CL News Editorial
Republished with permission from Data Conversion Laboratory, Inc.
In Part I, Jennifer Jung described how J.J. Keller had set out to improve its content reuse capabilities and enable a single source approach for multiple data feeds.However, Jennifer realized early on that simply converting content to XML was not enough to drive the kind of content efficiencies the company really needed. With over 6,000 products and services, previously in a diverse array of formats, the media neutral aspect of a single XML format was not sufficient for a true single source approach.
Like many similar companies producing a large pool of information, particularly those in the regulatory or compliance area, Keller knew that much of their content might be duplicative. Successful content reuse required that the duplicates needed to be first identified, and removed. Considering the scale of the effort, simple cut and paste efforts would not be viable. In part 2 she describes the automated approach she used.
Identify the Right Output Format for Your Content Needs
The first step for any content digitization strategy requires identifying the best output format. Depending on what initiatives the content is expected to support, the choice of output format may vary. J.J. Keller’s primary content goal had always been to better manage its editorial output using a single source approach. A single source approach means all like content is easily identifiable within a data repository enabling a seamless update, reuse or repackaging of a related content set. Since XML’s inherent structure is already modular and associated with specific meta data tags that control how these modules should and did connect, it represented the best output format choice for J.J. Keller.
Successful content reuse also requires that each document contain an element of reusable content that is easily identifiable even if it does not reside in the document. This reuse component when updated is updated wherever it occurs enabling a change once, reuse many approach. First, however, the reusable content needs to be found. This is one of the more difficult aspects of any data effort, often requiring additional data discovery software and tools.
Digitized Data Alone is not Enough
At J.J. Keller it became clear early on in the data conversion project that additional data support tools were needed. Faced with the challenge of locating and consolidating redundant and ultimately reusable content, Jennifer had explored several software options for automating this process, ultimately choosing Harmonizer™ from Data Conversion Laboratory. Jennifer reinforces this “We used DCL’s Harmonizer™ to aid us with planning our data conversion effort. By converting those publications that had a high degree of shared content first, we could achieve a ROI sooner rather than later and improve content maintenance and production efficiencies.”
The Reality of Single Sourced Content
Jennifer Jung continues,” More importantly, single source content is now a reality at J.J. Keller. Content is updated and maintained once, and can feed several products simultaneously without the additional handwork and proofing that were required before.” Not one to stand on her laurels for long, Jennifer is also seeing additional efficiencies generated from converting data from HTML and other formats to XML through the use of custom functionality that Keller has built into the XML authoring tool.
Needless to say, this new XML approach has mandated a new editorial process with new tools to author and maintain content. Since Keller is using XML, they now have a highly structured data model. Jennifer adds, “This has separated data from formatting and allows J.J. Keller to produce products with a consistent format throughout. Manual formatting (e.g. handwork) is mitigated. This has been an adjustment for those editors who like to manipulate the appearance of an individual page, but has been well received by those who like a uniform format and want to focus on the “words” over formatting the content.”
Change, particularly a change of this magnitude, is not always welcome. Additional reports needed to be created to query the CMS using the mark-up rules identified by Harmonizer™ to identify the common content, identify other possible opportunities to further single-source content and to report on linked content. Several individuals’ roles changed in order to maintain the new software and the XML feed, and two new development resources were brought on board to support a batch composition system for print product creation.
Executive support is also crucial to a project of this size. Even with the clear returns on investment, Jennifer still needed to continually engage with executives and stakeholders to communicate and reinforce the benefits of the new technologies and processes. A proactive communications effort helped to alleviate any concerns or issues.
Jennifer reflects on how the data project was a key component of J.J. Keller’s corporate philosophy and mission, “Since continuous process improvement is a way of doing business at J.J. Keller, our CMS is no exception. We continually look for opportunities to fine-tune and gain greater efficiency for J.J. Keller, our products and our customers.”
Success at Last
Today, Keller possesses the ability to efficiently identify, create and then address a multitude of new products. Content may now be sliced and diced easily for custom product development, or for new customer-specific products developed from a blend of J.J. Keller stock product content and content specifically written for or provided by the customer. Moreover, new channels of content delivery may now be approached with targeted content packages designed for a specific need or market category. This type of product development was impossible to leverage prior to developing the new systems.
At the end of the day, the savings from reduced data storage costs and simplified data creation processes more than offset any pain points the conversion project may have generated. When these benefits are combined with the potential for incremental revenue from future new information products driven by Keller’s improved data capabilitities, the data project represents a tremendous success for J.J. Keller and for Jennifer Jung.