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Utilizing taxonomy and governance to facilitate reuse

Many content management professionals cite efficiency as the primary benefit of single sourcing and content reuse. It’s easy to explain this correlation logically: every piece of content you reuse represents a piece of content that you don’t have to create from scratch. While this correlation is true and easy to quantify, the more significant value of reuse lies in its ability to positively influence the customer experience.

Leverage efficiency to improve quality
Increasing efficiency leads to savings in content development time. Often, time savings are viewed as an opportunity to create additional content, but unless you ensure that content is of high quality, you risk simply providing your customers with a larger volume of material that does not meet their needs. Quality is an essential element for providing a great customer experience. To increase the overall quality and consistency of your product, invest your efficiency gains in enhanced planning and a comprehensive review processes.

Avoid uncontrolled reuse
The value of reuse is apparent. So how do you manage your content to optimize reuse and how do you provide content creators with the tools they need to successfully utilize this reusable content? Start by defining reusable content and establishing rules to control its use.

Without a comprehensive reuse strategy, your authors must individually determine which content is appropriate to reuse, which leads to inconsistency and increased overhead in the writing process. It’s obviously inefficient for authors to scour the content repository for every new paragraph they must write. So how is an author to know which content to reuse and which content to create? The answer is to define a robust taxonomy and implement a supportive governance policy.

Define a robust, descriptive taxonomy
A well-designed taxonomy ensures order within a content repository, regardless of whether it contains tens or hundreds of thousands of content objects. While each organization’s taxonomy will be unique to their industry, products, and production requirements, some general guidelines apply to all content structures.

Your taxonomy should describe your content, not your publications. If your classification structure employs tags, ensure that they reflect the meaning of the content. For example, you might include a topic about a gearshift assembly in documentation for a particular model of automobile. While the content was initially created for a specific model, that same gearshift assembly might also exist in other models. By tagging that content with the type of the assembly, you’re identifying the content semantically rather than associating it with a specific product. If you instead tag that content with the car’s model name, then you are limiting the apparent scope of that content.

When designing the structure of your content repository, consider creating clearly identified areas for reuse. This allows content creators to immediately recognize whether content is reusable, and if so, whether that content is controlled (read-only) or uncontrolled (editable). For instance, if your organization is required to adhere to government regulations, you might publish regulatory statements that are provided or approved by your company’s legal department. By clearly identifying such content as controlled, you can prevent unauthorized changes.

Bolster taxonomy with governance
Even the most intuitive taxonomy requires oversight. A comprehensive governance policy can help. If your organization is moving from unstructured authoring tools to a component content management system, ensure your author training emphasizes your content management methodology and workflow processes, not only tool mechanics.

The initial training isn’t your only opportunity to assist content creators. Consider assigning a dedicated authoring support specialist to coordinate content analyses and to review content structures within publications. Multiple content review and validation checkpoints add additional overhead to projects, but the resulting improvements in consistency and overall quality justify the time investment.

Reuse doesn’t simply happen. Recognizing the potential value of reusable content requires a committed team, a well-defined content strategy, and a dedicated support system. While the initial investment to create a comprehensive reuse strategy might seem daunting, a properly-designed system can yield significant results.

To learn how one customer is using SDL Knowledge Center to successfully reuse an average of 60% of its highest-value content, register for the free webinar, Leveraging Reuse to Enhance the Customer Experience, presented by CIDM and SDL.

For more content like this, please ‘like’ this blog and leave your comments below;

  • Hey Douglas,

    If you registered for the webinar, they usually send out a link to a recording afterwards.

    Of course, that doesn't help if you're reading this post for the first time after the webinar has already happened! It just so happens I have a link to this one:

    >> Thank you for registering for the CIDM Webinar entitled:  

    >> Leveraging Reuse to Enhance the Customer Experience.


    >> The recording for this webinar is now available online at:

    >> vimeo.com/.../42c55022bf

  • It would help to record these webinars and make them available, or post a PDF of slides, or both. Schedules do not always permit attending webinars--even if you plan to attend, circumstances can arise that make a specific date hard to make.

  • This is very good. As it happens, I am especially interested in some best practice guidance, and perhaps case studies in reference to reuse issues of nested conrefs, excessive conditional use in topics, and other cases of "just because you *can*, doesn't mean you *should*. "

  • Hey Joshua

    Your message is an explicit variant of what I try to explain to my KC clients in EMEA and APAC:

    1. reuse does not happen automatically

    2. reuse should not happen at all cost

    Good luck with your webinar,


  • You make some really valid points in this blog entry. Two key items are controlling reuse and governance. A taxonomy without governance becomes a hot mess and you are back to square one.