Automated content assembly, aggregation, and generation is not about making a nice hocus-pocus to entertain your co-workers at a cocktail party (although it would be, probably, a fine way to impress them).
It’s about solving your business needs and increasing the business value of your content. Unlike traditional publishing, when you just present the same content in a different format, content automation lets you create completely new information assets from the existing content.
It’s about eliminating expensive, error-prone, and time-consuming processes and introducing mechanisms that do the important work faster and cost-effectively.
In this series, I’m describing various use cases when content automation can bring most benefits.
Situation: You have a big amount of individual topics with multiple variations based on various parameters, like product model, market, audience, and so on. Some topics are model-specific while other topics are common for all products and models. You want to assemble these topics into a specific output, whether the output represents a static document (for example, a user guide for a particular product model) or is generated dynamically (for example, a troubleshooting procedure for a specific product model based on the user’s profile and error code generated by the machine).
Why Manual Process Is a Problem: Of course, you can put individual topics together for a particular output manually, but:
How Content Automation Can Help: Structured content can provide semantic metadata about any piece of information, which means that there is a way to know what each piece is all about. Having this metadata on one hand, and formalized requirements to the output on the other hand, whether it’s a bill of materials, product configuration from a PLM system, or the user profile, relevant pieces of information can be picked up and assembled automatically.
Situation: Some information can be understood by your users better if it’s represented visually. For example, a complex troubleshooting procedure or a diagram showing system’s components and how they interact with each other would be a good addition to the textual descriptions.
Why Manual Process Is a Problem: Of course, you can always draw a flowchart or a diagram in Visio or PowerPoint, but:
How Content Automation Can Help: Structured content contains a lot of semantic information that can be used to automatically generate visual representation of the textual content. For example, troubleshooting topics relevant for a particular product model in a particular situation can be picked up from the content repository that contains all information about all product models. Then a flowchart that shows the troubleshooting procedure can be automatically created from the found topics. Users might be allowed to choose whether they want to read, see the troubleshooting procedure, or get both of them.
Situation: Your developers write configuration files for software or hardware. This configuration needs to be documented for internal or external use.
Why Manual Process Is a Problem: Of course, you can split the responsibilities between developers and technical writers so that developers would create configuration files, and technical writers would document them, but:
How Content Automation Can Help: Just like technical documentation written in a structured content format, configuration files are usually pretty well structured. This means that configuration files can be generated automatically from the technical specifications written by either developers or technical writers.
In Part 2, I’m going to talk about additional use cases, including data visualization and generation of business documents, like sales proposals.