What is content transformation?

Content transformation is the process of making existing content more versatile and reusable. It’s about liberating content that is locked away inside legacy formats and transforming it into a library of modular, dynamic content assets.

Content transformation sets you up to deliver intelligent content at scale.

Download our free eBook, Content Transformation: Breathing New Life into Legacy Content.

What problem are we solving with content transformation?

We’ve found that many organizations have started to look at their content operations in the past few years. The business needs the content to do more but not cost more. 

human head viewing multiple formats of content

Most content teams are facing the dilemma of scale. They must deliver more content to more people in more languages on more platforms than ever before – but for less cost, in less time, and without compromising content quality.

Meanwhile, customers expect to interact with content in a myriad of devices, any time they need it, in the language of their choice. Preferably with some level of personalization. They want content to be easy to find, and once found, easy to use.

The only realistic way to provide intelligent content at scale is to design a unified content strategy, implement a structured content ecosystem, and transform your content for maximum impact.

What is digital transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of transforming the enterprise through the use of digital technology to solve business problems.

With digital transformation, an organization aims to improve business processes, organizational culture, and customer experiences. The hope is that by fully committing to digital solutions, the business can meet customer needs and be nimble enough to evolve in the future.

Content transformation is a crucial part of a company’s digital transformation.

Why is content transformation critical to successful digital transformation?

Digital transformation tries to make some promises — more sales, better service, improved customer experience, better personalization. It’s a big endeavor that takes years to realize.

icons for more sales, better service, improved customer experience, better personalization

But no matter how many new tools and systems you throw at it, digital transformation cannot succeed without a content transformation at its heart. Just as digital transformation is about unlocking the potential of your business, content transformation is about unlocking the potential of your content. 

Can we automate content transformation?

robot arms processing a content documentThere are applications that convert content from one digital format to another. For example, you can use conversion software to convert Microsoft Word documents, PDFs, or Adobe Framemaker files to XML.

Typically, content transformation involves a combination of machine conversion and human expertise. 

Conversion software can migrate your source content into XML quickly and at scale, but it can’t transform the content itself. For that, you need experienced writers and editors who can review your content, understand its purpose, and transform it for maximum impact. 

It also takes human expertise to define the rules for mapping one format to another. 

Content Rules provides content transformation services and works with partners who provide conversion software. We can help you determine whether to use a conversion service, license conversion software to convert content in-house, or whether to convert content manually.

How software and human expertise work together

This table shows which steps of content transformation can be performed by software and which steps require human expertise. In some cases, both software and human input are needed.



Human Expertise

Locate content


Determine and build
format-to-structure mapping



Convert paragraph styles and
character formats to XML


Curate content


Identify duplicate content by
words and phrases


Identify duplicate content by


Revise content to create
nimble, reusable topics


Ensure consistent terminology
and style throughout all



Revise topics to follow your content models
and structured authoring best practices


Revise to consolidate
duplicate content into a single
reusable chunk


Apply metadata to improve
search and retrieval



Work with SMEs for reviews and



What content should I transform?

The goal of content transformation is to ensure all valuable content is current, high quality, and available for use and reuse.

You don’t need to transform every piece of legacy content all at once, “just in case.” You’ll want to do a content analysis first, to identify content that is relevant to your customers and useful to your authors. 

abstract content being transformed into its basic elements

In many cases, enterprise documents contain a mix of relevant and irrelevant content. Typically, expert editors and authors can analyze and identify content most likely to require transformation. Subject matter experts might be necessary for assessing highly specialized content. 

After you identify the which content to transform, an editorial evaluation can determine whether automated conversion is enough or whether the content needs to be revised as well.

If you only apply your content models and taxonomy strategy to new content, you cannot reuse existing content seamlessly to assemble new content products. You lose the benefit of all previously created content.

Content transformation best practices

Content transformation is unique to your organization and your content. After all, it uses your content models and your taxonomy strategy as its base.

However, in our decades of working with content, we’ve developed a set of best practices that apply to any content transformation project. These best practices include:

  • Divide large monolithic content into nimble components.
  • Revise content to comply with authoring guidelines.
  • Tag content consistently, according to the metadata strategy.
  • Eliminate duplicate content and replace with reusable content.
  • Ensure content is available in the CCMS.
  • Optimize content to use standard terminology, grammar, and style.
  • Update tone of voice and rebrand if necessary.

illustration of content broken into componentize blocks and reassembled into multiple ways as needed

Do I need content transformation?


If you do not yet have a content strategy, then any attempt to transform the content is likely to fail. Your content strategy is the roadmap between where your content is now and where your content needs to be in the future. Without strategy, you can’t know how to transform your content or what content to transform. 

But if you do have a content strategy, then yes, you’re ready to start transforming your content. If you’ve already migrated some or all of your content into a componentized content management system, then you’re definitely ready to move forward with content transformation.

Even if you do not have a new system in place, you can begin creating content according to the best practices for structured authoring. The transformation of your mindset and your content can happen concurrently. And when it does come time to migrate into a new system, the content will already be ready.

Download our free eBook, Content Transformation: Breathing New Life into Legacy Content.

Content transformation services: I need help!

Content transformation can be overwhelming for a team already adjusting to new systems, new ways of writing, and new processes.

In many cases, content transformation is part of the “phase two” requirements for implementing their content strategy. (You know the one. The “phase two” that your team will never have the time or resources to get to?)

That’s why Content Rules is here to help. We have decades of experience solving complex content challenges with our customers. We are delighted to help you with yours.

Contact us today to schedule time to chat with one of our expert consultants. 

More resources you will love

Watch this on-demand webinar to learn a comprehensive strategic approach to managing content on a global scale across channels in multiple languages. 


Download this ebook on content optimization and learn what it takes to streamline your content like never before!


Watch this on-demand webinar to learn how AI technology is affecting user experience and shaping the future of content.


Val Swisher
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