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Knowledge Management & Intranet Solutions - Conference & Exhibition, Novotel London West, UK, 4-5 April 2000

 Tools of the Trade 

Contentious stuff

As more and more devices connect to the internet, managing content and making it accessible will become more of a challenge, writes Campbell McCracken

Content Management

It has been estimated that, in two or three years time, the number of different devices connected to the Internet will be in the region of 20, rising soon afterwards to 200. Accompanying this diversity in output devices will be a proliferation in browsers, as each manufacturer adds features to try to differentiate their platform from everyone else's. When this happens, one of the key things that will determine the number of repeat visitors you have to your corporate website will be the speed at which you can tailor your output to each new device type. So, not only will you have the challenge of getting the right information to the right people at the right time, you will also have to make the information 'device relevant'. The way to ease this task is by Content Management.

‘In Forrester's definition of content management there are three component parts’ says Open Market's business development manager for publishing and new media, Phil Richardson. ‘These are Content Acquisition, the actual Management of the Content, and finally Content Delivery. Our E-Business Suite covers all three of these parts’.

Content Acquisition

The start point is the acquisition of the content. With hundreds or thousands of contributors in a corporate community, there will normally be a variety of tools being used for the production of the content. These could include Word, Notepad and more traditional HTML authoring tools, as well as content delivery by web entry, wire feeds or other external systems. ‘It doesn't really matter what tool anyone within the organisation is using. The technology must allow that diversity [to exist] because within a company you will have that diversity,’ says InterWoven's CEO David Ogidi. ‘You want to empower as many people as possible to be web contributors. The more people you have contributing, the richer and more refreshing the website can be.’

Although InterWoven's Teamsite focuses on the second stage, the management of content, it still has to integrate into the corporate community. It can do this simply through the file system interface. ‘Any tool that can create a file can put it into Teamsite’, says Ogidi. When you create something, all you have to do is save it into a directory that is managed by Teamsite. If the document is created using Word, the save automatically invokes Teamsite's XML-based templating engine. It reflects what you do within Word into a Teamsite template and applies the workflow to it.

Once you have captured the basic content, you still need to be able to gather other items of information to make the content useful. This is the metadata, or 'information about the information'. ‘The four types of metadata are Format, Structure & Access, Management and Inclusion’ says Bob Boiko, founder and chief technical officer of Chase Bobko. Format tells you about whether the content should be displayed as bold, italic, underlined, and so on. Structure & Access includes heading levels. The Management metadata is tracking information, such as the author, the date of creation, the date at which the content expires, etc. Finally the Inclusion information refers to other content, such as graphics or other files.

Management of the Content and Quality Assurance

The standard way of managing content is to organise it using XML (Extensible Markup Language - see 'Tools of the Trade' in November 1999's Knowledge Management). ‘Content is made out of components, not pages’ says Boiko. By holding each of the components as a discrete XML object you immediately have the ability to reuse the elements completely separately from any of the other elements. That allows you to reuse them anywhere on your site and in any combination.

The next step is to have processes in place to manage the content objects. Experts recommend that you have automated processes, and that you build the automated tool set around your existing processes, not vice-versa.  This means that you need the flexibility of use in the  automatic toolset you use, combined with the control to determine at what stages the organisation wants to check the way things are coming together.

InterWoven's Teamsite allows each contributor to see the effects that his new content is going to have on the entire website, but while he is still within the security of his own private area. They call this 'virtualisation'. ‘In an organisation with hundreds or thousands of contributors, you want everyone to take responsibility for what they do’, says InterWoven's Ogidi. ‘By using virtualisation you're pushing quality assurance right down to the individual contributor.’

Not only does Teamsite allow you to see the effects of what you are doing with respect to the rest of the site, it allows you to see the contribution of others. You work in a private work area, divorced from everyone else, but you can refresh the work area to see the latest version of what everyone else has done. Once you are happy with what you've done you can send it to the staging area where everyone else's work is brought together, all conflicts are resolved and all issues are overcome.

In a large organisation there may be the need to see what someone has done before the content is moved from one stage to the next. You may want a spell checker to be executed or maybe you would want a style guide applied. In some cases certain content may have to be approved. For example brand control and maintaining a consistent look and feel is important for organisations as they move their entire business forward on to the web. Or you may want the workflow engine to execute a piece of code, for example to send an email to someone to tell them that something has changed so that they can take a look at it.

Content Delivery

One of the key benefits of Content Management is the ability to repurpose the content for the diverse output devices that are available, ranging from WAP phones to PC-based browsers or interactive television. ‘Appropriate presentation of content depends on the media being used,’ says InterX's CEO Rob Bruce. ‘Consultants might have web-based terminals for large amounts of data or figures, PDAs for reviewing small quantities of data, such as a 50-word précis of a job, and mobile phones to get news updates and to interact in real time to queries such as "Can you do the job next week?"

Rob Bruce - InterX CEO

Open Market's Richardson agrees. ‘WAP phones are good for news or immediacy. They are good for alerting people that new information is available, and for factual things like stock prices or ebanking. But people don't want to use WAP to read something that's 2000 words long.’

If you take the example of a news item, there will typically be a headline, a synopsis, and the body text. There might also be a photograph or graphic. Each of these would be stored as a separate component. Depending on the target device, you want to be able to reuse any or all of these component parts. But you are not limited to just these. ‘You can assemble not only XML components,’ says InterWoven's Ogidi, ‘but you can call out to external applications to get them to execute as part of the template delivery.’

Depending on your application, you may not want to output the information directly but instead store it in a database where it can be accessed by, for example, a dedicated ecommerce engine. The virtualisation approach of InterWoven, where each contributor is working separately from each other, but where they can still see how their contribution fits in with the rest of the site, applies equally to the person who is coding the ecommerce server as it does to the person working on the content.

Proliferation of Output Devices

The predicted proliferation of output devices is going to make Content Management an essential part of a business's strategy. ‘At the moment people can look at low-volume sites with not very much content and not very much changing very often, and can say that Content Management is for people with more content,’says Open Market's Richardson. ‘But as soon as you proliferate device types, these people will either restrict themselves to cater for only one device type or they will handcraft different effective content for each one. That will be a driver for the adoption of Content Management.’

‘The issue will be how quickly can you have output for the next new phone,’ says InterX's Bruce. ‘This is more of an issue in Europe than in the States because there is less PC saturation in Europe. There is a threat of a two tier Internet, with the top tier being those companies that can provide the application to the different devices in different ways. You need to develop systems that can support these new devices as a matter of course.’


The final piece in the puzzle that enables you to get the right information to the right people, rather than getting all information to all people, is personalisation. Two of the most common types of personalisation are behaviour-based and profile-based. In the former, the site monitors what you do and makes informed guesses at what you like from the patterns of your behaviour. So, it could monitor what news items you read, or the types of music that you have bought in the past, and so on.

In profile-based personalisation, the system knows about you because of what you have told it about yourself. For example, you may have filled in an online form, ticking various options about your interests and needs. This is the method used in InterX's BladeRunner. It provides each user with the ability to register personal preferences with a simple check box. This allows them to select the subjects that they would like to receive regular information about, and even the language they receive it in. Users can change this selection as often as they like. BladeRunner then selects and highlights all the essential items in the content that meet each individual's tastes and can email users to alert them to relevant news flashes as they happen. ‘Personalisation is a given!’ says InterX's Bruce.

For advice on selecting a Content Management system, see

Case Study - Interwoven at Cisco

Cisco Systems hosts the world's largest Internet commerce site, Cisco Connection Online (CCO). The site, which is comprised of a half-million pages of content, serves up 50 million page presentations to customers, partners, resellers, and investors each month. CCO also generates online sales of $13.2 bn annually.

With InterWoven's TeamSite and OpenDeploy, hundreds of contributors produce and publish content for the CCO site every day. Each month, more than 2,000 new documents are created by Cisco contributors using TeamSite's enterprise-class web content management, application development, and workflow capabilities. Then OpenDeploy gives Cisco's 400+ Web editors a secure, flexible, scalable solution for cross-platform, transactional content transfer to CCO's production servers.

One of the most important capabilities of the solution is TeamSite's versioning feature, which enables Cisco's Web development team to create and index multiple versions of their site's source code. This allows developers to quickly locate and revert back to any previous assets that might be needed, without time-consuming data search and retrieval. The versioning capability has been so effective that 40 percent of Cisco's content was unnecessary following the TeamSite implementation.

CCO developers have also found that TeamSite's SmartContext QA feature gives them a special productivity boost. It enables web contributors to stage and test their changes to CCO in the context of the entire site, saving the prior bottleneck of having to move production files to another server for testing.

Many of Cisco's 23,000 employees world-wide regularly submit content to CCO. But this global development effort often proved frustrating in the past, as CCO was formerly administered by a centralised organisation. With the help of TeamSite's development branches, Cisco's web team was able to deconstruct CCO into more than 200 branches supporting the company's world-wide operations. TeamSite allows separate branches to be created so that multiple teams across an enterprise can work concurrently on a common base of web content, in whatever way is best for them.

Cisco contributors can move information quickly to CCO, right from their desktops, without having to use a complex set of non-integrated tools. TeamSite's powerful content management and workflow capabilities help streamline the development process. And using OpenDeploy, editors can simply ‘select all’ files to be published, and drag them to the production server.

Case Study - Open Market at Informa

Informa is a leading business information group publishing over 2,000 titles across a range of business sectors including telecoms, medical, law, tax, energy, finance and insurance. Its portfolio includes the Lloyd’s List, one of the oldest publications in the world. Informa selected Open Market’s content and commerce software products to run its business information sites.

Phil Richardson, Open Market

‘Informa wanted to implement the system quickly without having to reinvent themselves,’ said Open Market's Richardson. ‘The ability to implement something within an existing framework of systems, infrastructure, workflow processes, people, relationships, etc is becoming a key thing. There are not many people left who can approach an implementation from a completely greenfield site situation.’

‘We are committed to delivering the most relevant and timely business information possible to our customers across the group,’ said David Gilbertson, Chief Executive of Informa Group. ‘While we have previously used electronic products, time to market and cost of development have been limiting factors. Implementing a group-wide information architecture enables our market facing units to access any information from within the Informa Group and its strategic partners, and to quickly and cost-effectively deliver the electronic products and services our customers require.’

Open Market’s Content Server and Content Centre products automate the extraction, delivery and authorisation of these publications onto the Informa Web site. The site offers users a range of flexible access options including subscriptions and pay per article downloads. Open Market’s Transact handles secure order and payment processing and fulfilment.

Informa’s business customers will be able to access branded subscription services, conference information and other online products and services from across the Informa Group via a single sign-on. Users will then be able to personalise the content of their services using Open Market‘s Personalisation Centre, underpinning Informa’s strategy to provide high value focused business information tailored to its customers needs. ‘The adoption of proven application packages based upon open standards such as XML, enables our clients to reduce risk, and maximise their return on investment’, said Richard Lambert, Open Market's regional director in the UK, Middle East and Africa.


© 2000 Bizmedia Ltd under licence from Learned Information Europe Ltd

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