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An Interview With Ann Rockley, The "Mother of Content Strategy"

An Interview With Ann Rockley, The "Mother of Content Strategy"

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Published by ScottAbel
Ann Rockley is a leader in technical communication information management. For more than two decades, she has worked to develop methods of efficiently and effectively creating, managing and delivering information. Known as the "mother of content strategy", Rockley developed what is arguably the most well-known approach to managing complex sets of information. It's called the "unified content strategy" a systematic, repeatable approach currently in place in content-heavy organizations around the globe.

In this "Meet the Change Agents" column, Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler, chats with Rockley, president of The Rockley Group, about how mobile devices, eBooks and consumer expectations are forcing organizations of all types to rethink how they do business.

Source: Intercom, the official magazine of the Society for Technical Communication
Ann Rockley is a leader in technical communication information management. For more than two decades, she has worked to develop methods of efficiently and effectively creating, managing and delivering information. Known as the "mother of content strategy", Rockley developed what is arguably the most well-known approach to managing complex sets of information. It's called the "unified content strategy" a systematic, repeatable approach currently in place in content-heavy organizations around the globe.

In this "Meet the Change Agents" column, Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler, chats with Rockley, president of The Rockley Group, about how mobile devices, eBooks and consumer expectations are forcing organizations of all types to rethink how they do business.

Source: Intercom, the official magazine of the Society for Technical Communication

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Published by: ScottAbel on Nov 25, 2012
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BY SCOTT ABEL
 ANN ROCKLEY IS A LEADER intechnical communication inormationmanagement. For more than twodecades, she has worked to developmethods o efciently and eectively creating, managing, and deliveringinormation. Known as the “mother o content strategy,” Rockley developed what is arguably the most well-knownapproach to managing complex setso inormation. 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 areorcing organizations o all types torethink how they do business.
SA:
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 oten(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 longor publishers to catch on?
 AR:
It took a long time orus—and even longer or traditionalpublishers—to move to a moreefcient, 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 processperected 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 (beore 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 sufciently 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.
SA:
What are the drivers orchange today?
 AR:
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 inormationservice (usually, what apps do) without structured, semantically-rich XMLcontent. Apps can’t dynamically deliverthe right inormation 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-oten 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 indierent ways (and are making lotso money selling them), creates apowerul driver or change.
SA:
It’s clear that what started inthe feld o technical communicationis no longer limited to our little cornero the inormation 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
scottabel@mac.com 
.
June 2012
24
MEET THE CHANGE AGENTS
 
skills needed today to solve all o the world’s mobile content challenges. But the demand is there, like a magnet,pulling smart people rom all sorts o industries into the mix. And, becauseour world is truly an increasingly small one, the talent pool is no longerlimited to our little corner o the world. It’s a global market o talent.Expect to see knowledge workers o all types learn the skills needed toproduce content, enhance it, andmake it interactive. However, I believethat technical communicators havea head start in this area i they just choose to seize the opportunity.
SA:
Few people in our industry  want to address the elephant in theroom. Is it scare-mongering to suggest that things are changing so rapidly content their customers need—alltheir customer acing content, not just product content, marketing content,and technical communications.Customers are no longer satisfed withone delivery method; they want it onany device, anywhere, and at any time. We can and should be helping all partsour organizations achieve these goals.
SA:
There are hundreds o thousands o organizations (maybemore) that need to rethink theircontent strategy in order to producecontent mobile devices need. And, yet,they’re aren’t many people with skillsets necessary to oster such change. Where will all this talent come rom?
 AR:
 Yes, that’s a good point.There are not enough technicalcommunication pros who possess theIn the second edition o yourbest-selling book,
Managing  Enterprise Content: A Unifed Content Strategy 
(New Riders,2012), you ocus a lot onhelping content proession-als understand the need ora content strategy. Are thebusiness drivers that areueling the digital contenrevolution in traditionalpublishing also ueling arevolution in corporatepublishing?
 AR:
 Yes, indeed they are. These same drivers areorcing organizations o allshapes and sizes to rethinkhow they create, manage,and deliver inormation.The larger the organiza-tion, the more complex thecontent requirements, themore likely they are to moveaway rom hand-cratingo content deliverables andmove toward what I call aunifed content strategy—asystematic, repeatable processor creating multiple types o inormation products rom asingle source o inormation.Organizations that makemedical devices, pharmaceu-ticals, sotware, consumerproducts, electronics,construction equipment,and other complex products havebeen using this approach or years.But, today, nearly every type o organization realizes they are in a raceagainst the competition to get theircontent into digital ormat in the most efcient and eective way possible.Non proft providers o healthinormation, universities and schoolsystems, governments, and proft-seeking organizations o all types aremotivated to change. We’re lucky because we (technicalcommunication proessionals)invented the methods, standards,and practices needed to succeed inthis new mobile, digital economy. Wehave the knowledge needed to helporganizations prepare and deliver the
      V      L      A      D      G      R      I      N      /     s      h     u      t      t     e     r     s      t     o     c      k  .     c     o     m
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