New content management system helps Ensim stop seeing double
-Success Story: Ensim Corporation
Implementing a CMS would take time, planning, and resources, but the promise of being able to reuse information in multiple documents from a single source, and the long-term potential for cost savings and customer satisfaction, were quite compelling - says Kate Wilcox, Principal Information Developer for Ensim.
After analyzing their documentation set, the people at Ensim Corporation, the leading provider of management software for unifed communications and collaboration infrastructure, began seeing double. Then triple. Then quadruple. Then they simply lost count.
During the analysis, Ensim identifed a great deal of duplicated content among documents particularly for their products Ensim Unify and Ensim Pro.
There were feature descriptions that needed to appear in online help, release notes, marketing collateral, and product specifcations.
There were procedures that had to be incorporated into installation guides, upgrade guides, best practice guides and online help.
And there was a great deal of reference material, such as company contact and support information, that appeared in virtually every document.
The analysis :
The analysis was eye-opening. Duplicating the content increased the cost of:
What’s more, it increased the potential for inconsistency and inaccuracy.
Ensim needed a systematic strategy for reusing content, especially across different types of documentation. Consequently, in late 2005, representatives from Ensim’s Engineering, Product Management, IT, and Technical Publications departments met to discuss ways to reduce duplication and improve documentation.
One proposed solution was to develop a reuse strategy using the existing documentation software at the time. This solution had the least impact on resources and existing processes, but it also offered the lowest potential for reusing content. Ensim also considered using one of their existing tools for online help.
However, this would have required workfow changes, template design, and the migration of existing content, and it still would not have improved the management of shared content among documents.
The suggestion was then made to implement a Content Management System (CMS) which would manage the information generated so that writers could quickly fnd, maintain, and use it again.
The system would also incorporate the concept of “single sourcing” – that is, having just one source of content and using it in multiple outputs instead of rewriting it. Despite the extra effort that would be required, Ensim embraced the idea.
Ensim evaluated a number of competitive CMS systems, and even considered XML and structured authoring solutions. The ultimate solution would have to fulfll a number of specifc requirements.
Ensim’s requirements included:
Ensim was looking for both a solution and a “partner” company that would be around for a while. After considering the options, and speaking with experts such as Ann Rockley, respected author of Managing Enterprise Content, Ensim decided to implement Author-it. The Author-it product is one of the world’s most widely used content management tools. The philosophy behind the product is simple but powerful: write once, reuse many times, maintain in one place, and publish to multiple outputs. Ensim’s implementation involved multiple disciplines: planning, design, training, migration and testing. The plan encompassed four phases: with colorful code names:
Phase 1 - Iceberg. This initial phase included installing and setting up Author-it and the SQL server in Ensim’s Santa Clara, CA headquarters; analyzing current content and identifying opportunities for reuse; identifying customer requirements; developing a content model; developing new processes and workfows; and designing templates.
Phase 2 - Blizzard. This phase included testing templates and models, and migrating existing content produced by previous documentation tools into Author-it. It also involved setting up Author-it for Ensim’s Technical Publications group in Pune, India.
Phase 3 - Monsoon. During this phase, Ensim began using Author-it to produce PDF output.
Phase 4 - Harvest. This phase expanded the use of the CMS to include online help.
The effort has been well worthwhile. Using Author-it, Ensim now has its content in a single searchable database instead of in multiple separate documents. More importantly, content can automatically be shared, reused and updated wherever and whenever it is needed.
Content can also be shared at the topic level, assuming it is granular enough, i.e., stored as distinct topics. All writers can now easily view documents in one database. There’s no need to look for documents on a server or local machine somewhere, this also means they can view what’s being done for other products as needed, which is especially helpful for new writers.
Author-it provided three days of initial training, which gave Ensim a solid overview of Author-it’s processes and capabilities. However, questions arose during implementation, which caused Ensim to rely on the Author-it support team for guidance. “We fled many support tickets, and we always received a prompt email response,” said Kate Wilcox. “Their support has been excellent.”
The ROI on the Author-it system has yet to be formally determined. However, the company recently moved its corporate offces, which resulted in a change of corporate address. The system has already paid dividends in this area. “To update all of our documents would have taken several hours under our old process, because that content was not shared,” Wilcox said. “In our new Author-it process, it took less than fve minutes.”
Going forward, Ensim plans to expand its CMS to other Ensim groups, such as IT, Marketing, and Engineering. When that happens, fewer people will be seeing double, and more people will be using single source content.
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