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Reducing Translation and Authoring Costs by Switching to a Content Reuse Platform

Although it might seem surprising these days that we still need to explain why content reuse platforms are good for business, it never hurts to repeat the well-tested truth.

All businesses seek cost reduction, and that is exactly what content reuse does. It drives down authoring and review time, and publishing and localization cost and effort, while assuring consistency of your content throughout the organization.

If your organization develops more than one product, there is content that can and should be reused. This is especially true for highly regulated industries, such as medical devices, pharmaceuticals or defense systems.

By shortening the authoring and publishing turn-around, you can decrease  time-to-market to help generate revenue.

It’s also worth mentioning that keeping the source materials in an XML database, such as a component content management system, betters your content’s readiness for other outputs such as web, mobile, etc.

Source Content Reuse

Regulatory Messages

Regulatory messages, such as warnings, cautions, disclaimers, etc., are worded in a very specific way and then run by competent authorities for approval. Differences in the language between various products or versions may affect submissions, cause clearance delay, or in other words, inflict additional costs. If all your regulatory-sensitive text is always published from the same source, you have assured the consistency and, quite probably, saved some questions and comments during submission for clearance.

Error Messages and Alerts

Software error messages are usually repeated in the end-user and technical service documentation, so they are the next perfect candidates to be single-sourced. One set of source files, one review, and one translation.

Product Specifications

Product specifications, datasheets and other reference materials should be using the same information being in sync with the product database. It is critical that these materials are consistent, and it is well-known how much additional work (a.k.a. internal cost) there is if they don’t use the same source.

Product and Feature Descriptions

Product and feature descriptions shared between various publications, and even between marketing and technical communication deliverables, save considerable time and effort in content development and prevent the inconsistencies between marketing and development-owned text. The same is true for training and support information.

Localization

The move to a single-sourced, topic-based platform would probably return its implementation costs through localization expense reduction alone. Consider that the share of desktop publishing on your typical translation bill is between 30 and 50 percent. After the files are translated from source into the target language, text formatting and pagination require additional processing that can be massively automated when using a content management solution, hence disappearing from the translation bill.

What Could Go Wrong?

Anything, if you don’t plan but just go head-first.

Content Reuse Difficulties and Teamwork

These problems are never platform-related, but when you start reusing content across a team or workgroup (let alone the entire organization), collaboration between the authors becomes critical. They must use the same style and terminology standards so that the information they produce can be merged without great inconsistencies.

Clearly, your content-reuse platform will not cure process flaws and lack of collaboration, so these need to be addressed before you make the move.

The return on investment in content reuse depends on every player’s commitment and effort. Consider planning, writing up and peer-reviewing clear instructions for topic sharing, ownership, multi-author assignments, and update communications within the team.

Neglecting to establish strong processes may and will result in poor collaboration, power games, and other issues that have negative impact on the ROI. In other words, moving to a topic-based reuse platform without changing the workflows may just move a poor process over to a new playground.

Implementation Cost

Implementation costs vary depending on the number of users, choice of tools, organization policies, etc. It is important to understand your return on investment to make sure that it at least covers the implementation.

When calculating the costs, consider the following factors that increase the implementation cost:

  • Change resistance in the team.
  • Prose-like style in legacy files as opposed to a topic-based approach.
  • Inconsistent legacy files.
  • Complex formatting—the automation of good expensive-looking PDF output.
  • Complex conditioning—the automation of multi-platform publishing.
  • Too many tools, which will have to be integrated to work together.

Formulas

Authoring Cost Reduction

Knowing the number of topics in your system, the time required to write one, and the hourly rate of your writers, you can easily calculate the authoring cost reduction by implementing content reuse. Your reuse percentage will be exactly the authoring budget saving percentage.

Localization Cost Reduction

Localization cost reduction is even easier to calculate. As mentioned above, the DTP charges are rarely lower than 30% of the bill and, on top of that, each reused topic is only translated once.

You do the math. And don’t forget to add the benefit of publishing automation.

 

About the author:

Alex Lik

Alex Lik, founder and Director of A-CLID Ltd., and a certified auditor for various quality systems standards. I’ve been walking this grid since 1992 and it’s a great journey! As a translator, technical communicator, editor, trainer, localization manager or quality auditor—making sure that the message gets through has always been the priority. But gradually, the business goal has shifted from “best quality and accuracy,” through “best quality and accuracy in the least possible time,” to “best quality and accuracy in the least possible time and at the lowest cost ever.” I can hear more fun coming our way!

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