Technique 5.3: Developing a Content Standard
We have discussed the many benefits of having a simple, single structure for articles rather than having free form text, but how much structure is enough? How do we communicate across the organization so that everyone captures the appropriate information in a predictable format? This is the purpose of the content standard. This formal document or template built into the technology help fields describes decisions made about KCS article structure and content.
Through years of KCS deployments, the collective Consortium experience indicates that about 70-80% of the content standard is the same across large or diverse interaction networks (companies or organizations), while 20-30% of the content standard is tailored to a specific knowledge domain or division or an organization.
A content standard, as the name implies, defines standards for content that promote consistency. The content standard needs to cover a broad set of elements. Here is a list of elements that need to be included in the content standard:
- KCS Article Structure, Definition for Each Field —a list of article fields with definitions for each. Including issue, environment, resolution, cause, and metadata
- Good and Bad Article Examples—the contrast between bad articles and good articles reinforce the concepts and intent behind the field definitions
- Metadata Definitions—a list of the article attributes and the meaning and implications of each as well as how each metadata element is set (automated or manual)
- Article Confidence—as defined in KCS Article State
- Article Audience—who gets to see what as defined in KCS Article State
- Article Governance—mechanism for compliance based articles, defined in KCS Article State
- Templates—if we are using more than one template, a list of templates available and criteria for the use of each as well as directions for filling the fields out in each template
- Style Guide—describes the preferred writing style for articles
- Supporting Material—format and criteria for references and links from articles
- Vocabulary—preferred terms aligned to the audiences' context and level of expertise, voice, standard for environment statements; platforms, product names, releases and versions; supports trademark protection
- Multi-language Considerations—writing guidelines that ease translation effort, promoting International English
- Multimedia Considerations—criteria for deciding what type of content and for what audience is multimedia appropriate
- Quick Reference Guide—one page reference guide with hints and tips on how to write good articles (aligns with the content standard as a whole and especially the Content Standard Checklist). See Appendix E for an example.
The content standard should be developed and owned by the people who use the content everyday: the knowledge workers. The content standard design should be done by a cross-functional team made up of people who will be using it to create KCS articles.
Different groups may use different content standards, but they must be careful to keep enterprise-wide considerations in mind.