I know some people who don’t have a computer. I honestly don’t know how they live without one, but somehow they manage. I know companies that don’t have any systems for managing their workflow, content, publishing, and so on. I honestly don’t know how they live without them either. And in today’s global world, I’m not sure they are managing too well.

Using the right tool for the right job is extremely important. And if you are creating content that is going to be localized and translated into many languages, it is even more imperative to use tools to help manage your process. Tools abound in the marketplace right now and more are being created every day. So, do your homework.

Three of the tools you must implement to be competitive in today’s world include:

1.  A content management system. A content management system provides so much structure for your work, it is hard to under-estimate the value of having one. Here is what Wikipedia has to say about content management systems:

content management system (CMS) is the collection of procedures used to manage work flow in a collaborative environment. These procedures can be manual or computer-based.

The procedures are designed to do the following:

  • Allow for a large number of people to contribute to and share stored data
  • Control access to data, based on user roles (defining which information users or user groups can view, edit, publish, etc.)
  • Aid in easy storage and retrieval of data
  • Reduce repetitive duplicate input
  • Improve the ease of report writing
  • Improve communication between users

“But wait!” you say! “I’m a lone tech writer. I’m not collaborating with anyone!” Well, you might think you are working all alone. But, you are not. You are (hopefully) working with engineers, QA testers, product managers, editors, illustrators, and others who are part of the process of creating your content.

And even if you create content all alone in a dark cave without any help from anyone, if your content is going to be translated, you are now automatically, defacto, collaborating with your translator(s). You may never see them or communicate with them (which is a problem unto itself that I’ve written about many times including here and here), but believe me, you are collaborating. They are going to take your content and work with it. If they can communicate with you, they’ll do an even better job. So, do yourself and your company a favor. Implement some type of CMS system.

2. A sophisticated authoring tool.
Okay, I’m going to be controversial. In my experience and opinion, Microsoft Word is not a sophisticated authoring tool. It is ubiquitous. It is easy to use for simple documents. But, it is definitely not sophisticated. I have yet to meet anyone who authors large documents (like multi-chapter books) in MS Word who does not complain bitterly 100% of the time. Just try typing “Hate Microsoft Word” into the search function in YouTube and you’ll see what I mean. There’s even a group on Facebook devoted to hating Microsoft Word. I’m sure someone reading this post is going to tell me they love Word, but whoever you are, you are in the minority.

Yet it amazes me how many companies, even medium-sized businesses, are still using Word to create their content. There are many tools on the market now that provide advanced features for writing. A fairly comprehensive and updated list can be found on Wikipedia.

About 10 years ago, I was interviewing a consultant who wanted to do a writing project for one of my clients. I asked her what type of computer she used. Her response? “Oh, I don’t use a computer. I use legal pads, take my notes long hand, and then type them up.” This was 10 years ago. I swear. No, I didn’t hire her.

3.  A terminology manager.
I wrote about this in Simple Rule #3. I won’t bore you with the details again.

Summary
The bottom line is that the days of writing on legal pads and using a red pen to edit are over. Implement the right tools and you will find that your process is streamlined, collaborating is more effective, and you can go global that much quicker.

Val Swisher
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