20 year content strategy veteran, Sharon Burton. Sharon Burton consults about content strategy, content business issues, social media and managing post-sales customer experience issues.

Single sourcing and content management

The journal Technical Communication has article that I found very interesting.

Single Sourcing and Content Management: A Survey of STC members. David Dayton and Keith Hopper.

I’m not going to do a detailed review because you all can read it yourself. But what I found interesting was some of the results.


Of the 276 respondents to the survey, half reported using single sourcing or single sourcing with some sort of content management. I would have expected that number to be higher, since single sourcing has been around since at least 1996. The cost (time) savings alone make the content development method make sense. It’s just not a new technology and I was surprised that not 90% or more are single sourcing.

Drivers of moving to a single source and/or content management development method were unsurprising:

  • faster information development
  • regulatory or compliance issues
  • translation efforts

About half the people using single source and/or content management said there are downsides and tradeoffs, which I found completely unsurprising.

These information development techniques are potentially restricting if you want to just focus on writing. These methods force you to think about how and where your content is going to be used and that can feel restricting. But it’s critical, I think, to consider when you develop information.

A surprise

Apparently, the majority of people are using Word to author and are trying to do some sort of single source and/or content management. Which I think is doomed to failure.

Word is a delightful tool for short documents. But if you’ve written a 400 page book in Word (as I have, several times), you know it’s the wrong tool to try anything like single source and/or content management. They don’t give us numbers for the failed projects that were done in Word, but I’d like to see those.

They do seem to find that more larger companies have moved to single source and/or content management as compared to smaller companies. I have to wonder if larger companies see the business benefits of managing their information the way they do any business asset. Smaller companies may not have reached that point yet.

I’d also like to know how many small companies are using Word, as opposed to the larger companies. Again, smaller companies might be using Word because they are not thinking of information as an asset to be managed.

The summation

The summation was interesting to me – the authors say that a single source and/or content management environment has hit critical mass. This information development method is now into the early majority.

But if you look at just those using a content management system (which should include single sourcing but the authors say it doesn’t have to), then this development method has not quite crossed the chasm.

There are a lot of other pieces of good info and you should look up the entire article. It’s worth it.

Original found here.

By Sharon Burton
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