What is a CCMS?

April 18, 2024
image shows two women learning about a CCMS

A CCMS is a software tool for creating, reusing and collaborating on documentation. With a CCMS, you create documentation by combining individual chunks of content within the tool, instead of writing free-flowing text in one document, as you would with a word processor.

Why do organizations use a CCMS? A CCMS is ideal for organizations that have a lot of documentation that they need to reuse, keep consistent and create different versions of. By using a CCMS, organizations can save time creating, maintaining and updating their content while also being able to collaborate more efficiently. For example, if you have documentation for multiple products, a CCMS will enable you to quickly reuse all the content that is the same, or similar, for all products.

Read on to learn about the key benefits and features of a CCMS, how different industries use a CCMS, and what to consider when implementing a CCMS.

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What does CCMS stand for?

CCMS stands for component content management system. The “component” in the name refers to the individual chunks of content that you bring together to create your documentation. A component can be a headline, a paragraph, an image, or a list of steps, if you are creating a procedure manual.

Creating documentation by pulling together individual components might sound like a complicated process, but this approach is actually designed to save time and improve the consistency of your documentation.

Let’s say you have a description of a product feature, and this description is used in multiple versions of your documentation as well as in online help centers. If the description of the feature changes, without a CCMS you would need to manually update it everywhere the description is used, which takes time and can lead to inconsistencies.

With a CCMS, on the other hand, the feature description is stored as a “component” in one central location. You simply update that component, then quickly publish the update everywhere the component is used.

image shows man using ccms software on computer

What’s the difference between a CMS and a CCMS?

A CMS, which stands for content management system, is software that is used to create and manage digital content, such as content for websites and apps. A CCMS (component content management system), on the other hand, is used to create documentation, such as product documentation, procedure manuals, policy documents, help center content, or instructions. Both systems have features that make publishing and managing content easier, but their underlying structures, features and uses are quite different.

The main purpose of a CMS, such as WordPress, Joomla or Wix, is to help you create and manage a website without having to know or write any code. You usually do this by creating content based on certain layouts, themes or content blocks. A CCMS, in contrast, is primarily focused on supporting documentation workflows. With a CCMS, you create and collaborate on documentation, separate from layout, which can then be published in a variety of formats and styles.

A CCMS also has a much more sophisticated way of working with content, breaking it down into components that are stored, tracked and connected in a central database. This enables you to quickly create documentation by assembling and reusing individual components. When your documentation is ready, you can automatically publish it as PDFs or HTML5 files, using built-in layout tools, or publish it to CRMs, Git repositories and content delivery platforms.

Read more: CCMS vs. CMS: Similar terms for very different systems

The core components and functionalities of a CCMS

Structured authoring: One of the main functionalities of a CCMS is structured authoring, which means you create your content according to predefined rules. These rules keep your technical documentation more consistent and accurate across your organization. Instead of each technical writer creating content however they want, the CCMS guides them on what needs to be included in each component. The technical writers don’t need to worry about layout, since that comes later when publishing.

Single sourcing: Another important component of a CCMS is that it provides a single source for all content. Storing all your content in one repository makes it easier for your teams to collaborate, helps you quickly reuse content, and ensures that content doesn’t get changed somewhere else without you knowing it.

Content reuse: Since technical documentation often includes instructions, images or warnings that are used over and over, content reuse is one of the most critical functionalities of a CCMS. With a CCMS, you can save a lot of time by repurposing the same content in different documentation with just a few clicks. You can also enhance content reuse with features like profiling (conditionals) and variables.

Version control: What if you want to reuse content with slight variations? A CCMS helps you do this with version control. With version control, you can take a component from your central repository and make different versions of it, for example, for different products, features or markets. You can also make changes to the source component, then automatically update all versions of that component. This helps you work faster and more efficiently.

Localization and multilingual support: All too often organizations see inconsistencies and time delays creep into their documentation process when it comes to localization and multilingual support. A CCMS can solve this by automatically linking the source content with the localized or translated content in the central CCMS database. In this way, you can quickly see what has been translated or needs to be updated. It also makes it easier to reuse translations, saving you costs and time.

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The benefits of using a CCMS

The biggest benefits of using a CCMS are improving the consistency and accuracy of technical documentation and saving time through more efficient content creation, reuse, and collaboration.

Increased efficiency: Most organizations are familiar with the problem of trying to find the latest version of a document, then going through the complicated process of updating the document with reviews across departments. A CCMS simplifies this process by storing all content in one place, making it easy to create new versions of existing documentation, and providing built-in collaboration tools to track reviews. For example, a CCMS can be used in this way to create policies and legal documents.

Easier content reuse: It’s a common problem that writers and reviewers can describe the same thing in different ways, leading to inconsistencies in your documentation. It can also take a lot of time manually updating changes across your documentation. A CCMS solves these problems with content reuse features that help you work faster and smarter. If all your product manuals have the same introduction, for example, a CCMS enables you to easily create a generic introduction component and reuse it everywhere.

Enhanced collaboration: Reviewing technical documentation is another area where your documentation process can run into roadblocks. Documentation teams often create a document with one tool, convert it into another format for review, then add changes to the original document. With a CCMS with built-in collaboration tools, all reviews are made in the same system, notifications are sent automatically, and you get a clear overview of where you are in the review process.

Improved compliance: All companies must comply with certain types of requirements, such as financial and safety requirements, or agreements with customers, partners and vendors, but ensuring you consistently comply with these requirements in your documentation can be a real challenge. A CCMS can help improve compliance by providing an audit trail to all changes made to your documentation and by making it easy to update all your content at once when there are changes made to requirements.

Streamlined localization and translation workflows: For many organizations, localized and translated documentation becomes locked in its finalized output, like a PDF, which means that updates require entirely new translations and duplicate work, increasing costs and inconsistencies. A CCMS improves translation workflows by storing all translations in a database, connected to the source content, making it easier to track, reuse and publish translations in several formats.

image shows man structuring content in a CCMS on his computer

How content is structured in a CCMS

Part of what makes a component content management system (CCMS) different from other documentation tools is the way content is structured within the system. Instead of working with content at the document level, you work with content at the granular level – the individual components that will comprise your finalized documentation. Here are three big benefits to structured authoring.

Quickly publish in multiple channels: With a CCMS, all content components are stored in a database, and each component is written using XML. XML is a markup language and file format that ensures that each component is created according to a predefined structure. With some CCMS, such as Paligo, the XML coding is hidden behind a user-friendly editor, to make it easier for non-technical writers to create content. Using XML-based authoring enables you to automatically publish documentation in different formats, such as PDFs and HTML5 files, which saves a lot of time with layout and formatting.

Easily find content and publish multiple versions: Content in a CCMS is structured according to taxonomies. A taxonomy is like a blueprint you create that tells users and the system how each component relates to other components. For each component, you add taxonomy tags that specify, for example, what product, audience, region or version the component refers to. By using taxonomy tags, you can quickly search the database for existing components (avoiding duplication), and can quickly publish different versions of documents (based on the specific tags applied to the components).

Integrate with other systems to increase efficiency: Another benefit of a structured approach to documentation in a CCMS is that it enables you to easily integrate your documentation with other systems. Using an API, you can integrate a CCMS with translation tools, content delivery platforms, help desks, and communications tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams.

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Use cases for a CCMS in different industries

CCMS are used across industries to improve documentation processes, increase consistency and save time. Here are a few examples of how different industries benefit from a CCMS.

Manufacturing: A CCMS provides manufacturing companies with a modern, time-saving solution for technical documentation, making it easy to create templates for documentation related to installations, operations, commissioning, and maintenance. Service technicians and engineers benefit from reliable, consistent documentation that can be easily delivered to any channel.

Finance: CCMS in the finance industry help companies lower operating costs with more efficient workflows, and they help ensure compliance with regulations as updates can be made in multiple documents at once. CCMS’ also improve financial management, giving auditors the ability to track changes to documentation.

Insurance: The insurance industry involves accurate, customer-specific documentation and policies that are highly regulated. A CCMS simplifies client-facing and internal insurance documentation by making it easy to reuse the same content, create versions of documentation for different customers, and track changes to ensure compliance.

Software: One of the main challenges of software documentation is ensuring that it is continuously updated across all versions of your products. With a CCMS, you can update all documentation in one place and automatically publish it everywhere. A CCMS can also enable you to publish directly to developer platforms like GitHub and BitBucket. Another benefit of a CCMS for software industries is the fact that it can also branch documentation to follow the code lifecycle. This means there is no need to branch and version documentation in complex environments like Git.

Life sciences: In the highly regulated life sciences industries, such as healthcare and pharmaceuticals, documentation must be accurate, reliable and consistent. A CCMS can help life-science companies, such as medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies, by making it easy to manage, update and reuse instructions in multiple languages.

Education: Companies that provide eLearning content to students, employees or partners can gain several advantages by using a CCMS. With a CCMS like Paligo, you get a single source for all training content, including assessments, quizzes and fully customizable layouts, which can be directly exported to a learning management system (LMS) using SCORM packages.

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What to consider when selecting and implementing a CCMS

While component content management systems (CCMS) can make your documentation processes more efficient, there are a few things to consider when selecting a system:

  • Is the CCMS easy to implement and use? If the system takes too long to implement or is difficult to use, you may not get the widespread user acceptance that will make the CCMS a success.
  • Can the CCMS scale as your content library and number of users grow? A lack of scalability in a CCMS can slow loading times and review processes.
  • Is a CCMS the right documentation software for your needs, can it integrate with existing systems, and does it make it easy to import current documentation?
  • What are the costs of implementing a CCMS, and how do those compare with the long-term costs of your current documentation solution?
  • What kind of training and support will you receive with the CCMS, and how steep is the learning curve? Getting proper training in the CCMS, as well as updating your knowledge management strategy, can be critical to your success.

Explore how a CCMS can save you time, resources and costs

As this blog post has outlined, a CCMS provides a structured approach to documentation that saves time and increases consistency. Typical Paligo CCMS customers find that they can reuse 30-90% of their content, which leads to significantly less time spent updating content. Since Paligo CCMS also includes built-in layouts, they also spend 30-50% less time formatting content.

To learn how Paligo CCMS can benefit your organization, explore Paligo’s key features, or request a personal demo.

Get started with Paligo

Paligo is built to meet the most demanding requirements, with plans made for any company from the growing SMB to the large Enterprise.

Book a demo