Assessing the situation


With the exception of (very) early-stage startups, most companies already have content and content development processes. A thorough assessment of these information products is in order to ensure that you can avoid repeating any mistakes made in the past. It is also helpful to understand the gap between the strategy you need and the strategy currently in place. The burden of converting existing content over to a new system may affect your choices.

At a minimum, you need to examine the following:

  • Existing information products
  • Information development process
  • Output requirements (old and new)
  • Reuse opportunities
What you discover will help you determine the best way to support the identified business goals. The goal of this assessment is to develop a set of requirements for your content process. Those requirements help you determine which tools and technologies best address your situation.


An incremental approach is usually more feasible and less risky than discarding all existing content and starting over. However, if the existing content is spectacularly bad, starting over can be less expensive than attempting a rewrite. Signs that your organization might be a candidate for the scorched earth option include the following:

  • Extremely outdated tools (WordPerfect, anyone?), which indicate that nobody has given the content development process any attention in at least a decade.
  • Information products that do not have a clear purpose or audience, such as a user guide that alternates between beginner content and deep technical content.
  • Incoherent instructions, such as procedures with dozens of steps or instructions embedded in paragraphs (rather than steps).
  • Terrible writing with poor grammar, run-on sentences, and bad word choice, usually in a single sentence.
  • Repetitive, mind-numbing details instead of useful technical information.



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