Step 6: Create reusable information
If you visit the Information Mapping offices, in our hallways you’ll see several big blue bins. They’re usually full of paper that’s waiting to be picked up for recycling. You probably have similar bins in your offices, since nowadays most organizations are doing their best to be good corporate citizens. Many of us recycle glass, plastic and metal at home, as well. Recycling these materials represents cost-effective and efficient use of resources.
Reusing the content of your compliance-related documentation can be cost-effective and efficient, too. Once you’ve invested the time and effort to develop a specific unit of content, it makes sense for you to use that content again in other situations where it’s needed. Reuse helps you avoid the inefficiencies of having to “re-invent the wheel,” and ensures that content remains consistent across the enterprise, reducing risk of non-compliance. We’re concluding our series of 6 Steps to Better Compliance Documentation with Step 6, Creating Reusable Information.
Reusable information helps ensure compliance
Let’s say that you’ve just finished writing an explanation of the key concepts of compliance with the Anti-Money Laundering Act (AML). It’s very likely that this content will be relevant to several areas within your organization, including Training, Customer Service, Security, and IT. Why incur the costs and inefficiencies of having other writers create their own content? Why expose your organization to the possibility that employees could find themselves working with inconsistent and perhaps non-compliant interpretations of the AML? It’s much more effective—and less risky—to find ways to repurpose your content for use everywhere it’s needed.
The key to reusable information: small, modular units
To ensure ease of reuse, it’s important to create your content in small, modular units. You really should be doing this anyway, because it offers several advantages.
- Small, well-defined modules of information are easier for users to find and easier to remember.
- Keeping modules small aids comprehension.
- Modularization significantly reduces the time it takes to revise and update documents.
- You can give your documents logical and hierarchical structure by grouping modules together into meaningful topics.
- A modular approach helps you “pre-engineer” content for deployment in a CMS, by minimizing problems associated with tagging, storage and retrieval.
Tips for creating reusable modules of information
Think of the modules as “building blocks” that can be reused to assemble other documents. If you’ve been following our previous blog posts, you know that as you create your modules it’s important to categorize your content by information type and make sure that it’s clear and understandable from your audience’s perspective. Be consistent in giving the same structure to modules that contain the same types of information, and avoid jumbling information types together. Remember to use terms that your audience will recognize.
Questions to keep in mind
As you begin to create reusable information, ask these questions:
- Have you clearly defined terms, acronyms and abbreviations and are you applying them consistently?
- Are you presenting different types of information in consistent formats?
- Are you creating a label for each module that will help users who are scanning for information to find what they’re looking for?
- Can the modules you create easily be reused for different purposes?
This post concludes our series of 6 Steps to Better Compliance Documentation. We have more information about compliance issues to share with you, though. Check in with us again soon.