The Role of Scalability in a CCMS

February 29, 2024
image shows skyscraper representing scalability

Content teams often start small and grow over time. And as the team grows, so does the volume of content they create and manage. What starts as a handful of documents can quickly transform into an expansive library of knowledge, manuals, articles, and guides. When this happens, there is a need for tools that not only keep pace but can scale in the face of this growth.

Let’s look at a component content management system’s (CCMS) pivotal role in facilitating this growth. Remember that content growth isn’t just about quantity; it’s about creating, managing, and optimizing content efficiently as it scales.

Support for Structured, Reusable Content

A CCMS employs a structured authoring model, meaning the content is broken down into topics or components (e.g., a paragraph or a step in a procedure) created and managed independently. This is very different from creating content in MS Word or HTML (also known as unstructured content), where the content is written in one big document (Word) or tied to its formatting (HTML). So why is structured content important for scalability?

A structured content model enables multiple authors to create a piece of content at the same time because they each work on separate components or topics at the same time (more on collaboration below).

It also means that if you have an existing piece of content, like a user guide, and you need to add new sections because the development team added new functionality to the product, you don’t have to recreate the entire guide. Due to its modular nature, you can add a new component or topic and have it automatically reflected in the guide, enabling that content’s scalability.

Three Core Principles of Structured Authoring

  • Publishing content to multiple outlets
  • Managing and tracking changes to content
  • A place to improve collaboration

Structured content also supports content reuse, reducing the content you need to create. If you have the same content across more than one type of documentation, you only need to create that content once in the CCMS and then reuse it everywhere it’s needed. As your content team grows, they can take advantage of previously created content modules, reducing redundancy and ensuring consistency and accuracy across documents.

Publishing Content to Multiple Outputs

Technical documentation is often provided in multiple formats: a printable PDF, a series of help articles, a knowledgebase, and an HTML5 customer portal. Without a CCMS, you would have to create each of these documentation outputs separately, copying and pasting content, applying formatting and publishing them. Every time there was a change to the content, you would have to go to each type of output manually, make the change, and republish it.

All that changes with a CCMS because it supports single sourcing. Single sourcing means that you can publish your content to various outputs or channels, streamlining the content creation process. Remember that you create content following a structured content model. That model does not include formatting the content – it’s purely about the content itself. Once you have your content written, you can apply different formatting layouts. For example, you can apply it against a preset PDF layout or publish it as a Salesforce or Zendesk article.

Single sourcing gives your entire content team one place to create and find content to use in their technical documentation. It enables them to create and update multiple outputs of that documentation quickly.

image shows documentation team collaborating

Managing and Tracking Changes to Content

Having multiple writers, editors, and reviewers of your content is great, but it also poses challenges if you need to keep track of who is doing what (particularly important if you are working in a highly regulated industry).

This is an area where a CCMS is very beneficial because it includes versioning and auditing capabilities that enable you to track every change to a piece of content. With version control, you track changes, including the date and time a change was made, who made it, and what the change was. You can also revert to a previous version if you need to.

You may also have instances where you need your team to work on different versions of a piece of content. For example, one writer is updating the current version, while another writer is working on a new version that includes new product functionality. When the time comes, the versions can be merged.

Keep in mind that you can version not only a complete document but also each component or element (topic, paragraph), giving you granular control of changes to content over time. So, as your content volume grows and multiple team members contribute to the content, the CCMS can offer the scalability to effectively manage different versions, preventing conflicts and maintaining content integrity.

A Place to Improve Collaboration

There are two aspects of scalable collaboration we’ll cover here. The first relates to multiple authors working on a piece of content, like a user guide or an installation manual. If you want to speed up the technical documentation process, a CCMS enables you to have more than one person working on a piece of content at a time. Because the content is structured, you can have one writer working on one or more topics while other writers work on other topics, all independently. As each topic is complete, it can go through a separate review and approval workflow process.

Without a CCMS, one person would be responsible for writing a guide or manual. Or, if more people were writing the content, you either needed to create a process for merging the content, or each writer would have to wait for the other to finish their part before starting the next part. Neither of these steps is scalable – it would take more time, with writers potentially sitting around waiting for their turn, or you could run into issues merging the content together.

Then, there’s working with people outside the technical writing team. Technical writers do not write content in a vacuum. They continually talk to and work with others across the company to help them understand how the product they are writing about works. They talk to subject matter experts, product teams, end-users, etc.

Now, writers could go to each person and take notes, then share copies of the content they create for review, but that’s a manual process, and things are likely to get missed. It also takes more time for everyone.

With a CCMS, you can bring that review into one place – the place where the content is created. An author can create the content and put it through a collaborative workflow where SMEs and other reviewers can read it and comment. In some cases, you might want a reviewer to make changes to the content, but only that specific content. The CCMS can restrict permissions for those reviewers, setting edit-only access to that specific content.

Giving writers and reviewers one place to write and review content means that content can be updated and published faster. It also ensures an audit trail of all content changes, including the comments made, so you know when and why the content was updated based on a review process.

In both cases, a CCMS fosters efficient teamwork and enables the team to handle increased content production.

image shows woman working with documentation at a scaleup

A Scalable Infrastructure That Grows With You

A CCMS can be cloud-based or an on-premises system. Is one better than the other? A cloud-based CCMS allows you to scale resources based on demand. If you start with a small amount of content and a small team, you can be confident that you have the resources you need at that time. But as your content volume grows and your team grows, you need a scalable solution with scalability.

A cloud-based CCMS can accommodate this increased content volume easily without compromising performance. And you won’t need to consider adding more servers or databases and all the associated costs and implementation time.

Embrace Scalability with a CCMS

As content teams evolve and expand, the demand for a scalable content management solution becomes paramount. A cloud-based component content management system is a key solution that ensures the quantity, quality, and efficiency of content as it scales. Structured, reusable content empowers collaboration and eliminates redundancy, facilitating a seamless workflow. Single sourcing enables diverse outputs without duplicating efforts, and incorporating versioning and auditing capabilities ensures accountability and precision in tracking changes.

In addition, the collaborative features of a CCMS redefine teamwork, providing a centralized platform for efficient communication among team members and stakeholders. And finally, the scalable infrastructure of a cloud-based CCMS adapts effortlessly to the growing needs of content teams, offering a flexible and cost-effective solution.

Given all these features and capabilities, a CCMS stands not only as a tool for the present but as a strategic investment in the scalable future of content creation and optimization.