A Step-by-Step Guide to Product Knowledge Documentation in a CCMS

September 14, 2023
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Knowledge managers and technical writers are unfortunately all too familiar with the challenges of product knowledge documentation. Too often the documentation is difficult to keep up to date, exists in siloed versions, and is not easily accessible by all users.

This leads to frustration and missed opportunities across your company. Knowledge managers and technical writers spend needless hours updating individual documents. Sales and support teams don’t have access to accurate product information. And customers and users struggle to find the manuals and documentation to solve problems.

Some companies might start out by handling product knowledge documentation through files, Word documents or wiki software, but as your company, products and users grow, these tools lack the agility to meet their needs.

In this blog post, we’ll go step by step on how to get your product knowledge documentation under control through a component content management system (CCMS). With a CCMS in place, you get a single source for all product knowledge content, which can then be easily used and updated across the organization.

What is product knowledge documentation and why is it important?

Product knowledge documentation refers to all of the information, materials and resources about a company’s products. This documentation can be used for product development and maintenance, sales and marketing, compliance, training, and translation and localization. Product knowledge documentation can also be used by your customers or their end users for support, user and instruction manuals, or as a general knowledge base.

In short, it’s a lot of information for knowledge managers and technical writers to produce and keep up to date. This information is critical to your company’s operations and requires close collaboration across departments. So, let’s take a look at how a component content management system (CCMS) can help.

How can you use a CCMS for product knowledge documentation?

A CCMS is software where content is structured as individual components. The component could be a headline, a paragraph, a section of text, or even an image. Then, when you create or update a component, the change can be automatically updated everywhere that component is used.

For example, if the description of one of your product features changes, you can update the description in the CCMS, then that change automatically appears everywhere that description is used, such as in user manuals, technical documentation, and sales materials.

If you haven’t used a CCMS before, it might be a different approach to writing than what you’re used to, but it can save you a significant amount of time. Here are the six steps you would typically use when creating and updating product knowledge documents.

1. Use structured authoring and components to create product knowledge documents

A CCMS uses structured authoring for content creation, which means that when you create content you follow a predetermined structure. You don’t need to worry about the content’s layout or formatting. You simply focus on the topics you want to cover.

Breaking up your product knowledge content into smaller components makes the content easier to update and reuse. So instead of having to edit, for example, 12 pages of free-flowing text, you only need to edit the component for the specific topic that needs to be changed.

With a CCMS, all content is stored in a central location, so if you change a component there, it is automatically updated everywhere else. This makes writers more productive, and makes sure everyone has reliable, up-to-date information.

2. Reuse existing product knowledge content

Creating new product knowledge content from existing content is also easier with a CCMS. You don’t need to start writing from scratch. You can bring together components that you already have—text, images and video links—to create a new document. Reusing content like this saves time and helps ensure consistency and accuracy.

Having all your content in a single location also makes it easier to find the right content. In a CCMS, content can be easily categorized and tagged, so you can quickly locate related content and build on existing content structures.

Content can also be stored in multiple formats, so it can be reused in different ways. For example, Paligo (a CCMS) uses an open XML schema that enables content to be reused in any type of format: PDF, HTML5, SCORM, mobile, support portals, and more.

3. Create multiple versions of product knowledge content

With all of your product knowledge content in a single location, you can then create multiple versions of your components. You may need to do this due to differences in product models, or if you need to localize content for different languages or regions.

For example, if you have a product that is offered with either standard or advanced features, you can create a new version of the component describing the standard feature and update it with the advanced feature’s information. Both versions exist side by side in the same central storage.

This type of version management enables you to efficiently manage all versions in a single place, and ensures that all versions are up-to-date. If a change needs to be made to the original component, you can automatically update it in all versions of the component.

4. Collaborate on your product knowledge documentation

Because product knowledge documentation typically affects all aspects of your company, close collaboration across departments is often needed. It can be a challenge, however, to find an efficient, centralized way to work together on content.

A CCMS helps solve this challenge with features specifically designed for collaboration. With Paligo, for example, you can easily create assignments for content that needs to be reviewed. Once an assignment is created, the reviewer receives an email with a link to the content. Once the reviewer is done, an email is sent back to the content owner.

This creates an organized, centralized process for content review, and helps raise visibility of how the project is progressing and any issues that need to be addressed.

5. Translate your product knowledge documentation

If your company operates in different countries, translating your product knowledge documentation can be a complex process. It can be difficult both to coordinate the translation of all content and ensure that all translations are up-to-date.

With Paligo, you can manage your translations in one place. You can either manually upload translations into the system with the editor, or use built-in integrations with leading translation services.

The CCMS enables you to easily track the progress of translations and use built-in workflows to manage the translations. You can also automatically track which components have been updated, so you know what needs to be adjusted in other languages.

6. Publish product knowledge content in multiple channels

Publishing up-to-date, complex product knowledge documentation can be a particularly time-consuming process. This is especially true if your documentation uses multiple languages and is published in many different channels.

A CCMS simplifies the publishing process in a few ways. First, all of your content is stored and organized in a central location, so it is easier to manage. Second, all of your product knowledge content is structured according to topics, not publishing formats.

Finally, when you use Paligo, you can automatically publish your content in any format you want, such as PDFs (with a built-in layout editor), in HTML5, or through CRMs (for sales and support), Git repositories, and content delivery platforms.

The benefits of a CCMS for product knowledge documentation

Creating product knowledge content in a CCMS might be an entirely new way of working for you, but this structured approach can lead to impressive results across your company.

With a CCMS you can:

  • Easily update content from a single location.
  • Quickly reuse product knowledge content.
  • Ensure consistency in all content versions.
  • Effectively collaborate across departments.
  • Manage and track translations.
  • Automatically publish content in a variety of formats.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the Paligo CCMS can help with your product knowledge documentation, schedule a demo now.