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Pillars of Centralization – How to Build a Successful Content Strategy

What does it take to build a successful content strategy for any organization? Six Pillars of Centralization play a vital role in helping you achieve that goal. This article is based on the video series created by Life Sciences expert, Dan Koenig. You can watch them all here or keep reading to learn more.

This system can act as your company’s centralized communication process, creating and publishing the majority of all global labeling and customer communication.

The measurable gains in quality, decreased time to market, and cost avoidance have become exponential as the system and centralized process continue to expand its user base, consuming and transforming large amounts of data into quality information for the company’s customers.

While the information and best practices to follow would benefit most global enterprises, the focus will be centered around the life science industry. 

The Pillars of Centralization have been constructed to support and sustain a successful centralized content strategy, and the blueprint looks like this.

  1. Speak the same language.
  2. Quality at source.
  3. Use the same tools and materials.
  4. Quality at delivery.
  5. Hire the right crew.
  6. Change the blueprint when required.

Centralization - Pillar One: Speak the Same Language

Pillar One: Speak the Same Language

The first pillar is based on the premise that as an organization, we must all speak the same language and use the same terminology from the beginning of product development, right through the product launch, and ensure that it’s maintained in translated content.

The cost of an inconsistent look and feel to your customers, plus the tower of babel constructed to provide ever-diverging instructions to your translation and desktop publishing vendors, can be incalculable.

We must agree on what to call things, codify this shared knowledge in a common repository, and enforce this common language throughout our content and localization ecosystem.

In the life science arena, accuracy and coherence of conveyed scientific and technical specifications are legally and morally required.

How do you begin construction of the first pillar?

It begins with a common language in your organization, especially for your customer-facing content.

When a new product reaches your customers, the technical documentation should still match the terminology used in the brochure.

If not, an excellent place to begin might be your marketing department, product management teams, or even members of your regulatory team responsible for product registration.

Suppose you can capture the product names and descriptors at this nascent stage in product development. In that case, they can be added to your terminology at once, allowing you to maintain them through technical documentation and product release.

How is a common language created and agreed upon?

Here are some questions to guide you in the right direction.

  • Do you have a glossary committee or other cross-functional team that includes subject matter experts from relevant disciplines to ensure correct input and buy-in?
  • Do you have product managers, chemists, tech writers, engineers, etc.?
  • How is your common language documented?
  • Is it published on an internal website, captured in a terminology tool or database for reuse and reference by technical writers and translators?
  • How are the terms you use enforced? Do you offer these terms to content creators and flag them when they are not being followed?
  • Does this extend to your translated content as well?

The goal is to communicate the same message and core terminology, beginning within your organization and in all the languages spoken by your company’s customers, as accurately, and consistently as possible.

Keep metrics for your content efforts such as quality, cost avoidance, and time to market, and if you don’t have this information, there is no better time to start gathering it than now. This is your baseline and will provide the numbers needed to measure and share your success in the future or allow you to course correct and improve your process along the way.

Here’s the thing: the first pillar can be arduous to construct, but it’s also highly conducive to increased quality, positive impact on schedule, and increased cost savings when implemented correctly.

Documenting the success of your efforts and evangelizing them will be an ongoing part of your commitment to your centralized process. This constant internal communication should be considered an integral and essential part of your centralization strategy.

You may wonder if the warring kingdoms within your company will rebel at this very idea. You bet they will!

Here’s an idea to help you move forward: consider publishing a quarterly newsletter detailing your efforts and successes. Make terminology available on an internal website. This will help foster adoption and make it easy to use this information in your company’s content.

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Centralization - Pillar Two: Quality at Source

Pillar Two: Quality at Source

Having used the first pillar to create a common language, what methods can now be created and enforced to ensure it remains a consistent and living language that will ultimately reach and benefit your customers? 

It’s time to review the materials on hand. What processes exist in the authoring, publishing, and distributing of your content to maintain your common language and create quality at source?

Do you have a style guide? If so, does it cover translated content as well as source content? Is it being used consistently in every content creation hub in your company? Do you actively manage your terminology?

For global enterprises that distribute content in multiple languages, terminology management is vital to convey information accurately.

Take advantage of content management tools to reuse content with differing products when it makes sense.

Validate and standardize your numerical content (date and time formats, units of measurement, currencies) and acronyms by language or region.

For software developers, involve your technical writers during development to ensure that your on-screen information contains’ human language’.

Build a localization process that scrubs your content organically as it passes through the various production gates.

Ensure your metadata and document naming conventions are consistent when creating your publications for your website and other forms of distribution, so your internal and external customers follow a consistent and logical search routine to find the information they need.

If you offer your web information in multiple languages, is this effort well-managed to ensure consistent use of search terminology and translation of document titles or other identifiers?

Having quality at the source is a heavy pillar, with many pieces to construct, but you’re almost there.

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Centralization - Pillar Three: Use the Same Tools and Materials

Pillar Three: Use the Same Tools and Materials

This third pillar will help you knock down your own tower of babel and replace it with a structure that will allow you to build and maintain a more efficient and successful process.

Having built the first two pillars to create a common language and quality at source, we now focus on ensuring that we all use the same tools and materials. 

The ancient Greeks used the best and most technologically advanced materials and tools that they could invent or find.

They shared their methods and best practices, updating them whenever they found a better approach.

When we think of workflows and system automation, it can be helpful to break these functions and components down to their simplest building blocks.

Input: The materials and resources needed to complete a step in a process chain. 

Transformation: The specific rules dictate how the input is received and what’s done with it.

Output: The materials and resources produced by this step then act as input to the next steps.

Ensure you have standard workflows for all your content creation, translation and publishing processes. Your inputs, transformations, and outputs must be mapped visually and easily.

The project management and content management tools that allow you to manage the content you publish in terms of message consistency and intelligibility should also provide the means for a common look and feel in your publications.

Note, however, that in the life science space, your customers are not looking to be wowed by your technical content aesthetics. They are looking to be informed so they can run an accurate calibration or perform proper maintenance on a device.

This information should be conveyed with clarity, including the localization and design of the medium conveying your content.

Do you have a system or process ensuring concordance between your software and IFUs? Because this is often where the common language chain breaks down.

Don’t underestimate the value of having your software translation reviewers see translations in context on UI screens, improving your process and quality immensely while saving you enormous amounts of rework.

Also, consider implementing a machine translation (MT) workflow with a customized engine that includes a human editor feedback loop to ensure consistency. This may be the best way to overcome one of your surest sources of opposition: Your regulatory team.

The third pillar emphasizes consistency in the workflow process and tools used. They can be designed to capture essential metrics, feed verified data to your automated processes, and support consistency across multiple content channels.

Better yet, it will continue to support your path toward MT, and the use of other AI, creating a self-sustaining loop of higher quality, ongoing Machine Learning, and more efficient content creation and publishing.

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Centralization - Pillar Four: Quality at Delivery 

Pillar Four: Quality at Delivery 

With three other pillars in place, it will be time to formalize your quality and cost assessments and ensure they are ongoing and sustainable, which brings us to the fourth pillar: quality at delivery.

At this point in constructing your content strategy, you have begun using the same language, instituted quality at source, and most of your domains are using the same processes and systems.

Congratulations!

For ensuring quality at delivery, have you considered using MT to convert translated content back to English for comparison with the original source content?

This innovative process has proven to be a huge quality and schedule compression breakthrough, as it allows expedited review by non-native speakers to flag questionable content for experts to reconcile.

Technology has evolved to a point where a hybrid language quality assurance process is now within reach.

It’s being constructed with a human linguistic review of critical content to capture error data while training AI and customizing MT engines.

The AI is learning to execute automated error flagging, text correction, and assign exception handling for further human review when necessary.

Soon this method could replace in-country review entirely, once your custom MT engine is efficient and mature.

Until we reach that point in technology, how do you manage this massive construction project and who should handle this workflow?

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Centralization - Pillar Five: Hire the Right Crew

Pillar Five: Hire the Right Crew

The fifth pillar is hiring the right crew. Though fifth, this pillar could rival for first place, but it’s important to have a clear sense of the magnitude of what these teams are being asked to build and manage before you hire them. 

Constructing a successful centralized process requires skilled architects and builders because it can be a lot of work and to manage all of this requires the right team of talent.

First, consider hiring technical writers with the proper education and experience to distill complex product information into helpful guidance for your customers. Then ensure that your tech writers liaise with your software teams to aid in writing on-screen messages to avoid the unnecessary and erroneous coining of new terms and that all customer-facing software content can be understood and used by your intended audience.

Gather input from the various disciplines creating your products. Your engineers, designers, and/or programmers should be sharing their feedback with your terminology team and technical writing team.

It’s critical that your content creation doesn’t occur in a vacuum and that organizational buy-in exists for the terminology to be used.

Your workflows should be overseen by internal localization project managers and real subject matter experts with the experience, education, and drive to create continuous process improvement.

They are vital in managing the bi-directional informational flow with your vendor to help deliver quality translations to your customers.

It’s also critical that your localization team is part of the source content creation discussion because they can offer expert guidance on what is easily translatable versus what isn’t.

They can also help you avoid English-centric idioms that are not only difficult to translate but can be embarrassing when rendered in another language.

Don’t forget to include your executive staff in your crew. Are you keeping them updated as you build your case and show metrics from your pillar building? After all, they are the ones holding the purse strings, and they should know what the budget is being spent on and the content pipelines and schedules you’ve established. 

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Centralization - Pillar Six: Change the Blueprint When Required

Pillar Six: Change the Blueprint When Required

The final pillar: change the blueprint when required.

As the saying goes, “Manage change, or it will manage you.” 

The life science landscape is in a constant state of upheaval. Every time you turn around, it seems there are language additions driven by new regional requirements, or industry-wide regulation changes, of which MDR and IVDR for the European Union are just the latest.

Your process must continue to evolve to meet these changes, and this pillar gives you the tools to help with that.

Here are some things to consider:

Automation

Try to hasten whatever can be expedited through software, AI, and other automation tools, leaving room for humans to do what they do best with content: create, edit and assess.

Machine Translation

While an innovative addition to the translation and localization industry, this technology continues to be met with resistance by many life science companies. But the rapid improvement in MT makes it a clear competitive advantage and game changer that cannot be ignored. Be sure to design a good pilot project with suitable MT engines and gather all the data you can to make your case.

Maybe begin with something not directly customer-facing for Proof of Concept, get some wins, and keep moving toward the goal of MT with human post edit for more critical content.

It will ultimately save you time and money; the execs will like that.

The Takeaway

In the final construction of your program, all pillars are necessary to bear the weight of the daily process. If one collapses or is never built, you’ll be left with the ruins of what might have been a great process.

The Parthenon is one of the most incredible structures ever constructed in the history of the world, yet the grounds of the Acropolis are also strewn with the ruins of many structures that couldn’t stand the test of time.

We live in times of rapid and constant change.

To meet the challenge, it’s essential to build coherent and shared processes that can adapt to this ever-changing landscape and stand the test of time.

If you’d like to a take a deeper dive into the Six Pillars of Centralization, check out the full video playlist.

If you are interested in building a successful content strategy for your organization, our team of specialists at Argos can help. Check out our Creative Services to see if one or more of our portfolio offers aligns with what you need. Reach out today. We’re standing by.

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