JoAnn Hackos, Comtech Services, Inc.

Customers want new types of content and dynamic delivery but organizations appear hesitant and feel unready to face the challenges. Senior management hasn’t provided the funding and time needed, team members are reluctant, and much existing content is not up to meeting the new demands. Nonetheless, managers, information architects, and writers know what they need to do and have the skills required.

In the latest CIDM survey of industry trends, in partnership with Data Conversion Laboratory (DCL), we heard from 229 members and colleagues about how they are publishing today and how they expect publishing content to change in the near future. Clearly, no one is finding it easy to move from their current practices to new practices focused on electronic delivery of content.

  • 53% need support from technology experts to get the work done
  • 51% need the support of senior management and must develop strong business reasons for change
  • 43% feel they need to convince their own team members that change is necessary
  • 23% need outside expertise to help them successfully implement change in their content delivery methods

This report is my first quick look at the data from the survey, which just closed two days ago. I will be reviewing the responses in more depth and report more comprehensively in next month’s news.

As expected, we continue to find that most organizations responding to CIDM surveys are publishing PDF versions of user information and distributing the PDFs through the corporate websites. 90% of respondents report publishing PDFS. 64% publish embedded user assistance in the form of help topics. While still low, the percentage of organizations using mobile applications is at 23%. 22% are publishing today to mobile devices such as eBooks, Kindle, smart phones, and tablets. 16% publish through learning management systems.

Plans for publishing content in two to three years, however, reflect the changes we expect in the delivery of information. 82%, down from 90%, still expect to be publishing with PDFs on websites. However, those expecting to publish through mobile applications increases to 55% and an astounding 72% expect to be publishing content using eBooks, Kindle, smart phones, and tablets. We also see an increase in those expecting to use learning management systems for publications from 16 to 32%.

As expected the majority, fully 74%, expect that 76-100% of their content will be published electronically. Only a single respondent expected to publish without using electronic media. Most of the respondents, fully 78% are apparently not overly concerned with the cost of converting content to digital media. Apparently, the necessity to publish content electronically is sufficient to justify the costs.

A reasonably high percentage, at 46%, believes that their content is ready to support their move to digital media within the next two years. However, a majority, 31% and 23% respectively, either believe that their content is not ready or they are not certain.

Among the 54% who expressed concern about their readiness, the barriers they report to publishing content through digital media are interesting.

  • 74% are afraid that they don’t have the staff bandwidth required to convert their content
  • 53% have budget concerns
  • 23% believe they don’t have the expertise inhouse
  • 9.5% have had previous experience with converting content that was not at all positive and leaves them concerned about continuing

We were interested in learning if respondents are tracking their companies’ competition and were surprised by the low numbers, at 18%, who are aware that the competition is ahead of them in electronic publishing. 43% believe that their competition is not ahead and 39% don’t know. It is clearly in the interests of those who don’t know to find out.

We wanted to find out what people believed to be the shortcomings of their content delivery methods today. We found the results to be revealing.

  • 61% believe that their current content will not support their customers’ future requirements
  • 45% tell us that their customers want to assemble their own collections of content on demand
  • 43% believe that they have so many overlapping versions of their content that customers cannot find the information they need
  • 33% know how to develop text but their customers are asking for video and animations
  • 30% publish PDFs but know that their customers prefer topics

If customer information requirements are not being met, to the extent that these responses seem to indicate, what are the reasons that respondents give for the situation they’re in?

  • 53% don’t have the time or resources to convert to digital publishing or other forms that customers require
  • 51% are stymied by the multiplicity of internal groups that control the publishing and delivery of content, something we’ve suspected for a long time
  • 45% admit that their content is not ready to publish in multiple ways
  • 43% lack the expertise to use the new technologies they need
  • 34% are writing books, not topics
  • 31% have no useful reuse mechanisms except for cut-and-paste
  • 25% lack support, and probably funding, from senior management to support the conversion of their content to new media

Despite the impediments, we wanted to understand what business requirements are driving the move to new methods of delivery content. 10% admitted they are not transforming their content or moving to new methods of authoring or delivery. However, fully 67% are concerned about the new technologies because 56% know that customers are demanding new ways to find and use content. Only 10% believe that their companies might be losing market share to others who deliver content more effectively and 27% apparently have learned that the cost of telephone support is rapidly becoming too expensive and better methods of delivering content must be found.

Finally, we wanted to learn about the plans the respondents are making to move to the new delivery environment. 55% expect to do their own work to convert their content, and 31% will get training to learn how to handle the new methods they need. Only 2% expect to outsource the conversion of their content, while 46% will use a combination of inhouse and outsourced work.

Dr. JoAnn Hackos is the CIDM Director.