are some tools that’ll do this. I mean, there are enterprise taxonomy tools, barely, some people are using them. Many, many, many people need to be using them and are not, so.

AP: There are.

AP: Right, I was about to say many people are using them and even more should be using them right now. And I will almost give people a pass on this one, almost, almost because it’s like get your ops to a certain point and then this can be let’s improve them even further. But having that built in from the get go, that would not be a bad thing either at all.

SO: Yeah, and related to this terminology, the words that you use for different things. If my learning content talks about a door and my technical content talks about a doorway or an entry point or an I don’t even know, then that’s not going to work. So you need to call the thing what it is and do that consistently across all of your content.

AP: Including your marketing content because if you’re talking about brand and consistency and voice this is a huge part of that and I’m sure your marketing department would be delighted for there to be some controls, some kind of corralling of this to be sure people are consistent and give a consistent brand image but the way we refer to things.

SO: All of it. Yeah. Yeah, and it also ties into some, you know, typically some protection for trademarks and those kind of branding and those kinds of things. And this isn’t, you know, the focus of this, but if you are translating or localizing your content, you have to do this work in all your languages, not just your source language.

AP: 100% and if your source language is crap, the translation is going to be crap too as far as consistency and anything else. Yeah, right, degrade.

SO: It’ll be crappier. It’ll always degrade slightly. So yeah, okay. And then what else have we got in our unified hallucinations slash vision?

AP: There’s one more. Yeah.

Yeah, it’s like we want everything. The last one, that’s yours. I’m gonna give that to you.

SO: Oh, so, you know, we’ve talked about unifying technical content, marketing content, help content, maybe UX content, those kinds of things. But there are two other missing pieces, which you touched on marketing, that’s one, and that’s a big one. And the other one is knowledge base, support content. So you know, where are those in this unified vision? All of these things are…

AP: Yep.

SO: …from an end user’s point of view, they look at all of this content, and yet all of it is being done in point solutions, in dedicated, this is only for the knowledge base, this is only for marketing, this is only for tech comm, this is only for whatever. And so we need to unify all this stuff so that there is in fact a unified customer experience. I don’t see a whole lot going on here with knowledge bases. If you look at marketing content, there are a couple of vendors that have ways to take the technical content and push it over or integrate it into the web CMS. But in general, this is much more challenging than it should be. And depending on your web CMS, you may or may not have a path for this at all, other than put it side by side or something like that. So I would…

AP: And news, yeah, and news flash, guess what? The people reading your content do not give one about how you classify this as sales or marketing or KB or whatever. They just want the information and they want it right then and now. And in a way they can get to it very quickly. They don’t care if you think this is quote marketing content. Just give it to them and make, be sure it’s correct, please. P.S. That’s also very important.

SO: Yeah, and I mean the reality is that people’s websites reflect their org charts and there are all these points solutions and different people own different chunks of the website or subdomains or whatever. But okay fine you know if you’re going to have these acquisitions and tell me how great it’s going to be then show me the results, and this is what this is what we want.

AP: Well, we are asking for the world’s, we might as well get all of our demands out here and that is certainly one of them. All these tools really kind of support these increasingly false kind of classifications based on org charts and whatever else, but the end result, the end content result, shouldn’t necessarily reflect those things, there should be unification there, not these weird distinctions that are based on the way people report to each other within the company, because your customers don’t care.

SO: So while we’re making friends and influencing people, we did also come up, as always, we did also come up with a list of things that we do not care about. So what you got?

AP: As always, as always.

AP: Yeah. I do not care that you have four or five different solutions that do different things under your brand, especially if they don’t talk to each other. If they’re just these multiple tools speaking to different audiences, how is that really any different than, you know, different people owning different things? I don’t, there’s a disconnect there for me, a huge one.

SO: Yeah, and, you know, single, we have, you know, single vendors with lots of tools, which may or may not integrate. We have multiple vendors with individual tools, which again, do or do not integrate like the level of or the degree of difficulty in integrating these various tools does not appear to be particularly tied to whether they live under the same roof or not. You know, fix the integration. I don’t really care about the ownership. I understand that from a business point of view, you do, that’s fine, but fix the integration. And so to my vendor friends who are currently apoplectic, you know, have a drink, whatever, of choice. But your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to address our pain points and our customers’ pain points and actually deliver on the challenge of unified content. And I am so looking forward to seeing progress in this area. Alan, any closing words?

AP: I think I am going to throw back to the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie character Veruca Salt and say, “I don’t care how, I want it now.”

SO: Thank you for listening to the Content Strategy Experts Podcast. I have nothing to add to that. Brought to you by Scriptorium. For more information, visit or check the show notes for relevant links.

What do you want to add to this wish list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or let us know on LinkedIn!