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What Makes Content Actionable?

We have written about the idea of content that is critical to business process before, such as the content that is intimately tied to eCommerce (see here and here). Forrester Research, as well as Gilbane colleagues Mary Laplante and Bill Zoellick like the term “transactional content,” and Bill and Mary have offered the following helpful definition in the past:
Transactional content can be defined as shared information that drives business-to-business processes. It is the content that flows through the commerce chain, initiating and automating processes such as procurement, order management, supply chain planning, and product support. Transactional content is shared in the sense that it is exchanged among partners, suppliers, customers and distributors who each can contribute to it.
Gilbane colleague David Guenette and I have grappled in the past with ‘actionable content” as a preferred term. We keep thinking that transactional is just too narrowly suggestive of the financial transaction that takes place when something is finally purchased. Instead, we argue, there are many, many steps leading up to the financial transaction where content can support a series of actions. Looking at the industrial buying process in the recent past, I see this idea of a series of actions making more and more sense. More complex buying doesn’t happen in one single transaction. A prospective buyer needs to first search for information, find it, review what he or she has found, perhaps download more detailed information, evaluate what he or she has learned, query for more information, and so on. Each ot these are actions, and content drives each one.
In industrial buying, the particular actions around content can be complex–reviewing technical specifications, downloading and using CAD drawings, and even configuring the content and CAD drawings prior to downloading them. This kind of content and this kind of parameterization of content is increasingly available on the Web. For example, look at the detailed information one motor company, Oriental Motors, provides for one of its thousands of available products. This page includes specifications, photos, dimensional images, connection diagrams, and both two-dimensional and three-dimensional CAD drawings. Users can view all of this information and then download, for example, CAD drawings in one of several formats, depending on what CAD package they are using. Once downloaded, these drawings can be more closely analyzed, and can even be inserted directly into active designs.
Has a transaction taken place yet? It could be argued both ways, I guess. Whatever the terminology, however, a great deal has happened. The engineer has learned a great deal. The company has been able to share their product information. The design of a new product has been furthered by the engineer downloading the drawing. Research tells us that a drawing inserted in this way usually results in the product being sourced when the design goes to manufacturing. Actionable or transactional? Either way, it’s good news for the company that has deployed their content to the Web in such a usable, flexible manner.
I will have some more thoughts on this in the next couple of days.

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