15 Feb Content Delivery of Technical Information
How can you use content intelligently? By classes and dynamic content delivery!
Even nowadays technical documentation is mostly not valued as good or useful source of information. Too many incomprehensible or unmanageable documents have shaped the past and left behind frustrated or desperate users. Not to mention experts and technicians who prefer to rather trust their experience than long texts and inappropriate illustrations.
Although a lot has changed dramatically in the past decades. In particular, special Content Management Systems (CMS) have been established for technical editing, whose basic principle is the modular information acquisition. The technical contents are registered in XML structures as “modules” or “topics” and assembled according to the technical configuration of the described product. Thus, documentations can be configured very efficiently as information products from reusable units. Variant-specific, market-dependent and – if necessary – customer-specific. Just like the products themselves.
The targeted use and especially reuse of content in the specific CMS works when the modular content has intelligent, i.e. proper metadata for the intended use, that is suitable for different use cases. One frequently used method for this is the so-called PI-classification: Content modules carry unique information about the described hardware and software components of a product (“p”) and for each type of contained information (“i”). In this way, automatisms and selective (PI-) mechanisms can be used for efficient documentation. The reader benefits from accurate and targeted information. Actually.
But often not. The reason is not the content but the media. Only slowly real electronic formats establish for the spread of documentations. Formats, more intelligent than monolithic PDFs; more intelligent to search and display. Also the known forms of online help and web formats often don’t meet the requirements – who hasn’t made this experience? Too little application-specific, too little searchable, or better, too little retrievable is the necessary information.
So it was only logical that systems are recently formed that make the intelligence of data available to the user: New Content Delivery Portals (CDP) should tap the contents with the necessary navigation, search and access options: by navigating through traditional document structures (the indexes) and by dynamic filters and facets, e.g. via information classes, product components and variant features (inter alia according to the PI-classification). Finally, by direct search mechanisms in the content. In this way, many scenarios of information need and information use can be planned and fulfilled.
Thereby, the application scenarios can be extremely different in reality. All process participants and all stations of the “product lifecycle” can benefit from more targeted information and especially from information available online: sales activities, production processes, training, installation and approval, service calls and so on. And also customers or rather users. From this follows that content delivery applications can or must have various forms and scales regarding the IT architecture: global Internet portals, internal company portals with limited access, product-oriented onsite portals as well as local computer-locked online help. And of course, all the mobile apps with offline, online and update mechanisms.
So far, so helpful and good. Another dimension of the applications results, however, when one considers that a large amount of the content actually comes from sources that are not based on the modularity and are not deeply structured. A popular example is the vast number of service-related information, for example, from the areas of installation, diagnostics, error and application logs, or the mass of supplier information in mechanical and plant engineering. The more heterogeneous these sources, the more important they are for the application of a CDP and the more additional intelligent search and evaluation methods have to be used. In this case statistical, terminological, linguistic and/or ontological methods can serve to develop the content for the search and to make the information together with the structured information detectable.
Thus, it is understandable that the providers are approaching the central topic content delivery in different ways: Content management systems of technical communication, service companies with portals as managed services, traditional company portals, tools for electronic (web) publications and also providers of search portals like IntraFind Software AG with their different technological possibilities of intelligently indexing structured and unstructured information.
The market is heterogeneous and forms itself visibly for all companies that currently pursue and in the future will pursue a content delivery application scenario with the intelligent use of information. Drivers of the market are currently also “Industry 4.0” and the ubiquitous digitalization of products and services.