Your CCMS is Just Like an Instant Pot

For Christmas, I got an Instant Pot – the electric pressure cooker that is all the rage in domestic circles. It is an amazing device. You can take frozen chicken and toss it in there, ready in under half an hour. Salmon? Perfect in 3 minutes. It even makes amazing cheesecake, which is its own food group in my book.

However, learning how to cook using my Instant Pot has taken a bit of extra work. In fact, I’ve had to relearn a lot of what I know about cooking.

Here’s the problem: I am using the same ingredients, to cook the same dishes, but I need to use those ingredients in a completely new way.

For example, to cook salmon in the Instant Pot, I need to pour a cup of water into the bottom of the pot. And when I tried to cook broccoli at the same time as the salmon, the broccoli turned to mush.

My Instant Pot came with instructions. The instructions told me what each button does, how to vent the pressure (BE CAREFUL because you can really burn yourself venting!). It explained each component of the device and how to clean it.

But it didn’t tell me how to cook.

For that, I needed to find special Instant Pot recipes. Luckily, we have the internet where recipes exist in abundance. Without those recipes, I would have been completely unsuccessful using my fancy new gadget. I would have burned lots of dishes, made mush out of more, and dehydrated a lot of salmon. I needed to relearn how to cook in order to be successful using this device.

Moving from unstructured authoring to structured authoring and using a CCMS is very similar to learning how to cook a meal using an Instant Pot. How so, you ask?

Well, just like my salmon and broccoli, you are creating the same types of content that you always have. You are using words and pictures (and maybe audio and/or video) to explain the same tasks and concepts that you did before you moved to structure. You are most likely writing steps, paragraphs, bulleted lists, headings, and so on.

However, you need to use your usual ingredients in a new way.

For example, in a structured environment, content reuse is paramount. In order to create topics that are reusable, you need to write them for reuse. Just like I need to use the same raw salmon but cook it differently. In order to be successful in a structured, reuse-friendly environment, you need to think about the way in which you write the topic. For example, you cannot use cross-references to other places in your content. A topic needs to be self-contained.

In order to be successful in a structured, reuse-friendly environment, you need to think about the way in which you write the topic.

You need to use the same terminology across all your topics. If you use “salmon,” “filet,” “protein,” and “fish,” interchangeably, your users are in for a cognitive challenge. Is cooking “fish” different from cooking “salmon”? Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t.

Often, when we get our nice new CCMS, with all the bells and whistles, we get trained on how to use the CCMS. Like my Instant Pot instruction manual, we learn all about what buttons to click, how to assign tags, how to check in files, and so on.

But what we don’t get are the recipes for how to create great content in this new environment. Then, we try to put the salmon in the instant pot, but we don’t know it needs water. Or worse yet, we put the same content into the CCMS without modifying how we write that content.

And our broccoli comes out as mush.

If you need help learning how to cook with your new structured authoring environment, let us know. We can teach you how to be a CCMS master chef in no time.

Val Swisher

Val Swisher is the CEO of Content Rules. She is a well-known expert in global content strategy, content development, and terminology management. Using her 20 years of experience, Val helps companies solve complex content problems by analyzing their content and how it is created.

When not blogging, Val can be found sitting behind her sewing machine working on her latest quilt. She also makes a mean hummus.