This is the second post in the series about building a business case for content automation. In the previous post, I talked about automated content assembly, visualizing complex procedures, and generation of programming code and configuration files.
In this post, we’ll see how content automation can be very beneficial for business content too.
Situation: You are a product/project manager and need to document requirements for a new product or project. You also have to estimate the efforts required to implement the requirements. Then you want to get various documents aimed at different audiences:
Why Manual Process Is a Problem: Of course, you could write requirements in MS Word, then calculate costs in MS Excel, and then put them together. However:
How Content Automation Can Help: Product or project requirements written in a structured format with metadata used to estimate the efforts required to implement each requirement and other product/project-management information is an enabler for building a solution that will automatically assemble documents for different audiences and generate different views of the same data for people with different roles.
Situation: You are a consultant who is building a solution for your customer. Part of your job is to understand the current situation at your customer’s organization: how business processes work, who is involved, how information flows between teams, what triggers process-critical events, and so on. You need to interview stakeholders and capture their knowledge. Probably, you’ll get a series of formal descriptions that represent the information you’ve gathered:
Because multiple roles and triggers are usually involved in business processes in the organization, an effective way to get a big picture is to have a flowchart that graphically represents roles and actors involved in various processes and shows how the information flows between them. Perhaps, multiple flowcharts should be created to represent the same business process from the perspective of different roles.
Why Manual Process Is a Problem: Of course, you could draw a flowchart in Visio or PowerPoint and then document the business process in MS Word. However:
How Content Automation Can Help: In formalized descriptions, it’s very easy to identify the role and meaning of each information piece as well as the relationship between different pieces. This means there is a relatively straightforward way to dynamically convert the formalized descriptions into a well-structured visual representation.
Additionally, it’s easy to automatically unveil conflicts and generate a report about inconsistencies. If there’s a change in a certain role or an event that triggers an action, you only need to update the formalized description of that role, and then the flowchart will be regenerated to show the updated process.
By the way, the formalized descriptions don’t have to be in DITA or even in XML. It could be Excel, Access, or any other well-defined structure.
These are just a few examples of business cases when content automation can significantly improve the way you work. If you recognize yourself in any of them, want to learn more, or have other ideas about other cases, I’ll be happy to discuss them with you! Contact me at alex AT intuillion DOT com.