Four factors to finding the best solution to automate your content
We talk a lot about the strategic role of content, how it drives digital transformation, customer satisfaction and revenue and why it’s important to ensure it complies with corporate and industry requirements. Enterprises that produce a large volume of content in a variety of formats – print, web, mobile and more – inevitably confront complexity and cost.
But automating workflows, capturing intelligence, and closing the loop on your content lifecycle is the key to addressing these challenges. Content automation also increases your content velocity, enabling you to create more of the right content for the right audiences and deliver it via the right channels at the right times.
The creation, review, assembly, publishing and analysis of your company’s content are fundamental stages of the content lifecycle. And every department within your organization – from marketing to accounting to legal and more – is likely involved in one stage or another. That’s why evaluating a content automation platform should be approached as a means of establishing an accurate and efficient content pipeline, one that is a single source of truth.
But how do you choose a content automation platform? Your business operations, your customers, and ultimately your brand depend on your making the right choice. Here are the top four factors to consider in your evaluation process.
Don’t count on point solutions
Selecting a content automation solution that drives business value, reduces costs, and makes your colleagues’ lives easier starts with understanding the difference between a point solution and a platform. A point solution may be graphically represented by a period, and a period is exceptionally good at one thing: ending a sentence. Similarly, a point application is very good at one activity within the content lifecycle.
Take authoring, for example. Word processing applications are good at helping writers create content. But they’re lackluster at other content‐related actions and often work in isolation. Even core content‐creation necessities, such as collaboration and managing workflows and approvals, elude a point solution.
This is problematic for companies with medium‐ to high‐complexity authoring processes. A good example of this is the creation of a bank SOP (standard operating procedure). Strict governmental and corporate regulations, policies and procedures require input from audit, risk and legal experts. A point solution doesn’t have the features to manage the authoring and review process, resulting in several challenges including, missteps in process, limited user benefits to department-level only, and error-prone review processes, tool and template inconsistencies, and added strain on IT teams to help implement, maintain and troubleshoot the one‐off, disconnected application.
Compared to the point solution’s period, a platform can be graphically represented by a rectangle, and a rectangle supports the entire structure across its full dimensions. As such, a platform can support
multiple departments across the enterprise. It resides on a common IT infrastructure, ideally SaaS-based, making it easy to deploy, maintain and update. It also integrates with core data sets that are readily available to foster collaboration among authorized users across the enterprise.
The single most important aspect of a content automation platform is that it is designed with the end goal in mind: to deliver valuable content efficiently to the target audiences where they engage with it the most. Therefore, it must incorporate technologies, applications and interfaces to support each stage of the content process — from creation to omnichannel publishing and distribution
Support existing technology investments
The enterprise content production process is complex because it involves multiple departments, users, content types, file types, collaboration processes, content consumers and content consumption devices. But not all complexities are created equal. The needs of a boutique blogging firm vary considerably from those of a Fortune 500 bank. As you evaluate options, consider not only the type of content automation solution you need but also how well it meshes with your existing IT infrastructure.
Good “meshing” boils down to three key capabilities: scalability, extensibility and security.
A content automation solution should scale to support more users at more locations to produce more content, documents and document types and support growing distribution channels. Ask yourself: How easy is it to roll out the solution to other departments? How easily can IT implement the solution to meet the needs of users in all locations?
It should seamlessly integrate with existing systems, not be disruptive to them. How important is it for you to pull and integrate content and data from your existing systems into the content you want to publish? A brokerage firm, for example, must be able to pull a 12‐month trailing average stock performance chart from a database and publish it to the web browser of a prospective investor. When evaluating the technology’s extensibility, make sure the application architecture and programming interfaces support modern programming languages and methods, such as RESTful web services that are used to create the more commonly termed APIs. Also, make a list of the systems and databases that your content processes touch. The higher the number of data touch points, the more valuable an extensible solution will be to your company.
It should be easy to configure your content automation solution to work with your existing security systems. Does it come with its own proprietary security system? If so, this implies the system is difficult to maintain, non‐standard, or poorly integrated. Find a solution that lets your company control security measures across the business, such as single sign-on (SSO) authentication, user access and permission rights to specific documents. The flexibility and configurability of your content automation solution’s security settings should be a core requirement for enterprises operating in highly-regulated industries. It’s a good rule of thumb to make a list of regulatory mandates and privacy policies your company must follow so you can better understand your organization’s security requirements.
Evaluate deployment models
Deciding how to deploy your content automation solution is equally as important as choosing which one to implement. How you deploy – offsite vs. onsite – affects the following
- Total cost of ownership of your publishing solution (initial purchase, implementation and maintenance)
- Enterprise IT expertise staffing needs as well as overall staffing requirements within the organization
- Infrastructure procurement issues, such as time to deployment, facility space, the cost per unit of storage, and central processing unit (CPU) capacity
- Business continuity and disaster recovery capabilities
- Security — not just of your publishing solution but also of the infrastructure that underpins it
In an off‐site deployment model, the content automation platform is hosted by a service provider that charges a monthly or annual software-as-a-service (SaaS) fee to run your content automation platform. The provider manages everything from storage capacity, computing, ensuring uptime to protect against outages, and maintaining high-speed connectivity for globally dispersed employees and provision for growth. Due diligence should reveal if prospective providers’ systems don’t meet regulatory compliance standards and/or if their security measures are robust enough to support organizational needs.
Although some organizations may prefer the security and control of hosting their software themselves, an on-site deployment model that is installed, operated and managed on premises can be much more costly, in light of the necessary IT infrastructure investments to support and maintain it. It also can drain the bandwidth of IT teams from a management standpoint. Software ecosystems are becoming increasingly more integrated, and even traditionally introverted enterprises are embracing the extensibility benefits of using the cloud.
So which model is best for you? The benefits of a SaaS-based deployment can be substantial, and many systems— such as marketing‐related business applications — have moved almost exclusively to off‐site deployments. While some regulated industries, such as financial services, may still have security concerns about third‐party hosting, this mindset is changing because of the private cloud options now available. Getting on the SaaS bandwagon is worth the consideration.
Select the right partner to prevent failure
Adopting an enterprise content automation platform requires careful consideration. When selecting a provider, you don’t want just a vendor but rather a collaborative partner that consults with you to optimize the value and use of the system they’re selling. You want them to invest in your success, to help you actually achieve your organizational goals.
To determine the difference between a point vendor and a trusted platform partner, ask the following questions:
- Do they have content automation domain expertise?
- Are they a seasoned provider with a proven track record and references?
- Can they support creating and publishing reusable, omnichannel content in multiple languages?
- Do they offer a comprehensive, end-to-end, extensible content automation solution that will enable you to modernize and scale your content ecosystem?
- Do they own and are they committed to continuously innovating across their technology portfolio?
Quark knows content – and how to make your content work the way your business needs it to. With Quark Publishing Platform (QPP) NextGen, we check all the boxes above to provide a closed-loop approach to content lifecycle management. We can help you automate all the associated processes – from content creation to consumption – to improve the effectiveness and ROI of your enterprise content strategy.
See for yourself. Request a demo of QPP NextGen.