How Intelligent is Your Content?

An interview with Ann Rockley

Written by Richard Oppenheim for
Unlimited Priorities and DCLnews Blog

Intelligence has an increasing list of definitions. There is natural, artificial, computer, along with many variations of intelligent as a descriptor – an intelligent question, comment, reply, etc. With the silos of data overflowing and new silo construction happening every day, the evolution of your data into functional content is a key component of intelligent analysis and results.

People and animals have collected, stored, and preserved items throughout history. On the people side, scrolls, books, art work and all things collectible were brought to a central location for protection or hording or just to allow others to view the items. Storage facilities were constructed way before the invention of electricity and the advent of digital data. Today, content is flowing through the conversion of many things to many things digital. There is no indication a pizza will evolve to something digital. You can order, pay for and request delivery of the pizza. Eating it is a different experience. Digitized content can be made accessible for anyone to view whether it is a book, movie, museum masterpiece or do it yourself images and journals.

Transforming content into intelligent content takes more than a magic wand and a few wishes. The content needs to be accessible. Once accessed, the enterprise must construct a capability to assemble various forms of content into usable information.

To shed a bright light on how content can be stored intelligently; I interviewed Ann Rockley, Founder and President of The Rockley Group. For more than 20 years, Rockley has been helping organizations and publishers of all sizes with a well-planned move to useful and usable content publishing strategies through the the use of tagging schemes, such as XML. The flood of content is exploding from every direction. The volume of content is advancing in a steady and forever increasing speed. This growth places strenuous demands within every enterprise whether for profit, not-for-profit or government agency, to create, manage, distribute all forms of content. Ann Rockley states, “We can do so much more than just full-text searching. We’ve gone from documents which are ‘black boxes’ to content which is structurally rich and semantically aware, and is therefore automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable.”

Intelligent content is not just about bigger, faster computer processing. In the last century, we worried about how to store all the paper that was being created. Large companies would buy or build large warehouses with cabinets and shelves to hold the documents that were being created non-stop. Cries of “paperless office” echoed from Wall Street to Main Street.

The computer did help, by creating even more paper to be stored. Accessibility to content is continuously expanding whether through public search engines or private company search applications. Today, companies of every size need to determine how it will store and access content. The right strategy is not about technology alone, it is about “…defining a content experience for your customer that enables them to achieve their goals anywhere, anytime and on any device,” says Ann.

The first step in this process is to understand overall company requirements. The practical issues include figuring out how to integrate the significant volume of already stored data with new data flowing through the input pipeline every second. Digital data needs to be stored with appropriate identification that it can be accessed. With estimates of data creation being measured in zettabytes, each organization will contribute its share to this volume. The good news about evolving technologies is that huge storage facilities are being strategically located around the world with sufficient power, cooling and security. One content area is linked with one or multiple content areas so that overflow, malfunction and other operating requirements can be shifted among the silos as needed.

The business demand for loads of storage is not just a volume measured in gigabytes or terabytes or some other huge number. The key with today’s digital data is that volume requirements fluctuate between peaks and valleys so that if a flood of new data knocks on the warehouse door, more storage space can be provided. This is called scalability. Retail stores experience this flood of more during the end of year holidays. Accountants have this experience during tax season. Ski resorts, Sunbelt states, summer vacations all have these variable data flows.

Ann Rockley advises everyone to recognize just how important it is to have each company build a detailed content strategy. Whether the company is growing or holding steady, tagging, storage, security and retrieval of content is crucial. She states that, “With today’s web based access technologies, computer use is becoming easy and in many cases, even easy to use. With more people gaining access to content, there are many more opportunities for collaboration throughout the personal or business communities.” As long as the computer platforms are constructed correctly, content can expand to whatever level of intelligence that is needed at the moment.

Having a structure for the content does not imply that every bit of data has the same format or application process. There are accounting data, reports, correspondence, manufacturing process control, inventory management and on and on. Data arrives and can be reshaped, recolored and tagged with appropriate XML style coding to create intelligent content. Developing a content strategy starts with knowing and/or learning a few things:

  • What data is currently being collected and where it is being used
  • What people are accessing the content – customers, employees, researchers, etc
  • How can existing content be merged with new structures being created
  • What is needed to enable scalability of content storage areas
  • As data is collected, does the process know the frequency and purpose of individual use
  • Does the content flow through the company work processes in a logical series of steps
  • How will the company establish and maintain appropriate taxonomy definitions
  • How will the company manage the stored content and its accessibility

Development strategies do not begin with a single ‘Aha’ moment. Strategy takes resources, review, input from multiple sources, and creating a structured blueprint for the years ahead. The strategy must have flexibility so that it can be adapted to the potential changes of business operations going forward. Redoing the strategy every year is not just expensive, it can likely be confusing, extremely difficult to complete the change in 12 months and can very likely undo any intelligence slowed or stopped from too many errors resulting from constant change.

The intelligent content structure has to support the capability for individual data components to be tagged so that data can be transformed to content then transformed to information. In addition, systems and procedures have to be implemented that prevent damage from such events as simultaneous updates to individual records.

There is so much more that intelligent content will provide to the organization. There will be faster response time to content questions, improved use of resources, and an increased satisfaction for all current users and the expanding base of future users. In early search days, we used the phrase data mining to locate and retrieve nuggets of data. Mining has matured and companies can now do content mining that provides a lot more nuggets along with the information that can be determined by viewing all of the collected nuggets as a whole.

As Ann Rockley says:

If we have a structure in our content we can manipulate it. … if it is structurally rich we can perform searches or narrow our search to the particular type of information we are interested in.” The focus of intelligent content is to help us improve decision making, perform better and work with more intelligence.


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