Digital transformation has the potential to accelerate the standards development process by increasing efficiency, enabling collaboration, and delivering more value with less effort. It can also evolve the overall experience for members and users of standards which opens the door for new revenue opportunities for the societies and organizations that produce them.
To get a better understanding of how digital transformation affects standards publishers and Standards Development Organizations (SDOs), we recently spoke with Renee Swank, Senior Director, Sales, at CCC. Renee has more than 25 years of experience in content and knowledge management.
To start, how would you define “digital transformation”?
RS: The best definition I have found is from an article in Forbes that explained it this way:
“Beyond simply bringing in new technology or increasing efficiency, it means “new ways of solving problems, of creating unique experiences for customers and employees, and of accelerating business performance.”
To me in the publishing world, this means leveraging technology to bring new user experiences to consumers of content and transforming editorial processes to deliver that.
Why is digital transformation important for standards publishers and SDOs?
RS: There are many reasons. Most standards publishers have reached at least the first milestone: publishing their formerly-paper-only products to PDF as a digital format. However, this is just “paper behind glass.” Users are demanding more from their digital content. They usually do not read a standard from start to end. They want to quickly find specific information or answers buried deep inside. They want features such as personalized content, versioning, searchable content, collaboration, and links to supplemental material, like videos, articles, training, or related standards. Internally to the publishers, standards editors are looking for ways to publish faster updates, reuse the content, and create derivative products. For most, print is not going away, so they need to efficiently deliver content to multiple formats from a single source of truth.
What do standards publishers need to consider when undergoing digital transformation?
RS: Experts at CCC, including me, have worked with many organizations on their digital transformation initiatives. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. We’ve found that successful transformations consider these four major components:
- Content – SDOs should consider how to achieve maximum agility for their standards content. For example, standards are usually highly structured documents, so granular XML-based authoring often makes sense. This can support reuse and multi-channel publishing (print and digital) from a single source. Also, any digital transformation of content should likely needs an overhaul and re-architecture of metadata to support internal and external needs.
- Processes – Digital transformation will have big impacts on editorial and production processes for standards. If it doesn’t, you have to question whether it’s truly a transformation. SDOs should consider how they can evolve their processes to support modular editing, implement automation, and leverage digital collaboration.
- Technology and tools – We usually think of technology as enabling, but certain tools can hinder an SDO from being able move forward with digital transformation. For example, many SDOs are still using Microsoft Word, a tool not designed for this purpose and that makes reuse and reviews of long, linear standards documents difficult. SDOs must embrace technologies that can help them to transform their processes, including things like cloud-based Content Management System (CMS), XML authoring, triplestore, entity extraction, rights management, and Business Process Management (BPM) … just to name a few
- People – An important aspect to digital transformation is change management of people, including training internal editorial and production staff on new processes and tools. Standards publishers also need to consider the impacts on external users, such as volunteers that contribute to the review and editing of content.
While selecting the right technology is an important part of the journey, ultimately, it’s the people and processes that will determine lasting change and the success of a digital transformation program.
Who is responsible for facilitating digital transformation within standards publishers and SDOs?
RS: Digital transformation leaders should be responsible for setting the vision within a standards publisher or an SDO. However, when we at CCC come to assist, we engage multiple stakeholders within the organization in order to ensure the smooth and efficient adoption of new digital processes.
What are some of the potential hazards of digital transformation for standards development?
RS: As I mentioned before, technology alone is not the only answer. I wish I could say that all you need to do is buy some software and you can achieve digital transformation overnight. But it takes people to drive and embrace change, it takes process re-engineering and, for publishers, it takes a fundamental overhaul to your content architecture.
What would you say is the ultimate goal for digital transformation within standards organizations?
RS: There are a few examples of some exciting capabilities that standards organizations are working towards. Some interesting ones include standards that are built into equipment or integrated into systems, standards content that allows other content to be correlated to it for compliance and, of course, standards that are already heavily linked with related and video content.
In your opinion, what is next for standards?
RS: For me, the ultimate goal for digital transformation is to achieve “content agility.” For standards publishers, that means they have the ability to reuse their content however they want, update content whenever they want, and push out changes to whatever platform they want. For users of standards, that means that they can easily find the answers they need.