Are you living in a legacy environment consisting of thousands of monolithic and often redundant documents? Is each document written and constructed independently? Is your publishing life cycle long, laborious and likely error-prone? Are you the one charged with fixing it? If so, planning for a modular approach to future content and message framework will pay big dividends in the near and long term.

A modular content approach will enable the creation or assembly of communications and documents from a collection of parts. This collection of parts may include many different artifacts, such as logos, signatures, graphics, headers, footers, paragraphs, sentences, etc. By reusing these parts in an appropriate manner, you can save considerable time and effort throughout the publishing life cycle while also helping to drive consistency and quality within your messaging.

Consider the guidelines below when developing your modular content approach.

Part Art/Part Science:
Appropriate module size (granularity) is difficult to define in general, universal terms, as the topic and purpose of each module vary significantly. Tracking and analysis is the key to optimizing the granularity over time. Measure usage effectiveness across modules to determine trends and what works for different document groups and business areas.

Means to an End: Sometimes folks get so caught up in the drive toward “reuse” that they forget the real objective. They begin to spend more time counting document or template reduction and the number of reusable or reused content fragments than they spend determining time and efficiency factors in the publishing life cycle. Let your end goals of efficiency, cost savings, consistency and quality drive decisions, not just the pure level of template or content fragment reuse.

Not All Documents Need to Be Modularized: Some documents are so unique, are very stable or are so static in nature that there is little benefit to be realized from breaking them down into a set of granular parts. Work with business areas to determine the uniqueness of purpose and the depth and breadth of document or module usage before embarking on the modular approach. You can always break out a document later if the original assumptions regarding its static nature change.

How to Measure Results: There are still some resisters within organizations that aren’t convinced the initial investment in modular content will pay off. To convince them, define your metrics up-front so that you can defend your benefit assumptions with actual results. Remember to keep the metrics aligned to your business goals regarding speed, cost and customer experience.

Effective reuse doesn’t just happen; it requires that a plan be developed and followed by a committed team. In my next post, we’ll address some of the roles and responsibilities needed within that publishing team to make your modular content approach succeed.

Mr. Roberts will be presenting on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at the DOCUMENT Strategy Forum. Don't miss his Power Session M304/M305 “The Next Chapter: Creating a Seamless Multi-Channel Communications Approach That Really Works.” For more information, visit


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