Single Source Content Management


December 2004

Single Source Content Management

CIDMIconNewsletter Paul Trotter, CEO, AuthorIT Corporation

As more and more businesses expand into international markets, a critical success factor becomes high-quality, cost-effective, and timely translated, written content. Responsibility for this typically falls on internal translation departments or localization partners. Translation comes at a high price, exceeding the cost of writing the original content after only a few languages are required.

Current approaches to localization rely on technologies and processes that have minimal scope for improvement. At the same time, the localization industry is under increasing pressure to find new ways to improve cost-efficiency, quality, and time-to-market.

In this article, I explain how content management can help your organization more efficiently write higher quality and more effective documentation; re-use and share content across documents; have strict control over standards and branding; publishing that content to print, help, and Web formats; and significantly reduce the cost of localizing your content.

What is Content Management?

So what is Content Management? The first thing to say is that there is no single agreed-upon definition. Content management is a relatively new discipline, and if you ask the many suppliers of content management software, they all have different definitions. Of course most of them make the definition suit what their software does.

It is fair to say that most people regard content management as applying solely or mainly to the management and delivery of Web content. However, content management software covers a much wider area and can be categorized as follows:

  • Web Content Management-Web Content Management (WCM) was the first and is the most common use of the term “content management.” Here, software is used primarily to manage Web sites and Web content. In this context, the word “content” refers to any resource used to build a Web site. Most WCM systems are concerned only with managing the delivery of the Web site. The authoring and maintenance are done by other products.
  • Document/File Management-Document and file management systems are designed to manage whole documents and other files rather than the words and pictures inside them. These systems know little about what the files contain and treat them as “blobs” of data. They rely heavily on users to define and apply metadata to provide more information. In practice, metadata is not often applied, making these systems little more useful than a file server.
  • Digital Asset Management-Digital Asset Management (DAM) is very similar to document and file management in that DAM manages files, but it is focused on multimedia, so it provides little or no functionality for text intensive files. A DAM is mainly used to create a central repository for graphics, video, flash, and other multimedia files and provide archive, search, and retrieval functions.
  • Source Control-Again, a source control system is similar to document and file management but is primarily concerned with managing source code, which is pure text. The system usually has poor support for binary content. Source control usually integrates well with software development environments.
  • Enterprise Content Management-Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is one of the most recent categories in content management and does not have a clear definition. Most providers in this space are actually combining many of the other categories and calling it “Enterprise” because they address a wide range of functionality.
  • Single Source Content Management-Single Source Content Management is the category that provides the greatest benefit for localization and the one we will focus on. Rather than storing documents, the system stores and manages the content that is used to assemble documents from small, reuseable components. These components can be anything from a single word to many paragraphs or other components like graphics or links.

Trotter fig 13

Figure 1. Single Source CMS System

Single Source Content Management can be regarded as an overall process for originating, managing, and publishing content across the enterprise and to any output.

Content management should be an end-to-end process, providing the ability to track, manage, and control what happens to your content at all stages in the documentation lifecycle, from authoring and importing to storage, document assembly, and multi-output publishing.

What is the Difference between Managing Content and Managing Files?

The answer to this question is the key to why Single Source Content Management provides so many benefits over traditional file management systems.

The key to managing any kind of data is to manage how the data is created and changed. This is the cornerstone of enterprise applications of all types and is the only way you can truly manage information.

The popular approach to document and file management is to move the files from the file system into a database. These files are stored in exactly the same format in which they were created. These systems typically provide access control, versioning, metadata tagging, and search capabilities. They provide little control over the modification or creation of the files and rely entirely on other applications to do that. This is not managing the content, it is simply moving the files to a different location and providing better access control. So how do we manage the content?

Let’s look at this problem from a different perspective. Let’s say your organization is using Excel spreadsheets to manage its financial accounts. At some point, this approach becomes unmanageable for a variety of reasons. It is decided to move to a purpose-built accounting system that uses a backend database, allows multiple users, provides audit trails, includes financial reporting, and manages the information properly.

Trotter fig 229

Figure 2. The Accounting Evolution

Would you simply move the Excel spreadsheets as they are into a financial management system and expect it to magically create a profit and loss statement or chart of accounts? Of course not-that would be impossible. Instead, you would move the data from the spreadsheets into the predefined relational database structure provided by the purpose-built accounting system. Now, you would be able to get all your reporting and ensure data was entered correctly, have multiple users editing without fear of overwrites, and exercise a much greater degree of security over your data.

Would you expect to be able to continue editing your accounts in Excel? Of course not-the information is no longer in Excel format and doing so would bypass your controls and auditing. You would now edit the information in a controlled fashion in the accounting system. No longer would you get an unbalanced transaction or have information changed by unauthorized sources, but best of all, your reporting is a mouse click away.

Single Source Content Management provides the same evolutionary leap for content because it manages the content inside the documents, not the completed publication. It provides a more effective and sufficient way of authoring, managing, publishing, and localizing your organization’s documents, images, and Web content.

Trotter fig 3

Figure 3. The Content Management Evolution

Why Do You Need Content Management?

Content is an asset
For one thing, generating content takes time and money-often lots of both. So content should be treated as the valuable asset it is.

To get maximum value from your documentation resources, you should be able to do a number of things:

  • reuse content across documents without copying, so that you can write once and maintain your content in a single place no matter how many times you have used it
  • use content created for one purpose equally well in other contexts and for other purposes
  • translate reused content once and have it automatically reflected wherever it is used
  • publish to print, help, Web, and presentation outputs without having to modify or make different versions of your content
  • involve more people in the documentation process, for example, subject matter experts, application developers, localization teams, and trainers

These measures provide the potential for increasing the quality and consistency of your documentation, for reducing the cost and time involved in producing it, and for gaining more value from every piece of content that you create.

Control is essential
All of these activities need control. Assets are of no use if you can’t manage them. Having tons of content that you can’t find, organize, protect, or use effectively is simply a waste of time and resources.

Involving more people is a good idea but requires serious organization. Wider access can be a disaster if the system can’t cope.

You must be able to

  • set and enforce your standards to ensure the consistency and quality of your documents
  • control who in the organization can create, see, and use content
  • find the content components when you need them
  • manage the content life cycle through drafts, reviews, localization, release, and archiving
  • control what can be published to each output channel and by whom

What Are the Savings and Benefits?

Localization can be a complicated and expensive process. One mention of localization and the immediate reaction from your financial department may be to reach defensively for the wallet. Translation costs can be unpredictable and can quickly get out of control, particularly if you don’t know what to expect. You may choose to manage the translation in house or to outsource it to an external company that specializes in localization and translation.

In simple terms, translation is an expensive task. Let’s look at an example to put this in perspective:

The average cost a translator will charge is around 25 cents (US) per word. Take a document with 500 pages and an average of 200 words per page. With 100,000 words, you’re quickly looking at $25,000.

Now remember, that’s just for the initial translation. The growing cost comes when you make modifications to the original document and need it retranslated. Most translation agencies use translation memory tools that help reduce the effort involved in retranslating a document, but they still charge for the whole document (albeit at a reduced word rate for the text already translated).

When organizations apply translation memory tools, a fuzzy match is returned when a text string is similar but not identical. An exact match (100 percent) is returned when there is no difference or variation between the two strings. Translators often charge different rates when text is found as an exact match, as a fuzzy match (with the match falling within a certain percentage range), or is a new translation.

Let’s get back to our example. You now modify 15 percent of these pages and add 20 new pages. Without allowing for fuzzy matches, the cost of retranslation can quickly climb to $10,000:


20 new pages

4,000 words
@ 25 cents per word


5 percent change

5,000 words
@ 25 cents per word


95 percent unchanged

topics with 95,000 words
@ 8 cents per word


Total cost of retranslation


Over time, these costs quickly mount up. Our example describes translating just one document into one language. Translate that same document into 10 additional languages, and multiply the cost 10 times. Translate a further 10 or 100 documents into multiple languages, and watch your costs skyrocket!

How single-source content management with AuthorIT reduces translation costs:
Because of the manner in which AuthorIT stores and manages content, savings are quickly realized:

  • You translate only objects that have been modified. For example, let’s go back to our 500-page document that we’ve now updated. Rather than sending the translator all 500 pages again, only the 20 new pages and the 5 percent of modified pages are exported as XML. Using our previous example, this would reduce the cost of retranslation from $9,850 to $2,250!
  • Text is translated only once. One of AuthorIT’s greatest strengths is reusability. The same components are reused in multiple documents. For example, the same Copyright Notice (or even an entire introductory chapter) may be used in many documents. Each component requires translation only once. You can even reuse content as small as a phrase, sentence, or paragraph, which takes reuse even further,and again, each component is translated only once.Cross references and hyperlinks don’t require translation. Because they are inserted at publishing time, taking the text from the heading of the component they reference, they aren’t stored in the text, resulting in less text to translate. Likewise, reference text, such as “See” and “on Page,” are defined by templates, so that only the template requires translation.Our studies have shown, on average, a 30 percent reduction in word count because of reuse.
  • The XML files do not contain formatting. When the same text string is found using different character formatting, memory translation tools do not always identify it as an exact match. Because the XML files do not contain formatting, the number of exact matches found is higher.

Benefits for localization
When you manage your content at a more granular level, there are a number of things you can do that you just can’t do with whole documents. Some of the specific benefits to localization are as follows:

  • Translate Content Once-the system knows what content is translatable, has been previously translated, is reused, or has been added or changed since the last translation. Only content that actually requires translation is sent to translators, which significantly reduces word count and the cost of translation.
  • Faster Time to Market-localization and content creation can run in tandem, allowing translation to finish much sooner. Content is created in small, discrete components that can immediately be sent for translation. This avoids the costly exercise of translating drafts or waiting for completion of the entire source content.
  • Automated Single-source Publishing-once source content is translated and reviewed, it can be published directly to print, Help, Web, and presentation formats without tweaking or rework. This provides substantial savings and eliminates inconsistencies in translation across delivery formats.
  • Cleaner Translation Memory-translatable XML contains only text and semantic markup, increasing translation memory accuracy and eliminating the effect of formatting on memory matches.
  • Improved Accountability-only content that requires translation is sent for translation. Each piece of content has an accurate word count recorded and is known by all parties in the process, avoiding any surprises or disputes.

Overall benefits of content management
The AuthorIT solution and Single Source Content Management provide significant benefits and cost savings over traditional document authoring and maintenance methods. Some of these are

  • Faster Time to Market-because authors spend far less time creating and recreating the same content, reviewers spend less time reviewing and translators spend less time translating. Publishing to print, Help, and Web formats is fully automated. Faster time to market is achieved by controlling standards, eliminating duplication, and effectively managing the creation, localization, and publishing of content.
  • Efficient use of Resources-by eliminating repetitive creation and maintenance, more of your resources can be devoted to improving the quality of the content and adding value to your documentation. Many clients report savings in excess of 20 percent through reuse of content.
  • Major Production Cost Savings-production cost savings flow naturally from the efficient creation, maintenance, and management of documentation content. With AuthorIT, you effortlessly achieve more documentation for less outlay. Time taken to produce a page through traditional authoring tools can be cut in half.
  • Slashed Translation Costs-content is translated only once no matter how often it is reused. Translators work only on new or changed source content, so you don’t pay for them to handle unchanged text. Real projects have shown reductions in translation word count in excess of 30 percent.
  • Improved Quality and Usability of Content-through easy definition and enforcement of standards, you can guarantee consistent documentation structure and formatting, increasing readability and usability. Using single-source content ensures 100 percent consistency wherever it appears.
  • Improved Workplace Satisfaction-authors are freed from tedious, time-consuming tasks such as formatting and repetitive updates, so they can concentrate on creating and improving content. Reviewers gain by reviewing content only once, regardless of the number of end deliverables. Writers save 95 percent of the time they usually spend formatting content.
  • Increased Customer Satisfaction-consistent, accurate documentation of all types means fewer calls to customer support because you’re providing the right information at the right time and in the right format. CIDMIconNewsletter

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