Content management (CM) is a complex concept that is difficult to define because professionals have different ideas about what CM is. Content management involves breaking down documents in to parts so that they can be reused, either in other documents or in different media formats. The parts can be sections of a document, paragraphs, sentences, or words. Content Management Systems (CMS) are software systems that use metadata and other tools to break down content based on objects or components, which are defined by the content creator. CMS also separates the presentation or format of the text from the content itself. There are many different types of Content Management Systems, and each sort content in a different way. The following list briefly explains Component Content Management Systems (CCMS), Web Content Management Systems (WCMS), and Enterprise Content Management Systems (ECM). Component Content Management Systems (CCMS) Component Content Management signifies that the system defines the content by components rather than by pages or documents. Components can be in different levels, from paragraphs, to sentences, to words in documents. Other types of CMS can also be component-based systems, like WCMS or ECM. Web Content Management Systems (WCMS) WCMS are usually used to create, deliver, and manage content on large websites, including internal websites. Most WCMS use content in the formats of Hypertext Mark-up Language (HTML), Extensible Mark-up Language (XML), video, audio, images, and documents. Some can also use content from emails and information from databases. Enterprise Content Management Systems (ECMS) ECM are used to manage all of the content for an entire organization, including web content, documents, emails, financial records, human resource documents, videos, images, audio, and more. There are also some ECMS that can organize information by case or client. It is important to note that Content Management Systems are not the same as Document Management Systems (DMS); DMS help manage whole documents rather than the content parts of documents.

What is DITA?

Many CMS software programs use the international open content standard Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA). DITA is an XML based data model in which a user defines and structures content so that it can be stored and reused consistently. The content can be sorted into topics, which come in three different information types: concepts, tasks, and references.

Why is CMS important for Technical Communicators?

CMS can help technical communicators save time by allowing them to create a piece of content once, but use pieces of the content in as many different documents and formats as they wish. This means that the information will be consistent in many different media formats and that technical communicators will not have to start writing from scratch every time they need content. Many technical writers use CMS for content maintenance; for example, a user can change a name or word in one document and it will change in all of the documents that content is used in. CMS can also generate XML, PDFs, e-books, and other document formats from one piece of content in a matter of minutes. Another benefit of CMS is that it can translate content into different languages, a feature that could save a lot of time for technical writers working with international content.

Choosing the Right CMS

Although CMS can improve the efficiency of an organization, there can be serious consequences if the wrong CMS is chosen. Content management software programs are complicated, and choosing the right one is a task that should be taken seriously. Many companies that choose the wrong CMS end up losing large amounts of money because they do not understand how to successfully make the setup and transition a part of the company business plan. In many cases, the employees wind up tailoring their work to the system rather than having a system tailored to their work. Because today’s audiences demand content in many different formats, including apps and websites that are mobile friendly, organizations should also make sure that the CMS they chose supports all of the media formats they require. Before implementing a CMS, organizations should recognize that the setup can take a lot of time, but the system can save a lot of time and money once the setup is complete. Organizations should do sufficient research and create a plan before purchasing and implementing a CMS.

Resources

Clark, D. (2008). Content Management and the Separation of Presentation and Content. Technical Communication Quarterly, 17(1), 35-60. doi:10.1080/10572250701588624. This article contains information about why presentation, or format, and content should be kept separate, as well as some information about different types of Content Management Systems. Andersen, R. (2011). Component Content Management: Shaping the Discourse through Innovation Diffusion Research and Reciprocity. Technical communication quarterly, 20(4), 384-411. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2011.590178 This article talks about how Technical Communicators scholars should be involved in the CCM development. Has some good insight as to how Component Content Management works and why choosing the right one is important. McKeever, S. (2003). Understanding Web content management systems: evolution, lifecycle and market. Industrial management & data systems, 103(8/9), 686-692. doi:10.1108/02635570310506106 This article is from 2003 and explains how Web Content Management Systems work and explains the life cycle of content through Web Content Management Systems. Patel, S. K., Rathod, V. R., & Patel, N. A. (2011). Open Source CMS Selection - A Mystery. International journal on computer science & engineering, 24-28. This is an international article, which contains information about different brands of Content Management System software programs. Rockley, A., Cooper, C., & Halvorson, K. (2012). Managing enterprise content: A unified content strategy. Berkeley, CA: New Riders. The section of the book titled “The Role of Content Management” describes the different types of Content Management Systems and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Self, T. (2011). The DITA Style Guide: Best Practices for Authors: Scriptorium Publishing. This e-book explains a lot about what the Darwin Information Typing Architecture is and how to use it to its full potential. Article written by Appalachian State University student Lauren McCarthy.