While the trend in recent years has been to focus on the cloud, a majority of companies still maintain their own data centers or a combination of their own supplanted with a portion of cloud space/storage.

Years’ worth of content resides in these data centers, as well as older content that continues in printed forms only. The increasing ease of finding and sharing digital content creates more opportunities than ever to grow and expand business—by digitizing assets that might have previously been published, stored, and forgotten.

Today’s businesses must reinvent their content with digital assets that align with trends in their industries, that are accessible by evolving technologies, and meet customer expectations, all at a record pace. Can you keep your organization current and reach the full potential that data centers still offer?

Yes you can, and while starting your digitization effort may appear daunting, these guidelines can support you as you move from inception to production, to quality assurance, to published assets.

Determine the Potential Value in Digitizing

Before you implement a content digitization strategy to convert assets, you need to know why it matters. Only then will you be able to present a business case to management. You know you’ll face the same kind of constraints as other companies, including insufficient budgets to support content conversion efforts, a lack of internal resources who can analyze and map content effectively, and a knowledge deficit regarding conversion technologies and partners that can minimize the costs, challenges, and rework.

To convince the C-Suite on the essential nature of competing in a landscape where others are already succeeding with digitization, you need to share specific goals for converting content into digital assets, reaching current target markets, and expanding revenue channels in a global marketplace. In other words – digitizing old content can help grow your business.

Your organization can realize potential value in digitizing content assets by:

• Making “old content” newly available. There are new revenue streams available from content sometimes created many years ago. Organizations like Harvard Business Review have been reissuing classic collections of articles for many years and reaping new revenue. The Optical Society of America is finding new revenue from articles published in the 1920’s. With electronic distribution and e-book technology making distribution inexpensive, and modern search tools making obscure content finable, there are new opportunities for audiences that didn’t exist before.

• Repurposing content through a robust format like xml into multiple formats that are independent of technologies (which quickly become outdated). These days, digital content is king. The more you have, the bigger your reach can be. If your content is compatible, accessible, searchable and usable (for social or SEO purposes, for instance) you and your brand have a better chance of being seen. It’s all cumulative – when a potential customer looks for your services or products, you need to be there. Think of it as a ‘digital shelf’ (as in a shelf in a grocery). As a customer you can only choose what you see on the shelf.

• Designing future content processes to eliminate the extensive workflows associated with inventory and audit content, and then convert them going forward.

• Meeting vocal customer demands for content to be accessible in multiple media and devices: videos, animations, and narrations, in addition to text-based instructions or static PDFs.

• Automating the content audit and quality assurance processes via partnerships with content conversion specialists that use innovative software tools. Time is money and your time is better spent creating new content rather than manually trying to find, fix or update older content. Leave that last part to the experts that can manage and automate this process for you.

Perform a Thorough Content Audit

Do you know what kind of content you currently have, or the formats you generally publish to? You may be able to transform much of that content into valuable digital assets that are searchable and sharable on the web. But first you have to know what you have in your collections.

A thorough analysis of all content, regardless of format (print or digital), helps you determine the quality, consistency, and ability to reuse or repurpose content into new digital assets.

Tech support logs, user manuals, embedded user assistance, instructor-led training and eLearning materials, videos, mobile applications, product specifications, catalogs, customer profiles, and even newsletters, may contain essential components of your organization’s data history, style and brand.

The audit also reveals components of writing, design, or messages that are unclear or inconsistent, presenting opportunities for improvement before digitizing. Even content that is already in digital formats can be restructured to meet varying audience’s needs, from beginners needing technical instruction to advanced users looking for refreshers.

Manage the Conversion Successfully

Whether you risk taking on a digitization effort on your own, or engage a conversion partner, it is imperative to stay organized, complete tasks successfully, and produce the best content assets available. Here are some strategies.

Prioritize the Digitization Effort

Not all content can or should be converted immediately, so approach the effort to digitize content in logical phases. Essential questions to ask to make the transformation of content into new digital formats more successful include:

  • • What can you transform and distribute quickly?
  • • What do trends in your industry indicate?
  • • What are your customers asking for (or complaining about)?

Add metadata

Rich metadata with keywords and descriptive details improve searchability and customer support with relevant results that link to the most current product release or documentation set. Metadata supports your SEO goals and consistently puts you at the top of search results.

Review early and often

Review the content conversion progress early and often to identify and resolve errors quickly, and to reprioritize if necessary. Your staff can perform spot checks on common errors, and you can implement automation software to perform a majority of the analysis and quality assurance for you.

Fortunately, the automation software is less expensive than it was five years ago, and much more reliable. The accuracy level typically reaches up to 99%, which is often a more than acceptable level of quality. Automation limits the need for manual review and intervention, and experts can help identify automation potential in your conversion process.

Continue to Revisit

As the business landscape increasingly demands more digital options, you should plan to review the needs in your industry and align with what your customers ask for, so that you can meet management expectations for return on investment (ROI).

(About the author: Mark Gross is president and chief executive officer at Data Conversion Laboratory, Inc.)

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