When I got my start as a technical writer back in the day, technical manuals and other corporate documents were judged by their size and weight — literally, the space they consumed on the bookshelf behind a manager's desk. During later years, electronic formats like Adobe Acrobat PDF and Microsoft Word .doc files became the formats of choice. Readers could print them only if needed. Now, the influx of tablets is going to bring about another change with how corporations publish and distribute their content.
If tablets are becoming more a part of your corporate enterprise, it's probably time that your organization rethinks how it publishes and distributes content internally, whether it be documentation, policies and procedures, or other corporate communications materials.
Rethink your publishing model
Your corporate document publishing can run the gamut of formalities, but once you start publishing content to tablets, you're facing a new set of expectations spurred on by the popularity of the devices, especially when it comes to access and security. Outside of just the portability, document publishing to tablets could take advantage of end-to-end security and other features, depending on the systems an organization implements. Here are three models for publishing to tablets:
- Passive: Not much of a change from pre-tablet times, the hallmark of a passive publishing model is uploading print documents to a web server and linking to them. A tablet user just needs to tap on the link, download the document to their tablet, and open it with their favorite PDF reader or Office suite. There's little or no security governing the tablet's connection to the server where the document resides, so it's probably time to upgrade to a CMS or rights management server if you're doubling down on publishing to tablets.
- Active: An active publishing model also takes advantage of a CMS to manage the updating and publishing of content. Rights management servers can also play a part in an active publishing model to ensure that when tablet users access a document online, they're reading the most current version.
- Secure: A secure publishing model relies on rights management servers (like Adobe LiveCycle Server), a CMS, and a secure network to publish proprietary documents that often times shouldn't be read outside of an organization.
Modify your review processes
Even in a computer-driven world, there are still some folks who print out documents so they can review them. Tablet-based reviewing of PDFs can offer the same portability of paper but with the security of electronic editing with the help of PDF annotation apps like GoReader and iAnnotate PDF.
If your organization has an active or secure publishing model, a right management server can help secure and provide a workflow for your document reviewing processes, which can be a valuable layer of security and management, especially in industries that have to adhere to a compliance program.
Make alterations to your current document publishing processes
Accommodating tablets into your organization could potentially mean altering your current publishing processes to ensure that your documents are tablet friendly. Some potential alterations you may want to explore are:
- Make tablet-friendly formats a mandatory output for your print publishing tools. Popular desktop publishing tools, such as Adobe InDesign and the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite, include output settings for the iPad — and other popular tools are coming to the tablet publishing party.
- If Adobe Acrobat becomes a format of choice, then it's time to become Adobe Acrobat PDF power users so any document you publish takes advantage of Acrobat's output, navigation, and security features. Adding additional features to your PDF output can potentially add time to your production schedule.
- Adjust your publications production workflow to accommodate tablet-friendly formats, including static images, PDF files (which are hard to make interactive), and native text engines like iOS Core Text, HTML, and ePub (there are plenty of options for interactive documents). New formats can mean more time to your production schedule and potential alterations to your existing distribution channels.
Lastly, beta test your new formats up front with a limited group of vocal testers with varying levels of tablet experience, so you can knock out any issues prior to a wider distribution of your content.
Make time to market your new publishing formats
While your publications staff and designers can work wonders with putting your corporate content into new formats like eBooks, HTML, and iOS Core Text, don't forget to market the availability of the new formats to your readers through your normal communications channels.
Corporate publishing in a tablet world
As tablets move up the list of publishing priorities, invest in the upfront analysis to ensure that your content publishing and distribution to the influx of tablets in your corporate enterprises goes off seamlessly with the right mix of publishing tools, new/modified infrastructure, and content formats.
Will Kelly is a freelance technical writer and analyst currently focusing on enterprise mobility, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), and the consumerization of IT. He has also written about cloud computing, Big Data, virtualization, project management applications, Google Apps, Microsoft technologies, and online collaboration for TechRepublic and other sites. Will also works as a contract technical writer for clients in the Washington, DC area and nationwide. Follow Will on Twitter: @willkelly.