Content Management Systems, I use those!
I like the definition of Content Management that Spilka provides in Chapter 5. Content Management is a set of practices for the handling of information, including how it is created, stored, retrieved, formatted and styled for delivery. It usually has the following four goals: Distribute tasks and responsibilities among members, Author and store content that enable multiple-audience adaptation, Author and store content to permit multiple output and Author and store content that allow for reuse by multiple organizations. Spilka also recommends creating CM as a separate discipline and teach to other technical communicators (Spilka, 2010, pgs 130-131). This definition really is what I do on a daily basis in my current position of QA Specialist, who is also responsible for the majority of customer educational resources for our Home Care product line.
Where I work currently, we use a few different content management systems, most of which were created by in-house staff for our use. The one that looks the most like this definition is our SIETE product. This is the product that we use to track the tasks being completed by the developers, that guide our release notes and user guides, as well as our Knowledge Base which houses the release notes, user guides and other customer-facing educational resources. I was not included in any of the design aspects of this product, it does work nicely for our customers.
The image above is an example of our customer facing portion of SIETE. This is accessed through the application and the content visible on the right-hand side is content specific based on the page the accessed the Help from. In addition, there are additional materials that the user may find useful based on this page. It would include FAQs, User Guide Pages and Videos that were created. This can be updated by our staff immediately if issus or corrections need to be made. This page really encompasses goals 2, 3, and 4. It allows for multiple audience adaptation, permit multiple outputs (html, videos) and reuse within and across organizations.
According to Chapter 4, we, as technical communicators, organize the written communication for future use (Spilka, 2010, pg 123). This SIETE product does assist with this. The search feature within the Customer Facing Knowledge Base will search content and tags that are added to each item. At this time tags need to be manually managed on each task, but helps with searching when the customer may not know the correct term. We can add additional terms that customer might use, even if it does not match the terminology that we use.
The image above shows that Goal 1 can also be used in our SIETE Application. There is a module called Project that has Projects, Outlines and Tasks. Each task can be assigned to a specific person and it can detail what needs to be done, when it should be done and what other assets are needed to complete the task. Often times I will spend a day or two reviewing the User Guide for changes that need to be made. Simple changes will be made immediately, but longer changes will get a task. Once all tasks are assigned I, or my supervisor, can set due dates, priorities and estimate the time to complete. As time allows, these are updated and immediately available for our customers.