Many of my readers have heard me preach about the value of intelligent content, as if up until now, all other content was dumb. Well, there’s a certain amount of truth to that. But, to understand this line of thinking, it might help to grasp the concept of intelligent content.

Intelligent content is content which is not limited to one purpose, technology or output. It’s content that is structurally rich and semantically aware, and is therefore discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable. It’s content that helps you and your customers get the job done, often automatically. It’s content that is limited only by our imaginations.

With intelligent content you can:

  • Automatically deliver to multiple channels
  • Personalize content and deliver it dynamically
  • Enable customers to easily find the information they need no matter how complex their requirements
  • Let your customers build their own unique information products
  • Deepen your customer relationships
  • Share content across organizational silos
  • Manage content throughout its lifecycle
  • Rapidly adapt information to changing needs

To enable intelligent content you:

  • Develop customer personas
  • Design the content with those customers in mind
  • Structure the information before you create the content
  • Create metadata that supports search, for both authors and customers
  • Apply metadata to content at a level of granularity that supports its final use
  • Manage the information so that it remains up-to-date and relevant.

Want an example?

If you’re managing a website, you can ensure that your customers can find the information they are looking for. Because the information has been tagged with metadata during the content creation cycle, it’s easily discoverable by search engines. And because you’ve thought about your customer and structured the information in a logical way, you’ve already given them a helping hand when finding information in your content by organizing it in a logical manner — now that’s smart on your part. More importantly, because it’s tagged, you can personalize the content for returning customers, so they see only what they want or need to see.

Another one?

If you publish material on a website and on paper (a journal, magazine or newsletter for example) you can create content specifically for each of those outputs. Depending on your needs, the content could be the same, with differences in visual style, format, and language. The content could be different; more detailed in the print version perhaps, or extra supporting information, such as animations, videos, or geographic information (maps, directions) in the online and/or mobile device versions. Translated versions of the content could be made available to readers with alternative language preferences. For the visually impaired, you could provide an accessible version that could be read aloud by the display device. The content could also be formatted using much larger fonts to make it easier for the visually challenged to see. And, when you change the source information, the updated content would be available immediately for publishing via all media, according to your requirements, formatting rules and schedule and in alignment with the personal preferences of the end-user content consumer. Automatically.

By adding intelligence to the content, you can have it do the formatting work for you, on-demand, only when it’s needed. That’s the smart way of providing the right content, to the right people, in the right format, at the right time, in the right language.

But it doesn’t stop here. When content is presented to a consumer, the content itself can trigger computers to perform automated tasks. Perhaps after you find the answer to a problem using an online help system, the content itself alerts the company customer satisfaction department. A few days later, you receive a customer satisfaction survey via email designed to find out how the company is doing and how they can continue to provide excellent service. You click on a personalized URL that records the answers to the survey and automatically triggers the company email system to send you a thank you letter and a gift certificate to the company online store. When you buy an item in the store using your gift certificate, the e-Commerce site records this information in your personal profile. While you’re checking out, the system asks you if you’d like to join the company’s product-specific online service, where you can find useful tips and tricks, meet and network with other product owners like yourself, upload and watch videos, write and read blog posts, leave comments, provide feedback and more.

This is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg. And, it all started with — and is driven by — intelligent content. The types of automation that intelligent content makes possible are nearly limitless. Governments, educational institutions, and organizations of all types are starting to see the value of using intelligent content to perform business tasks that were traditionally handled manually. Automating these processes makes them more consistent, less error-prone, and much more affordable, freeing up scarce financial and human resources for value-added tasks that many organizations today claim they don’t have time to accomplish. By admitting that humans aren’t always the better choice for performing tasks, and creating and managing content in intelligent ways, we can improve our content offerings, provide better service, and enjoy fewer errors. And, did I mention save money? Tons of it.

Smart. You betcha!

Want to learn more?

If adopting intelligent content approach is something your organization could benefit from — and come on, how could you not? — consider attending our second annual Intelligent Content conference, The Magic Behind Intelligent Content, February 25-26, 2010 in beautiful Palm Springs, CA. You’ll hear presentations from practitioners who are making intelligent content work in the real world. Our two featured presenters include:

  • Gabor Fari, Solutions Strategist within the Health & Life Sciences Industry Unit for Microsoft, the chief architect and driving force behind the company’s Intelligent Content Framework, with the mission to introduce an entirely new way of managing Enterprise Content in Regulated Industries, based on the latest XML technologies.
  • Bob Glushko, Adjunct Full Professor at the University of California at Berkeley in the School of Information, the Director of the Center for Document Engineering, and one of the founding faculty members of the Information & Service Design program. In 2008 he co-founded and serves as a Director for Document Engineering Services, an international consortium of expert consultants in standards for electronic business.

The event will feature 2 days worth of presentations by more than a dozen industry veterans covering topics as varied as social media, marketing, technical communication, training development, publishing, mobile communications, and much, much more. It’s an intimate event. Attendance is capped at around 100 people, making it easy to network with one another and share information with your peers. Sponsorships are available, but are limited. Contact me for details.

For additional information, stop by The Rockley Group website and check out the intelligent content whitepapers.

And, of course, keep an eye on The Content Wrangler blog and The Content Wrangler Community. We’ll be publishing articles, reviews, and case studies about real-world implementations of smart content projects over the coming months.

If you’ve got an intelligent content project about which I’m unaware — or even one in the works — let me know I’d love to know about your success/horror story and/or lessons learned and best practices.