BY SCOTT ABEL
ANN ROCKLEY IS A LEADER intechnical communication inormationmanagement. For more than twodecades, she has worked to developmethods o efciently and eectively creating, managing, and deliveringinormation. Known as the “mother o content strategy,” Rockley developed what is arguably the most well-knownapproach to managing complex setso inormation. It’s called the “unifedcontent strategy”—a systematic,repeatable approach currently inplace in content-heavy organizationsaround the globe.In this month’s “Meet the Change Agents” column, Scott Abel, TheContent Wrangler, chats with Rockley,president o The Rockley Group,about how mobile devices, eBooks,and consumer expectations areorcing organizations o all types torethink how they do business.
Youhelped leadthe way in thesingle-source,multi-channelpublishingmovement. While some inour disciplinehave beenslow to adopt the practices,standards, andtools neededto write it onceand use it oten(structuredXML,component content management,and a unifed content strategy), thereare many frms that have adoptedthis approach and have experiencedtremendous fnancial and organiza-tional benefts. Now we see book andmagazine publishers adopting ourapproaches. Why did it take so longor publishers to catch on?
It took a long time orus—and even longer or traditionalpublishers—to move to a moreefcient, content-centric approach tocreating content or two big reasons:1) change is hard and humans aren’t good at it; and, until recently, 2)organizations didn’t have a strongmotivation to change.Traditional book publishershave been ollowing a processperected over many, many years.It was designed to support thecreation o books. Publishers neverimagined their world would changeso drastically and that their business wouldn’t be about printing books. While the idea o eBooks has beenaround or quite a while (beore theKindle caused a real explosion ineBooks), digital books always seemedlike a “ringe” movement, neversomething publishers seriously hadto think about. The current eBookrevolution caught them o guard.Today, they’ve had to ace changingtheir processes, which is extremely challenging or many publishers.Change is hard. But, it happens when an industry is sufciently motivated to do so. The digitalpublishing era has arrived. Changeis no longer an option. It is criticalto the survival o publishingcompanies—and they now know it.
What are the drivers orchange today?
Content-hungry consumersusing tablet computers andsmartphones to purchase and accesscontent they want and need is apretty strong driver. Mobile devicescan’t answer one specifc questionor provide one type o inormationservice (usually, what apps do) without structured, semantically-rich XMLcontent. Apps can’t dynamically deliverthe right inormation to the right person at the right time in the right ormat and language—on the devicethat person is using—without modular,semantically marked up content. So,i you want to provide mobile content,it’s easier, aster, and cheaper to do sousing the methods we developed inthe technical communication industry over the past decade or so.The other driver is the digitalcontent revolution. While best-o-breed technical communication andtraining departments have beencreating multi-channel outputs or years using a write-it-once, use-it-oten strategy, traditional publishershaven’t elt the pressure to adopt this approach until the Kindle,smartphones, tablet computers—and o course, the iPad—changedconsumer demand. Now, publishersare rushing to convert back catalogsto eReader-riendly eBook ormatsand to develop new, multi-channel,multi-device approaches.The lack o an eBook standardthat works universally the same onall devices, coupled with the act that Amazon, Apple, Google, andthe other players in the publishingindustry all handle eBooks indierent ways (and are making lotso money selling them), creates apowerul driver or change.
It’s clear that what started inthe feld o technical communicationis no longer limited to our little cornero the inormation production world.
An Interview with Ann Rockley,the “Mother of Content Strategy”
In the digital age,change happens quickly.This column featuresinterviews with themovers and shakers—thefolks behind new ideas,standards, methods,products, and amazingtechnologies that arechanging the way welive and interact in ourmodern world. Gotquestions, suggestionsor feedback? Email themto
MEET THE CHANGE AGENTS