How Do I Turn My Technical Content into Educational Content?

Guest blogger, Alynda Brown has advice for trainers who need to convert their technical content into educational content.

Technical content into educational content

You have a full library of technical material to support your new product offer. How can you use this resource to build an educational offer?

A good deal of the existing content can be reused – perhaps up to 90% of it could be reused over a curriculum spanning several training courses. However, if educational material is going to be created then the final content of a single training course won’t be 90% of the existing material. How much of it can be used depends on several factors.

Educational material is driven by the needs of the audience. The role of the Instructional Designer is to pluck out the relevant material for each course from the existing library and use that as a basis for building content that meets the learning objectives for each audience.

Step one: Define your target audience

The first step in Instructional Design is to define your target audience(s). The design of courses cannot take place until the learning needs of each audience are specified. An audience that is interested in sales is different to the support team. When building an educational program each audience type must be clearly defined.

Step two: Define the learning objectives of your target audiences

Next the learning objectives for each audience should be defined. The purpose of any training course is to change the behaviour of the student. When planning a training course there should be a very clear understanding of the behaviours that need to be changed. When these behaviours are determined they are then phrased as behaviours that can be observed. For example, learning objectives for a sales audience may be:

By the end of this training course the student will be able to:

  • Recommend the correct product for use in a high temperature environment
  • List the unique value proposition for each of the target markets
  • Deliver a sales presentation for a new customer

If the audience is going to be the technical support team the objectives may be:

By the end of this training course the student will be able to:

  • Answer the most common support questions from inexperienced users of our products
  • Explain to the customer how the financial accounting for an inventory replenishment purchase has been determined
  • Describe how the product is used to process a sales order for a batch controlled product

When the Learning Objectives for each course are defined these will help to determine the best type of medium to use for the course or courses. There are many different media that are available such as:

  • PDFs for Instructor Led Training
  • Instructor Guides and Presentations
  • Self-Paced in the form of eLearning and mobile learning material

In this blog we're focusing on self-paced eLearning and mobile learning as this is an opportunity for valuable reuse.

Step three: Review available material

When the needs of each audience has been analysed the Instructional Designer is then able to review all the existing content within the library to determine which material can be reused and tailored into courses that will focus on achieving the learning objectives.

Step four: Develop your training

A good library of technical content will provide a solid foundation for the educational content. Now is the time to source material to build the entire course/curriculum, and where appropriate update your organizations technical content library.

At this point experienced Instructional Designers will be starting to think about concepts such as "chunking" - or how to break the topic down into the best size for learning. With chunking strategies in play you can often make better reuse of existing material and it will impact positively on your learner’s experience.

Step five: Publish your training

Look for a system that allows you to readily template your training. As an Instructional Designer you want to focus on building the educational content. 

Standard templates allow an Instructional Designer to build courses using the format that is expected in all SCORM compliant Learning Management Systems. These include templates to create:

  • Synchronous and asynchronous navigation
  • Voice over content complete with closed captions
  • Flip books
  • Linked popups
  • Quizzes and assessments

Templates should provide some structure to the design of your online training and yet they are flexible enough to allow the Instructional Designer scope for their creativity.


The needs of your audiences are the best guide to developing your educational content. Good processes will help you to create new content while making the best use of your existing material. As a trainer in a company with a full library of technical content, look for ways to automate and template the conversion to educational content.

Information on Author-it Honeycomb

Author-it Honeycomb is responsive HTML5 elearning/mobile learning output that reuses content components from technical documentation, operating procedures, and other business critical information and automatically creates interactive self-paced training material. Create and publish high quality learning content in hours, not weeks, by tapping into the value of your existing content and delivering elearning, mobile-learning, micro-learning and assessments based on common templates. Request a Consultation to learn how you can leverage the power of your existing documentation.

Information on Alynda Brown

Alynda Brown has over 25 years experience in the Education industry, specialising in Instructional Design for blended learning, IT and Process Automation. She is currently consulting in the area of building educational content, teaching documentation teams to maintain content and delivering Train the Trainer courses for product professionals

Translation, Localization, Internationalization and Transcreation

Depending on their nationality these women may be playing a game known by very different names.

Depending on their nationality these women may be playing a game known by very different names.

What are they and how are they different?  

Our resident localization expert, Susie Winn, explains what each term means, using the international language of football. If you've got indepth localization issues you're trying to solve, you can contact Susie and our localization team by using the Request Consultation button above. 

Translation – the process of changing words and text from one language into another
Example of translation: 

  • UK English — A Swedish company makes football uniforms for women's teams. 
  • Swedish — Ett svenskt företag tillverkar fotboll uniformer för damlag. 

But translation is just the start of customizing content. 

Localization – the adaptation of a product or service to meet the needs of a particular language, culture or desired population's "look-and-feel".

Example of text localization: 

  • Swedish — Ett svenskt företag tillverkar fotboll uniformer för damlag. 
  • US English — A Swedish company makes soccer uniforms for women's teams. 

The difference between translation and localization:  
The word "fotboll" in Swedish translates to "football" in English. But in this case, the word is localized for the American market (or locale). 

Internationalization – the process of planning and implementing products and services so that they can easily be adapted to specific local languages and cultures. 

Examples of internationalization: 
A website contains the marketing phrase, "Our jerseys will blow you away!"  
In a literal translation, the expression "blow you away" frightened some potential customers who believed the apparel actually contained explosives. The text didn't transfer well across languages, resulting in costly errors and linguistic rework. The company decides to eliminate all idiomatic expressions so the translation process is easier and less error-prone. 

Transcreation – the process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone and context. The phrase has historically been used by advertising and marketing professionals looking to transfer the meaning of a message into a new language without losing intended meaning. 

Example of Transcreation: 

  • Original Swedish text: These uniforms are so amazing that everybody on the field will feel like a winner. They're the top! 
  • US English version: These uniforms are so amazing that your team will win every time. They're the best! 


For help with your next localization project - use the Request Consultation button above. We look forward to hearing from you.

3 Challenges Developing Medical Information and What You Can Do About Them

Medical information (MI) groups fulfill a vital function in creating and disseminating trusted clinical and scientific information to healthcare professionals and patients. Through these activities MI professionals see the opportunity to interact with their customers, share insights and gain valuable feedback on products in market.

The practice of developing and delivering MI needs to be accurate, efficient and timely. It also needs to be able to address the varying needs of global markets in terms of regulatory differences and localization including translation, for the specific market.

Over the past few years the Author-it team has had the opportunity to meet with MI groups at many of the leading Pharma. What is surprising is how consistent the problems are that we see in MI and unsurprisingly, how motivated these groups are to address the issues they face. The following describes the top three challenges we have seen and what you can do about them.

Challenge 1 – Slow and Inefficient Authoring Processes

Delivering MI is a complex and exacting process. It involves bringing together information from a huge range of sources including clinical reports, dossiers, labels, safety docs and many more. Simply finding the right information is challenging enough but then it has to be encapsulated into MI such as standard response documents that then must be made available via multiple channels such as Call Centers, MI portals or Field Medical teams. To add to the complexity, new customer queries require custom responses to be developed, reviewed, approved and delivered in a timely fashion.

Key to the MI authoring process is the ability to quickly and easily find and reuse trusted information. Unfortunately this is not an easy task. Information is stored in a myriad of point solutions throughout the organization. If the required information is found, verifying its accuracy becomes the next challenge. Often multiple inconsistent versions of the same information are discovered and these must be checked and verified. Once verified, your only option to reuse the information is copy and paste creating multiple versions of the same content. If the information is not found, then you have to rewrite it, perpetuating the cycle.

Bottom line, the speed and accuracy of MI is compromised by the systems and processes that MI professionals must use.

Challenge 2 – Think Global, Act Local

Delivering MI to global markets requires country specific versions and localization. Almost universally, MI functions have poor bi-directional visibility between regions of how MI is re-purposed for each market. This makes it near impossible to verify consistency of MI between global and regional groups. Localization is a slow and expensive process that can add considerable time onto MI release or update schedules.

Bottom line, delivering consistent MI globally is tough and systems need to be able to support visibility and localization for audit and traceability.

Challenge 3 – Multi-channel Delivery

Today’s market is connected, tech savvy and expects a high standard of service. This requires MI to be delivered via multiple channels and in a highly consumable fashion. The same information needs to be delivered via a call center verbal response, and in print (PDF), web and mobile formats. The content needs to be searchable and offered in summary and extended versions. Multi-channel delivery is generally achieved via multiple solutions, one for each output type e.g. PDF, web and mobile. The only option for reuse or single sourcing is again to copy and paste between systems, a time consuming activity and another potential source of inconsistency.

Bottom line, customers need MI to be delivered when they want it, the way they want it. Systems need to be able to support this from a single source.

So What Can You Do About These Challenges?

Almost all of these issues stem directly from the way MI is authored, managed and published. Document – based systems, such as Word, lock content in its format and prevent effective reuse. Copy and paste is the downfall of consistency!

Thankfully there is an answer – Component Authoring.

Component authoring systems allow you to break your content up into reusable chunks of information. The concept is write once, reuse many times, localize to any language and publish to any format. To find out more about the benefits of components, check out this video – Components: Solving the Content Problem.

Components support MI professionals in efficiently developing content. By allowing them to easily find and reuse the correct, pre-approved information, productivity improvements in excess of 50% are possible. Reuse also allows for huge cost savings in localization particularly when producing updates. Finally, component authoring systems support multi-channel publishing where from a single source, MI can be published to any format including mobile.

By driving efficiency and speed in the MI development and delivery processes, the vision of effectively serving the needs of global healthcare professionals and patients can take a big step towards becoming a reality.

How do you see these challenges? How are you looking to solve them?
Agree, disagree? Post your comments below.

The Inside Scoop on the Best Content Strategy, Part 3: Content Strategy with Author-it

Welcome back to our series on content strategy.

In part one, we learned what a component content strategy is. In part two we discussed the risks and benefits for creating a strategy. Now, I will share the best practices on implementing your component content strategy with Author-it.

In order to capture the authentic thought leadership behind these practices, I spoke to our very own expert, Tom Erber, Director, Content Strategy at Author-it. Tom’s expertise began when he managed a team using Author-it at HP. He designed a content strategy that resulted in over 80% reuse! Now, he is sharing that knowledge by designing and implementing component content strategies for some of the largest companies around the world. The following paragraphs summarize my discussions with Tom.


What is Author-it’s secret ingredient?

As we know from past blogs and our white paper on Why Components components are core to Author-it. These chunks of information are critical because they liberate writers from the symbolic chains of documents.

However, the challenge with changing from a document-based paradigm to that of components is in how you manage, hundreds, thousands or even millions of components that make up your documentation. The secret is the relational database that manages all of the relationships between components, allowing writers to quickly find and reuse existing content.

In one case study, an organization was challenged to produce a 100-document project with 50,000 words and translated into 7 different languages. The chart below shows that by utilizing a relational component strategy, the company was able to reduce the costly authoring processes by 81%.

Additionally, compared to traditional authoring processes, relational content strategies can provide organizations with an 80% improvement in content quality and consistency with a 28% improvement in time to market execution.

To mimic these results, consider the following best practices:

Best Practices with Author-it

Component Integrity

Maintaining the integrity of information is important. Whether the content is restricted for legal or regulatory purposes, or perfectly written, reviewed and translated, you probably don’t want people to tamper with the content after it has been released. If you are using an unprotected folder structure that allows a variety of people to access it, you could be jeopardizing your work.

Author-it’s folder structure enables user & group security through Folder Action Permissions. Folder Action Permissions determine which actions a user can take with the components in a particular folder. For example, all users may be able to create content in a particular folder, but only certain users can edit, and only the creator can delete a component. Security can also be ensured with the workflow functionality in Author-it called “release states”. For example, in the “Draft” release state, you can set it up so that all users can edit, but once in the “Released” state, the information is locked. Ultimately, this helps ensure the security and integrity of your information for compliance, consistency and future reuse.


Consider the process for most organizations of authoring, reviewing and publishing: the initial inputs are from many authors, the review team is usually made up of different subject matter experts (SMEs), and the published output has to accommodate a variety of audiences. With all the variations and new inputs throughout the content’s lifecycle, even highly organized workflows can present opportunities for mistakes and bottlenecks.

However, working in Author-it allows workflows to be monitored and managed throughout the entire process. Authors are able to assign specific SME reviewers to specific components, thus controlling who is able to edit and review the content.  Now, the product team is able to reuse a component that the SME helped collaborate on, ensuring accuracy and consistency. This process can reduce the SME’s time by 50% and increase the quality and consistency by 100% because there is a single source for each component.

Relational Reuse

Remember, Author-it’s secret ingredient is the relational database. This is the key to achieving 70-90% reuse.

Because components are managed in a relational database you are able to quickly find and reuse components when you are creating new documents. Simply insert the already written component into your document and move on to the next section. Even better, Author-it Xtend is a patented feature within Author-it that intelligently suggests similar or identical components as you are writing. So instead of searching the database for a component, the component comes to you. It’s easy to see how this greatly saves time, maintains consistent messaging and ensures compliance.


At the conclusion of this three part blog series, you can look back and understand how important a content strategy is. With Author-it, a content strategy can be effectively established and managed throughout the entire company. From components, to your finished published outputs, it is a solution with the world’s content problem in mind.

Check out our website to learn how you can work with us to start designing your Author-it Component Content Strategy today!

Breaking Down the Content Silos of Medical Information

Meet Molly.

Molly is a medical writer for a large pharmaceutical company. She is educated, well paid, and is responsible for a number of medical content related activities. Molly really likes her job. Her largest motivation is having a hand in medical documentation that ranges from clinical information all the way to published articles. However, Molly’s greatest challenge is maintaining content consistency and compliance. With the massive amount of medical information available, this quickly becomes a tedious task. Further, Molly fully understands the dire consequences if her content is wrong. Particularly with respect to standard responses where errors or omissions can result in a poor healthcare professional experience, regulatory fines, and even compromise patient safety.

Molly has noticed a pattern: although she authors content relating to medical information, there is also a lot of input from other areas. She must collect information from the drug discovery phase, incorporate unexpected events from the field, and make all this available in a variety of medical information outputs, such as medical response letters and prescribing information. Yet, she constantly has issues getting the right information from the right places! Through emails and endless searches, Molly eventually finds the information she needs, but only after spending many hours sifting through various document versions, dismissing out of date information and rewriting information that is missing or she simply can’t find. Inevitably, she thinks, “there’s gotta be a better way”.


The Content Silo Trap

What Molly is experiencing is the classic “content silo trap”. This is when content has been written in one department, or silo, but never makes it out to other departments. There is no visibility into these silos so people in R&D are unable to see what changes in content have been made in the Medical or Commercial processes. In the Pharmaceutical industry, where regulatory fines are brutal and patient safety is at risk, there is no margin for error.

Additionally, the content silo trap is costly to the company in two ways. First, think about all the “Mollys” in a large Pharma. Molly takes pride in her work so she goes the extra mile to make sure her content is compliant and accurate. But when previously written content isn’t readily available, she wastes hours searching for, rewriting, and reformatting content that already exists. An IDC report found that on average, knowledge workers like Molly waste 20 hours per week on non-productive content related activities. With Molly’s $80,000 salary, that is almost $40,000 lost to the company in unproductive activities.

Second, the content silo trap hurts the company’s content. When content is not readily available or passed between departments in editable Word documents there is literally no way of knowing which content is accurate and up to date. The ubiquitous “copy & paste” function means that content invariably becomes inconsistent with highly expensive and time consuming review and approval processes being the only way to ensure content accuracy and consistency.


The Better Way

Remember when Molly thought, “There’s gotta be a better way”? Well there is!

The key to breaking down the content silo trap is to strategically and intelligently manage your content. This means understanding reuse. Although conceptually simple, this can demand some initial investment. Here are the steps to achieving a better way:


Undergo a Content Audit

By definition, a Content Audit is, “the process and result of conducting a quantitative study of a content inventory” (Talia Eisen, the Language of Content Strategy). This means that all the content from each function in scope is reviewed and analyzed. The purpose is to see where content can be reused instead of rewritten. You can quickly discover where messaging has drifted, where content is wrong or out of date, and where the opportunities for reuse can flourish. Understanding the current state via this audit process is essential to the following steps.

Develop a Content Strategy

Once the content audit has revealed reuse opportunities, it is time to make a plan to execute. A content strategy is simply a sustainable and repeatable plan to decide how content will be created and reused. It consists of developing content reuse strategies, organizing content in a taxonomy, enabling delivery to multiple channels and audiences, and establishing a comprehensive feedback loop from content consumers. To learn more about this, check out Part 1 in our Content Strategy Blog Series.

The reason developing a strategy is so important is because there are a lot of risks to executing without a plan. Just like building a house without plans, writing content without a strategy exposes the company to the risk of a sub-optimal outcome. To learn more about why content strategy is so important, check out Part 2 in our Content Strategy Blog Series.

Once you understand the reuse opportunities and how they can be achieved, it is time to leverage a component authoring platform to execute on your new content strategy.

Bring in the Components

Components are self-contained chunks of content that can be as big as several paragraphs or as small as a single word. Components are created once and can then be reused across any number of documents or outputs. If you ever need to reuse content you simply add a component to your new document. No need to copy and paste, creating multiple copies of the same information.

Furthermore, when components are stored in a centralized, relational database, such as a component authoring platform, they can be easily found and accessed for reuse across multiple departments. This point is pivotal to avoid the content silo trap.

To learn more about component authoring, check out our white paper, Why Components: A Modern Approach to the World’s Content Problem.


The Benefits

Molly has done an excellent job leading the transformation for her company’s new content creation process. From the content audit, Molly discovered that her company could reuse 86% of their content! Executing on her content strategy with a component authoring platform, Molly’s company is seeing a huge return on their investment!

Reusing content across the entire company has:

  • Increased productivity
  • Brought products to market faster
  • Decreased the work load and cut the time to author, review, localize and publish content
  • Slashed translation costs
  • Synchronized content across departments, resulting in consistent message and fewer content errors

Most importantly, version control is no longer an issue because the system uses a centralized database that supports the entire company for collaborative authoring, review, and delivery.



Molly is now a hero in her company. She recognized a problem in the company’s content creation process and instead of ignoring it, she investigated options for a solution. Molly landed on the best solution available: one that encourages success through reuse. The content silo trap has been avoided and when Molly updates content, she can be sure that the information is flowing across departments.

The Inside Scoop on the Best Content Strategy, Part 2

In the last section

In the first part of this series, we learned what a content strategy is and how components can be incorporated to enhance all-things-content. Check back with part one to understand best practices for finding, reusing, and delivering content. If that hasn’t already persuaded you to re-evaluate the content strategy in your organization, this will.

Here is why you need a component content strategy:

The Risk of NOT having a content strategy

Thinking about your own company, how is content accessed or shared across departments? How does Sales manage and create their materials? What about Customer Training, or any other department for that matter? More often than not, the answer is that content critical materials are created within these departments independently of one another. The same content is written and rewritten, over and over again in each department isolated from other parts of the company. These divisions, also known as silos, trap content within their materials never to be utilized by anyone else. As Intelligent Content Expert, Ann Rockley states, “The content silo trap is like plaque in your arteries, inhibiting the blood flow to your vital organs”. You are literally killing your organization by storing content in silos and not allowing it to flow freely throughout.

As if that is not bad enough, Content Strategy Expert, Tom Erber, compares creating content without a strategy to building a house without plans. Think of the risk your company could be exposed to. You could:

  • hinder productivity, due to the lack of guidance in content purpose and reuse.
  • waste resources by rewriting what has already been written by the guy sitting next to you.
  • increase the chaos of content organization by storing new (probably identical) content in unknown corners of the organization.
  • dilute your brand messaging through variations in keywords or external-facing documents.
  • add to the already high content costs through inefficient workflow, increased man hours, or repetitive translation.

Why a content strategy makes life easier

By implementing a content strategy, you can combat all the above risks. But with a component content strategy, you can enhance productivity. A component, defined in part one, is a chunk of content that is meant to be reused across any document. Using a component content strategy will increase production in the following areas:


Every component has its own life cycle. It must be written, edited, reviewed, and published. Incorporating a component content strategy allows you to understand how content is re-purposed, where the workflow can be streamlined by content reuse, and what bottlenecks can be avoided. This will help overcome operational challenges.


Having a global strategy today is the new business standard. Without a content strategy, your organization could be paying more for translation than you think. Integrating components into your global content strategy is a must. Think about the cost to translate a document: the average cost for translation is $0.25 per word. Multiply this for a document that has 500 pages with 200 words per page and you get 500 x 200 x 0.25 = $25,000—yikes!

But let’s say components are part of your content strategy. If you have to modify translated material and retranslate it, instead of sending the entire document, you can send only the components that have been changed. The savings adds up pretty fast.
To learn more about the cost of localization, read the incredible whitepaper, Lost in Translation, by Susie Winn.

Overall Company

By now, we understand that a content strategy will reduce your risks, improve your operations, and assist in localization. But what about the overall benefits for the company?
The absolute best part about creating a content strategy for your organization is that it unifies the company around a content vision and enables them to find the true value of their content. What this means is that everyone is on the same page. Yes, collaborating to define a content strategy should be managed by a core team, but the adoption of the strategy is by everyone. Once the strategy is defined, understood, and adopted, the implementation comes naturally.


If the first part didn’t motivate you to start designing your content strategy, then hopefully this second part did. Like Tom Erber says, you can’t build a house without plans. Nor should you build an enterprise without a component content strategy.
In the part three, learn how to get your company united when we discuss implementing a content strategy with Author-it’s relational database.

Watch this video now about Component Content Strategy, featuring industry expert, Tom Erber.

The Inside Scoop on the Best Content Strategy, Part 1

I am a small business. I do not have hundreds of writers or multitudes of reviewers that large companies have. I use Microsoft Word; I email versions of documents for my colleagues to review – one after the other; and I store my finished documents on a file system or Dropbox, or sometimes even on my local machine! This is my content strategy and it works for my business albeit sometimes it is hard to find things.

If, however, you are an enterprise and you do have many writers and reviewers, and you are using a content strategy like mine, you have a problem. A BIG Problem! And this problem will manifest itself as huge inefficiencies, wasted time and inconsistent content.

But don’t fret, you’re not alone – the whole world has a content problem! This is because many enterprises use a strategy like mine, instead of a unified enterprise content strategy. I decided to research this topic more fully and here is what I have learned about what a content strategy is, and more specifically, what a component content strategy is.


What is a component content strategy

According to Rahel Ann Bailie of Language of Content Strategy, a content strategy is “The analysis and planning to develop a repeatable system that governs the management of content throughout the entire content lifecycle”. In other words, it’s what allows your company to create content assets in an efficient and sustainable way that is true to your brand. A data sheet? No problem.  A complimentary information bulletin? A breeze! A highly regulated, mission critical, no-excuses-for-mistakes submission? Not even a drop of sweat! And this is because of the component part of your strategy.

A component is a piece, or chunk, of information. Think of it as the text between two headings. Components can also be images, graphics or hyperlinks and they are designed to be reused. Think of components as parts in a car assembly plant. The car manufacturer is able to reuse the same parts in multiple vehicles, which saves time and enhances efficiency. Or think of your company’s address as a component. That single piece of information is used in almost every document. So instead of typing it over and over again, why not reuse it?

Now you may be thinking, “I already reuse content, I just copy and paste”. This is not the same. In fact, it highlights the very problem that components solve. When you copy and paste content, you are creating multiple versions of the same content. These versions can be changed independently of each other, thereby creating inconsistencies. This dramatically increases the risk of information being incomplete, out of date, or simply wrong.

Now that we understand components, we can create an equation for our strategy: If components (A) are included in a content strategy (B) then the result is a component content strategy (C) that becomes a solid foundation to execute on all content activities (A+B=C).

In fact, according to Content Strategy Expert, Tom Erber, implementing a component content strategy can result in reuse statistics in excess of 80%! This level of reuse drives large efficiency improvements, reduces costs and can drive top line revenue through faster time to market.


Best Practices

Definitions and statistics are great, but what we really want to know is HOW do you start to develop your content strategy?

What I have learned is everyone has their opinion of what should go into a strategy. But the items I have seen repeatedly are:

  1. Content Reuse
  2. Taxonomy
  3. Delivery
  4. (and of course, Feedback)

Content Reuse

In order to successfully reuse your content, you must first understand the content you create, how you use it, and who is reading it. This also forces the question: Where can you reuse your content? With components, content is much easier to reuse. Simply search in the component database and insert the component you want to use. This makes creating content much easier and faster. But now you are asking, “How do I search for it?”


Organization of your content is not only convenient but crucial to the findability of components. And crucial to the organization of your content is its taxonomy.

Tom Eber explains that taxonomy is like a grocery store, in which the products are your components. The products are first categorized by context and then sub-categorized by application and type. For example, if you walk into the grocery store looking for brown sugar you will first walk to the baking aisle, then find the sugar section, and then select the brown sugar. But if the sugar was organized by the toilet paper, you would never find it! Let’s say the grocer couldn’t find it either. They would reorder the sugar every time someone needed it. Think of how many bags of sugar they would end up with just because it was poorly located.

With content, this process wastes resources because writers recreate existing content, over and over, reinventing the wheel so to speak.

So, make sure the organization of your components is logical to your organization and is adopted by everyone involved in your content development process.


The most important aspect of content delivery is your audience. Content needs to be delivered, when they want it and how they want to consume it. Often we are required to produce content that has the same messaging but needs to be altered for the different audiences. So what do you do?

You become an expert on the delivery requirements of your audience or customer. Each audience has their own requirements on presentation, language, style, etc. If you know the requirements well enough, you will be able to see overlaps. Once you find commonalities, you can create consistent formats and outputs that ensure scalability.


Having a feedback system is not only a best practice, but it is common sense. Any strategy, be it content or general business, must include a feedback process to ensure that it is on track.

For a content strategy, this will be managed by three groups.

  • First, the executive sponsors that assesses the business value add, the costs, and the value propositions of the strategy. Their input and feedback is vital to support your project and the content strategy.
  • Second, the core team that determines where the value is. This will be in areas including component architecture, workflow, process, and localization. Eventually, this group will become the “content police”, ensuring your content strategy is followed after implementation.
  • And third but most importantly, is your audience or customer. Their feedback helps you to understand if your content and strategy is delivering on its goals. It also provides a continuous feedback loop to improve your content and its delivery.



In conclusion, I may only be a small business, but I can certainly understand that if A+B does not equal C; if the sugar is with the toilet paper; and if the feedback is not in place, then I’d definitely need a better content strategy.

What a Year It Has Been!

Another year has passed and as we approach the holidays we would like to take this opportunity to look back and reflect on a few things. In particular, the progress we’ve made, our accomplishments, our challenges, and what this all means for the year ahead.

So to help us reflect, I sat down with Paul Trotter, Author-it Founder and CEO, to get his perspective on the past year.

  1. What have we improved for our clients?

Author-it is a solution-focused company. To deliver a solution it is critical that we understand the problems we are trying to solve. Obviously corporate level issues are paramount but we also need to consider the day to day issues that our authors, contributors and reviewers might experience as they try to accomplish their work. To this end, we have invested heavily in our design and user experience (UX) team. We have been working to make our UX more intuitive, easier to use and learn. All of this will result in a better experience for our users and faster time to productivity. Our R&D team have put in a mountain of work and the fruits of this will hit the market in 2015.

The other area of big improvement has been in our overall engagement with our clients. In many cases our clients have spent months or even years trying to understand their business issues and requirements so that they can go to market in search of a solution. Sometimes they have also invested heavily in consultants and internal resources to frame their projects.

Our Information Optimization Assessment (IOA) process is a consultative approach to our client engagements. It allows us to collaboratively work with our clients on their Content Strategy, to Explore the status quo, Analyze their workflows, processes and content and then Recommend a solution and implementation plan based on this work. This new service is a fast and efficient way for us to engage and ensure that we can deliver a successful project. We are happy to report that this has been very successful for our engagements in 2014.

The last area I want to emphasize for 2014 is Client Success. Our mission is to solve business critical problems. Providing software isn’t enough, we need to make sure it works for our clients.  This is why, within our 107% employee growth in 2014, a major emphasis was developing our Client Success Team (CST). For anyone who has not worked with our CST, this is the crew that makes sure the product is the perfect solution for you. They ensure that your implementation is smooth and continue to support you well after Author-it is rolled out within your company. To guarantee high quality of service we looked for people who have used Author-it in previous positions. Having experts with years of Author-it experience under their belts allows our CST members to interact with our clients from a customer perspective and understanding.

We asked Ralf Wittgen, our VP of Services and Client Success to give his perspective on the team. He says, “We have more than doubled the size of our Client Success Team this year. We have been relentless in our focus for developing this team and ensuring that we are able to deliver the best service for our clients”. Ralf talks more about our Client Success strategy in this video.

  1. What are the top three accomplishments of the year?

According to Paul, the company has several things to be proud of. The first is the people we brought on this year. “Bringing in lots of talented new people with deep industry expertise gives us better insight into our clients’ needs, and allows us to design and deliver content solutions targeted to their specific requirements, but all built on a common platform.”

The second accomplishment is the success of our 2nd Annual Author-it Summit. In this we have to acknowledge our team of organizers and speakers and our partners such as Veeva, Lionbridge, and Deloitte who all contributed to us holding such an exciting and informative event. We shared the stage with some amazing speakers who were able to provide viewers with cutting edge thought leadership on best practices, product features, and industry forecasts. Adriana Hernandez, our marketing pro and star organizer of the Summit says, “Our guests had a great time and we are excited to use this as the foundation of our planning for the Author-it Summit ’15, which is already underway!”

Finally, we are very excited to announce that Author-it has increased its emphasis on the Life Sciences industries of Pharma, Biotech and Med Devices. Life Sciences as a whole has more than their fair share of content issues. The highly competitive and regulated nature of the industry means that content is truly mission critical and we believe we can deliver huge value with specific component authoring solutions built on the Author-it Platform. From a near standing start the company is proud to have 4 of the top 15Life Sciences companies as clients at the end of 2014 with many more working with our team! We now have solutions in deployment for World Wide Medical Information, Medical Communications (Call Centers), Global Labeling and Global Value Dossiers (eGVD).

  1. Where does all this take us for next year?

Essentially more of the same: more growth, more focus on UX and more client success. Our focus is going to be on delivering specific user experiences built on the component authoring capabilities of the Author-it Platform. Our TechComms solution is very capable and mature now, most of the work here will be on enhancements and a new web-based authoring experience that is easier to use and more intuitive.

Our Life Sciences work will focus heavily on delivery and improvement of our Labeling, MedInfo & MedComms and eGVD solutions.

Paul comments, “It is important for the company to leave the ‘one size fits all markets’ mindset and start driving industry and solution specific user experiences”.

All of us at Author-it are proud of our clients and the solutions we provide. We are all excited about the year ahead and invite you to join us on the journey. Happy Holidays!

Author-it is going to Europe

Why Author-it is hitting up the largest TechComm Convention and who should care

(Look out for the surprise Dr. Seuss twist)


What is it?

Tekom and tcworld dominate the technical communication (techcomm) industry. Tekom, as the largest professional association for the industry, brings together the various companies across the globe to create industry collaboration. Tcworld, an e-magazine platform, focuses on the industry’s toughest problems in their cutting edge articles. Coming together for this annual conference, the two organizations are creating a force of opportunity for the participants, exhibitors, and speakers.


Are YOU going to the Tekom ’14 Conference?

It might be said that this is the event of the year to attend. That this is the event that anyone who is someone in the industry will be at. But who is that?

A description, Dr. Seuss-style:

Calling all Technical Communication Companies:

This conference is for people, companies, and more. It will not be a bore.

You will find companies needing solutions. You will find companies offering those solutions.

Some with software, some with services. Also with social activities, which will be fun for us!

But there is one company to put at the top of your list. It just might be one of the greatest.

Because Author-it has all the solutions you need: from authoring to publishing, all with the greatest of ease!

This year, the conference will be hosted in Stuttgart, Germany. This beautiful location will be bring in many!

So when you walk into the conference and are looking for who to meet, make sure to come to booth 2/G06, because we will be waiting for you eagerly.


When Author-it acquired Triview, a Netherlands-based company that has long solutions and expertise for technical documentation processes, its expansion was the motivator behind bringing the “One Source, One Solution” philosophy to the techcomm industry in Europe. One Source, One Solution means that once content is created, the information can be easily shared across multiple documents and departments and published to a wide range of outputs. There is a lot of opportunity for this solution-based company to remedy the various pain points that all technology-based companies are challenged by. Whether it is rigid formatting, inefficient reuse, poor localization management, or something else, Author-it provides an easy to use, end-to-end authoring solution to your eLearning & Training and Technical Publication content problems.


What are you waiting for?

Author-it is so excited to be going to Stuttgart!

Come November 11-13, 2014 there will be the best and brightest at the tcworld/tekom event. And as you can tell this event is the highlight of the year. We aren’t missing it so you shouldn’t either!

Be sure to stay updated by checking back @Authorit on Twitter or on our website.




Life Sciences

The Intelligent Content Life Sciences event was held in our backyard at San Francisco this week. Organized by Ann Rockley of the Rockley Group and Scott Abel, Content Wrangler this was a great opportunity for us to meet people from Life Sciences organizations, discuss the challenges they face and how we might deliver value.

Our Founder and CEO, Paul Trotter spoke to a packed audience on Global Reuse of Medical Information and Improved Customer Experiences while I did a short presentation on our business and how we are supporting the Life Sciences industries. Patrick Welsh, VP Vertical Solutions Life Sciences rounded out our team for the event.

Although it was small at around 100 attendees, I thought the interest in exploring best practice content strategies and intelligent content was strong. The attendees seemed to be very aware of the content challenges that they face but this is balanced by the fact that they are inherently risk adverse and somewhat battle scarred from previous failed attempts to solve their content and documentation issues.

Our message is definitely resonating and I feel that Life Sciences companies really have no option but to get serious about addressing their content authoring and management issues.

Our message is really quite simple, Life Science companies produce two things…. Drugs or Devices… and documents. By the time a new drug or device hits the market, billions have been invested in research, development, manufacturing process, medical information and regulatory approvals. A significant portion of this huge investment is represented as content. And in this, lies the challenges.

For too long now Life Sciences companies have been held back by outdated document based processes, systems and tools. This means that they struggle to maintain a single source of truth and this becomes a compliance nightmare, particularly in regard to market facing and regulatory content. Updating content is a painful exercise of finding the correct content plus every document or online format in which that content exists.  As a result, content development and updates are repetitive and error-prone exercises. Obviously a new… more intelligent content approach is required.

And this is the crux of our offer to the Life Sciences industries… a more intelligent approach. Our approach has been refined over more than 15 years of delivering single source, component authoring, management and publishing solutions for a wide variety of industries around the world. In the past three years, we have migrated to SaaS and Cloud delivery and specialized Author-it Cloud for Life Sciences applications in Medical Communications, Labeling and Med Device Technical Communications.

We have put an enormous amount of work into the design and user experience for our Life Sciences clients. This industry will not tolerate complexity. Systems need to be intuitive and easy to use. Writers don’t wantto contend with coding, complicated XML tagging or confusing new processes. Instead, they need to be able to concentrate on quickly and efficiently delivering their content using a single source, component authoring approach. The results are compelling. Lower call center costs, a better and faster customer experience for physicians, lower content production and update costs and more consistent content reducing regulatory issues and risk.

Next up for us is the Veeva Commercial Summit in Philadelphia May 19-21. We have a large team attending and are looking forward to “mixing it up” with Life Sciences attendees and working with Veeva and our other partners at this event.

Visit By New Zealand Government

From left: John Bryan NZTE, Steve Davis President Author-it, Paul Stocks Deputy Chief Executive MBIE, Adam Bennett NZTE, Karla Falloon MBIE and Micaela Buckley MBIE

Author-it has always enjoyed a positive relationship with the government of our homeland, New Zealand (NZ). As a small island nation, NZ is heavily reliant on exports to fuel its economy. The NZ Government has recognized this and is very supportive of companies engaged in exporting and growing into international markets. They have set up advisory and networking services in our major markets including the US and we have been able to take advantage of this support over the years as we have built our global business.

As part of the ongoing support we have been privileged to host government officials such as the Honorable Amy Adams, Minister for Communications and IT, Peter Crisp, Chief Executive of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE), and last week, Paul Stocks, Deputy Chief Executive of Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). More than mere flag waving exercises, I have always found the government visits to be valuable. The discussions are clear and honest with our contribution being the “voice of the customer”. The results for us through the years have included recruiting top Board members, advisory sessions with market, capital and HR experts, and support with events such as the Author-it Summit ’13 held in association with the NZ Government’s investment in the America’s Cup. Yes sorry to bring that one up… still hurting :).

I am excited that we are now in a position to start giving back to the programs we have been involved in. We have learned a lot of what it takes to scale a high-growth technology company in the US and Europe and it is great to have the opportunity to share some of this with the next generation of companies coming to the US. It always feels good to pay it forward.

Ending the Year With a Bang

—Paul Trotter

In 2012, Author-it invested heavily in Research and Development and released Author-it Cloud, our Author-it Saas offering. This year, we followed our success with the release of Author-it 6 On Premises.

2013 was a monumental year for Author-it in many ways. We welcomed a significant number of new clients into the Author-it family, both on Author-it Cloud and Author-it On Premises. To accommodate our growing number of European Author-it Cloud clients, we opened a third Author-it data center in Europe to compliment our data centers in Florida and Texas. The result…our subscriptions revenue this year has grown over 200%, and our growth into next year looks even more positive.

To accelerate our growth, we took a round of funding in July that has allowed us to invest significantly in building our team and growing our business. To accommodate this growth, we moved to larger offices in San Jose and opened a new office in Seattle focused on design and user experience. If you want to create and sell a great product, you need great people, and we have hired some truly great people this year. Of particular note is Jeff Koser, who joined Author-it as Senior Vice President of Sales. Jeff literally wrote the book on selling, with the Amazon best seller, Selling to Zebras.

In July, we ran Author-it Summit ’13, our first ever Author-it user conference in San Francisco. It was completely sold out, and such a great success, that we decided to hold a second user conference, Author-it Summit Europe ’13 in the Netherlands in late October. It was also sold out and ended up being even bigger. Our clients presented great success stories and gave us a chance to meet many of them.

Another big change this year was the complete restructure of our services organization. Our clients are the ultimate reason for our success, so we decided to structure all our services along the simple goal…to make our clients successful with Author-it. From implementation to support, and ongoing operations, we want our clients to be successful. This effort was spearheaded by Ralf Wittgen, which earned him a promotion to Vice President of Services and Client Success, and the distinction of being the first internally promoted VP at Author-it.

2014 is poised to be another promising year for us, and we’re excited to share our success with you this upcoming year.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays and the very best success for 2014.

-Paul Trotter

Getting Your Plugins and Extensions

New process for submitting your Author-it Cloud plugins for review

With the launch of Author-it Cloud more than a year ago, Author-it Software Corporation took the first key steps toward the future of collaborative, fully web-based Enterprise Authoring. Many of you have joined us on this journey, but there are also some customers and partners who’ve been unable to move to Author-it Cloud due to previous restrictions on customizations such as plugins and extensions. Today, we’re announcing a new process for getting these types of customizations up and running in Author-it Cloud.

To ensure the security and data integrity of the information you’ve entrusted to us, as well as the performance of the service for all our customers, plugin and extension developers will need to submit their code for review by our development team. Once approved, our IT team will upload your plugins and extensions to the Author-it Cloud servers on your behalf.

We will of course adjust this process based on feedback from our customers and partners, improving the process as we step through the first reviews with you.

The Future of Cloud Computing

I recently presented a session on Cloud Computing at the 2012 Society for Technical Communications (STC) conference in Chicago. At the session, I went into some detail on our perspective on Cloud Computing and also how it specifically relates to Software as a Service (SaaS) and of course, to Author-it Cloud. The key message that I was trying to get across is “Cloud is now and Cloud is the future”. Five years from now we will all be using some form of Cloud infrastructure and taking advantage of a myriad of SaaS offerings. There are obviously concerns. This is only natural as we go through such a step change in the way we work with enterprise software. Having said that, the benefits in almost every case vastly outweigh the concerns when viewed objectively.

  • North Bridge Growth Equity Venture Partners, a prominent Silicon Valley investor in Cloud and SaaS, recently released their latest survey, Future of Cloud Computing 2012. It makes very interesting reading and fully supports our position that the move to the cloud is happening and is accelerating. Some of their key findings are worth discussing in more detail:
  •  Software = Cloud – North Bridge found that SaaS spending growth is now six times that of all software. This growth is forecast across a number of software categories including CMS. This is a big change from the early days of dominance by CRM, eCommerce and Social applications.
    Cloud Drivers – In my presentation I spoke of the drivers seen within the Author-it client base. First and foremost was supporting globally distributed teams. The ability to scale to other departments was a close second. It is “Scalability” and “Agility” that wins through in the North Bridge survey closely followed by “Cost” and “Capex to Opex”. One interesting facet completely missing is allowing the business unit to be able to work independent of IT support and cost. Maybe this is covered in the “Cost” line of the survey but we see a huge amount of frustration from our clients managing On-Premises infrastructure and working with their IT departments.
  • SaaS Rules – North Bridge quotes a Gartner 2011 survey which found that 84% of new software will be SaaS. I’m not sure of the relevance of this stat relative to a 2012 survey with new data. My feeling and observations in Silicon Valley is that this is a vast underestimate of the current state. It is hard to imagine anyone who is serious about launching a software business would not be taking advantage of the Cloud and using a SaaS model. Certainly I doubt that they would be funded.
  • Public vs. Private Cloud – Understandably there is a growing acceptance through experience with Public Cloud. Scalability and agility seem to be the main drivers for Public Cloud, while Security is a driver for those using Private Cloud. Having said that, the survey points to a number of hybrid infrastructure options that allow us to take advantage of both Public and Private Clouds for various requirements. Just out of interest Author-it Cloud runs on our Private Cloud infrastructure.
  • The Mission is Critical – The survey shows that the particular mission or application is highly relevant in a client’s acceptance of Cloud. Concerns over security and data sovereignty in certain applications remain. On all levels however the survey shows change in favor of Cloud. Those who perceive risk and wait for Cloud maturity (security and compliance) have reduced dramatically in number while those trialing and that now have “complete confidence” in Cloud has grown.
  • The Gap – There was an interesting variance between Cloud vendors and Cloud users in the term “complete confidence”. Understandable, and the survey delved into the reasons for this difference. This is great reading as a SaaS vendor as it points us to the areas we need to work on to increase confidence levels in our service. They listed; incomplete value propositions, business benefits, case studies, proof, and ROI. I agree with these points with some commentary. I think the first two are a universal marketing problem and not just one for Cloud vendors. I think in SaaS it is important to focus on separating the Cloud benefits from the underlying business value that you are delivering with your service. In time Cloud will be a given. It is really driving home the value to those that sign the checks that matters. I really like the last three points; case studies, proof and ROI. These, in my mind, are what our prospective clients are really looking for to support their decision to buy. “Show me it working, introduce me to someone that you have done this for before and convince me on the bottom line!!”
  • Work we have to do – North Bridge points out the factors inhibiting adoption. No surprise that Security and Data Sovereignty still top the list. Surprisingly even to my European colleagues, it seems that the EU is leading the way in breaking down national barriers and allowing a truly global vision for Cloud. Reported in TechWorld, Megan Richards, Deputy Director General of Information Society and Media for the European Commission stated, “You shouldn’t care where the data is as long as it is secure and meets regulatory requirements”. Continuing this line,’s VP and Head of Platform Research, Peter Coffee asserted, “Data protection regulations based on physical location don’t make any sense. Clearly encrypted data with badly managed access privileges is dangerous no matter where it is, and well encrypted data with rigorous privilege management and strong mechanisms for auditing how privileges are used is safe,” said Coffee. “I could put an unencrypted hard drive mid-field in Wembley Stadium and be compliant, while the same data rigorously encrypted, but in Palo Alto, California, would be considered a grave threat.” Makes sense to me.

As a closing comment, the North Bridge survey shows venture capital investment in Cloud including SaaS has been growing at a dramatic rate climbing from $1.6B in 2010 to $2.4B in 2011. Investors by their very nature are forward looking and this alone points to growth in Cloud as investment money is used to improve services and launch a greater number of Cloud infrastructure and SaaS services. This is to the benefit of all involved; vendor and Cloud users alike. At Author-it we are very excited and proud to be part of the next wave of world class SaaS vendors and look forward to working with our current and future clients with Author-it Cloud.



Fear of Disruptive Innovation

Paul Trotter, Founder and CEO at Author-it Software Corporation

To succeed, business decision makers need to be open to new ideas, while at the same time appreciating that standard processes are standard for a reason: they work. It’s a fine balance, and understanding when to look and when to leap can be the difference between growth and stagnation.

In my Death of the Document article, I talked a bit about accounting software and the way it’s evolved from the clunky spreadsheets imitating the old written ledgers to the clever SaaS software that lets users just put in their data and get out what they need. I argued that it’s time for authoring software to evolve in the same way – that there’s no reason producing a document shouldn’t be just as easy as producing a set of accounts. It’s a new way of looking at authoring software.

With new ways of looking at things, you inevitably get resistance.

Say you’re in business, and you have a problem you need to solve. What do you do? You get four people to come into your office and pitch you their ideas for how they can solve your problem. Three of them say they’re going to solve your problem one way, offering different flavors of exactly the same solution. The fourth says he’ll solve your problem a different way, with a completely unique, novel approach that looks at the underlying issues from a completely new perspective.

It’s pretty natural to want to choose one of the three. People fear the unknown, and when the boss looks back if something goes wrong, he or she isn’t going to question why you went with the safe option and not the risky one. You did it because it was safe, and safe is meant to be good. After all, it took more than a decade for the closed-innovation phrase “no one ever got fired for buying Microsoft”.

Of course, none of this is to say that if people come to you with a crazy idea they say will set your business apart from your competition, you should start writing out a check on the spot. Some ideas are unsuitable for certain businesses, some are unsuitable for certain times or locations, and – let’s be honest – some are just unsuitable.

So how can you make decisions when the choice is a leap? I was walking past a cafe the other day and I saw a sign that said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge”. It made me think about innovation and how businesses can improve the odds when it comes to implementing new ideas. I realized imagination isn’t more important than knowledge, and neither is knowledge more important than imagination. Like a gun and a bullet, imagination and knowledge are interdependent – extremely powerful when used together, but entirely useless on their own.

When someone comes to you with a radical idea, you need to listen to it objectively, without dismissing it out of hand because it sways too far from the norm, but also without getting so caught up in the potential that you forget the practicalities. Then you need to think about it, applying your knowledge of the market and of your business. It sounds obvious, but it’s amazing how many people consult with their hearts and their guts, but not with their heads.

If necessary, ask the person to explain the benefits again, and confront him or her with any concerns. The individual who truly has a great product idea will love it – it’s like asking a bodybuilder to pump his guns.

It all sounds like a lot of work, but it’s the difference between a great company and one that just gets by. And when you hit on the innovation that’s not only exciting and fresh, but that it also makes sense when you stop and think about it, you’ll know you’re onto a winner.

Author-it Software Corporation – 3031 Tisch Way, Suite 500 – San Jose, CA 95128

Death of the Document: It’s Time for a New Way of Thinking About Document Authoring Software

Paul Trotter, Founder and CEO at Author-it Software Corporation

When people first started creating software to automate their business processes, it was natural enough to think of it as a kind of simulator to imitate what was already happening on paper. So in accounting, for example, you got these massive spreadsheets that basically just simulated the ledgers accountants were working with at the time. In its way it was marvellous because it meant you could use formulas to add stuff up and automate a lot of the work that accountants previously had to do manually. Even so, it didn’t take long to figure out that working with your data in its final form really restricted the way that you could manipulate and control the data itself.

From there you got the database-driven systems. These offered best-of-breed solutions in very specific areas, so you had your human resources programs and your accounts receivable programs and your inventory programs. But while they were really good for what they did, you had to integrate them all if you wanted them to talk to one another, and eventually you ended up with a strip-mall of products from all sorts of different places. Not only did businesses have to spend a lot of money on integration consultants but they also tended to get stuck with the basic versions of the platforms because they’d put so much work into integrating them that upgrading just wasn’t worth it.

The third generation of software was the end-to-end systems, which could take care of absolutely everything your business was doing in one tidy package. While these were a lot easier to get going, the downside was that the single modules tended not to be as sophisticated as the best-of-breed products. Still, that was hugely outweighed by the fact they were a single product, and over time it all improved and now the best-of-breed products have all but disappeared.

That brings us to Software as a Service (SaaS), which has of course changed the game completely. Because all the SaaS products have their own API, they’re very easy to integrate. So as a customer you have the freedom to go with consolidated systems or best-of-breed solutions, whatever suits your needs. It’s flexible, it’s scalable and it’s just going to keep growing.

So, accounting software has gone through those four generations, Customer Relationship Management software has gone through them, everything has gone through them – except documentation. Documentation has remained stuck solidly in that first phase, where we’re just simulating what we’d do on paper. Even when we create Web pages, we’re still just simulating what we’d do on paper. No one has moved past that first step into a more database-driven model where you can store content and produce a variety of deliverables from that same information. The format the document is saved in has changed – maybe instead of saving in .doc we’re now saving in .docx – but fundamentally it’s still the same idea.

In fact, we’ve had to develop software around the problem, like smart search engines that can search a document to dig out the knowledge that’s stuck in there. But that doesn’t solve the problem that if you make a change to that document, you have to make an entirely new copy of that document, so you have version 1.1, version 1.2, and so on.

The solution: an Enterprise Authoring Platform

Why hasn’t documentation followed the path of other technology? I think it’s because it just hasn’t been an important part of running a business. In financials the more information you have the better the decisions you can make.

But when it comes to documentation there are only two reasons to change: when it gets in the way of running your business or when it costs you a lot of money. What a lot of business owners don’t realize is that it’s doing both of those things right now.

It’s costing a lot of money because every time someone wants to create a new document they’ve got to start from scratch and hunt around for the information – information that may be written out 10 or 20 times a day, not to mention the time spent messing around with formats. It’s also getting in the way of business because people don’t want to work that way anymore. Take training – people don’t want to sit around for a week watching videos or reading manuals; they want to learn as they go, figuring it out for themselves when they can and looking for help when they get stuck.

So what’s the solution? A mindset change along with adoption of an Enterprise Authoring Platform (EAP). We’ve got to stop thinking of the document as a store of information and start thinking of it as a deliverable that you can produce from text stored in a pure state, in the same way that a financial report is something you can produce out of figures stored in a database. You have a user interface that makes it appear that the user is working on a document; but when they type something in, the system analyzes what they’re typing and offers suggestions for what they want to say. That way everything is uniform; you can make updates without having to create new files and the same information doesn’t have to be written out over and over again.

The technology is there – we just have to change the way we think. To fix the document problem, we have to kill the document. Starting now.

This article was originally published on

Boston City Marathon April 2012 – Fund Raising

—Paul Trotter

Last Year New York

Running the ING New York Marathon in November last year was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life. I ran for an awesome charity called Team for Kids, and managed to raise over $3000 to help educate young kids on health and fitness. So I would like to give a big thanks to all of those who contributed to that great cause.

The NY Marathon was the first big marathon I had run, and only my second marathon. I did the Rotorua marathon in New Zealand in April last year, and as you would expect for a newbie, made heaps of basic mistakes. But I learnt from those mistakes and changed my game plan for NY.

On November 6, 2011, I started the day by catching a bus at 6am from 51st St in Manhattan to the race start point in Staten Island. After waiting a couple of hours in the freezing cold the race finally got underway at around 10am. Due to the huge number of some 37,000 runners, I started off the race at a slower pace than usual, but after the Verrezano-Narrows Bridge things freed up and I set into my 5min/km (8min/mile) pace and pretty much kept that for the whole race.


Documentation Forecast: The Future Looks Cloudy

© Miriam Lottner

Much has been said already about how great it is to work “in the cloud.” I don’t think there’s anyone left who hasn’t experienced the greatness of Dropbox or a shared Google Doc.

Author-it Cloud login page

So where does that leave the technical writer? We technical writers and documentation managers are long used to our love affair and possessive tendencies towards our “files” and our proprietary authoring software. A huge part of what gave us value was the relative obscurity of what we do. Transforming huge swaths of knowledge and information into books, with endless links and ToCs that update and indexes that contain links. One customer even went so far as to call what we do, “knowledge geek magic.”

What will happen if we take all of that away and author in simple tools that were built for everyone to use easily in the cloud? If anyone can log into our software, collaborate, review, comment and critique, will our processes fall apart? Will the magic be revealed as a fake? Will we be replaced by knowledge engineering robots?

I don’t think so.

A big hurdle in the last few years of technical writers adopting new and more modern documentation approaches has been adoption. Every new “tool” has been more complex, more IT heavy and less independently manageable than the last. There were resellers and customization consultants for every popular tool. Why? Because no one was selling a black box that would work like you wanted from day one, and everything seemed to require a level of sophistication to deploy that the average technical writer didn’t possess. On top of that, money was tight, deadlines were pressed and few companies had 3-6-9 months to implement and deploy a solution.

There are no more excuses. Cloud is here. It is fast, it is easy and it is affordable. It is also easy to deploy, requires no IT management, no infrastructure and allows you work with and collaborate with people from their hotel in San Jose, at home or on an overnight sales trip in Katmandu (assuming they have WiFi or an Ethernet connection). For all the same reasons enterprise applications are moving quickly to the cloud, so too are authoring tools and solutions. Author-it is the first traditional documentation authoring tool to make the move, and I applaud them for having the courage and vision to make it happen so early in the game. For small companies or those with limited budgets, Author-it Cloud is affordable and full of every feature previously thought unaffordable or out of reach. Say hello to enterprise level features at a fraction of the old costs.

So the next time someone comes and asks why you aren’t delivering your content like X or Y company, you are going to have to think a lot harder about why it can’t be done. It CAN be done, and for less than you think. The time for a move is now.

Reprinted by permission

Author-it’s New SaaS Cloud Authoring Platform for Enterprise-Level Writing – Selected Features

© Ugur Akinci

Here are a few really cool Author-it features that caught my eye during a recent webinar demonstration by the company founder and CEO Paul Trotter.

Searching for Content

Author-it is a powerful structured-authoring editor that allows you to use the same chunk of content many times over.

So searching for reusable content is a very crucial functionality that needs to be performed well to be useful and practical. Boy, does Author-it do it well!

Check out the screenshot below and you’ll see what I mean:


The search options that Author-it offers are truly world-class.

Moreover, Author-it also highlights those files in the database that contains your search term.

Suggesting Content Relevance

Author-it also suggests the relevance of the search results by using fuzzy-logic probabilities. Content that looks similar to the selected text/paragraph are highlighted with colors corresponding to that level of probability (see below):


Highlighting similar content with Xtend

Author-it suggests reuse ideas by finding similar expressions in different files, listed even by their availability in different languages (see below).

Reuse content with Author-it Xtend

This is one mother-of-all XML editors that will certainly provide a competitive edge to those documentation departments that produce volumes of deliverables from modular and reusable components. No question about that.

As a professional technical writer I really like Author-it’s sophisticated features and I wish I could afford a permanent license to use it for my daily documentation work.

Reprinted by permission

Author-it's New SaaS Cloud Authoring Platform for Enterprise-Level Writing

© Ugur Akinci

I’m not a regular Author-it user but, having sat through a webinar presented by the company Founder and CEO Paul Trotter, I have to say that I’m impressed by Author-it’s new SaaS (Software As A Service) cloud platform.

Author-it is an integrated single-sourcing and structured-authoring editor. It’s integrated in the sense that you do not need to buy additional software to, for example, generate a help file from your source files, or create a PDF document or post your content to a web site. With FrameMaker or MS Word, for example, you need another application like WebWorks or RoboHelp to generate help files from your FM source files. In that sense, neither is as integrated as Author-it.

Author-it Cloud is an online service you subscribe to and pay a license subscription fee per person per month. There is nothing to buy and install.

According to a majority of the webinar participants (64%), the one outstanding benefit of the cloud platform is its anytime-anywhere availability. I totally concur with that. No more the rush back to the office to finish that critical assignment just before a deadline. You can hookup to the Author-it Cloud from anywhere you like and finish your work from wherever you may be. Author-it guarantees 99.9% up-time availability but “externalities” and “environmental factors” like a slow Internet connection etc. are not included in that guarantee.

Trotter’s presentation was pretty fast. The screens flew by at every click without any hang time. If that’s an indication of an average user’s experience, the cloud will rule — if, that is, you can afford it. At this writing the “professional” category of subscription costs $200 a month per user (starting January 9, 2012) and the “enterprise” level subscription costs $300 per user per month (Spring 2012).


The main AI portal presents a switchboard of available modules

On the left navigation bar, there are links to configuration options like Users, User Groups, etc.

Basically, you need to have a User Name and a Password to enter the portal through an Internet connection. In addition, as a user you need to be on the list of ACTIVE USERS. If you are labeled as an INACTIVE user by the admin, you cannot access the system.

There are two main types of Author-it subscribers: 1) Users (Writers), and 2) Reviewers. A reviewer becomes activated automatically by taking part in a review and again becomes inactive automatically by completing the review.


Before going any further, let’s mention the BENEFITS of a SaaS Cloud platform:

  • Lower upfront setup and hardware costs and lower TOC (Total Ownership Cost) in the long-run.
  • Faster ramp-up time and implementation.
  • Anytime-anywhere access. If you’ve got an Internet connection, you’ve got Author-it.
  • Strong disaster recovery. If everything crashes in the middle of writing that million-dollar document set, you can use regular onsite (daily) and offsite (weekly) backups.
  • Greater vendor accountability. When things go wrong, you know whom to call and blame. “You’ve got one throat to choke,” as Trotter put it succinctly.
  • Easier hardware and software update and support since all updates are made automatically by Author-it. Nothing to download, or buy and install.


Paul Trotter listed the main FEATURES of the Author-it SaaS Cloud platform as follows:

  • Performance is the main concern over the Internet. SaaS performance is said to be even better than the performance of onsite-maintained platforms due to superior system architecture, dynamic load sharing, HW optimization, etc. which are all taken care of behind scenes by Author-it. A well-maintained back-end assures a high front-end performance.
  • Monitoring. Author-it says their systems are monitored 24-7 and alarms issued promptly at any mishap. The clients can monitor the status of their systems 24-7 through their portal.
  • Scalability. You can start small and expand as you go along. Scalability is assured as a matter of fact.
  • Disaster Recovery. As we mentioned earlier, all files are backed up both onsite (daily) and offsite (weekly).
  • Availability. Author-it guarantees 99.9% availability in writing, by contract. “Or else, we pay you,” is how Trotter put it. External factors beyond Author-it’s control like the unavailability of Internet etc. are of course not included in that guarantee. Enough redundancy is built into the network through multiple network connections to prevent downtime. The “hot swap” feature provides real-time swapping from one server to another to assure project continuity without any interruptions.
  • Data Security is provided by third-party vendors through a SAS 70 Data Center. Both the network access and backups are all encrypted. Author-it does not use “shared databases.” All clients have their own databases thus no one has any access to any other DBs.

The Million Dollar Question

Of course, the “burning question” when it comes to ANY cloud application is this:

“How secure is the cloud compared to its on-site equivalent?”

The question is a real one since in a cloud situation you are turning over all your database to the vendor. Your database, with all its proprietary and confidential content, will be sitting on the vendor’s servers. So you have every right to be concerned about the level of security that the vendor provides.

48% of the webinar participants said they thought the security risks between the two alternatives was just about the same. Only 29% thought cloud was less secure. So apparently this is not as big an issue as some observers think it is.

I personally cannot say that my questions about cloud security have been answered yet to my satisfaction. But I recognize this: just because something is on-site and sitting on a server next room does NOT mean that it’s secure. You can lose your data even if you keep it on a machine right next to you.

And secondly: this is exactly like how most of us probably felt when the microwave ovens were first introduced. Any new technology brings with itself an initial resistance, a sense of uncertainty which is usually expressed as a “security question.” But I guess with every passing day, as we get used to the pros and cons of the cloud and as more companies prove their worth with the way they conduct their business, we’ll warm up better to the idea, especially when we start reaping its benefits.

So at this point I’m looking at the “security question” as something that will become moot in the long run.

Reprinted by permission