Adopting Content Engineering Practices Within your Organization

Building a Content Engineering Program

Here at [A] we have learned and proved by direct experience with many customer engagements that a Content Engineer is a major key to success for any complex content-centric project involving content production and software system development.

As organizations are recognizing the need for content engineering, the first step is to build a practice and center of excellence around content engineering skills, disciplines and process. Most organizations will find that building a content engineering discipline best starts at home. Find the raw aptitude internally; train the skills; augment from the outside; and, grow a CE, or multiple CEs. Then start to document and build the practice around those newly minted.

For a deep dive into roles and responsibilities of this key function, after reading this article review Ann Rockley’s highly focused article, Content Engineer: Roles and Responsibilities.

To find a Content Engineer internally, consider staff aptitudes and interests, and introduce the concepts, seeing what resonates. Key candidates will recognize the role immediately, and gravitate to learning more and practicing in the space. The Content Engineer might be found in a business analyst (BA) or marketing analyst, or an experienced web developer that carries strategic and technical perspectives.

Build towards talents able to unravel the complexity of disparate content technologies and strategies. The Content Engineer should become a pivotal component of the Customer Experience Management (CEM) process; working with internal marketing, agency creative and strategy, and platform and implementation partners.

Personalization and a strong customer experience strategy built on adaptive content and responsive design is possible. With help from a content engineer, the implementation team can bridge the integration gap between Content Strategy, content management system planning and platforms, and CEM technologies and initiatives. Content engineers and content strategists are often senior members of the CEM team, but ultimately both should be integrated into the development workflow.

Teams are less likely to succeed where the strategists develop solutions working with business stakeholders exclusively, and then simply issue them to the development teams. Integrating Content Strategists and Content Engineers directly into the development cycle significantly improves project success.

What Skills do Content Engineers Have?

Regardless of where you locate candidates for content engineering, if they are new to this practice, they will need to acquire some of the following essential core disciplines:
  • Model – Content modeling creates a representation of types of content, their elements, attributes, and their interdependent relationships.
  • Metadata – Metadata is content that provides useful, but generally not visible information about other content. Metadata helps applications, authors, and robots use and relate the content in smart ways.
  • Markup – Broadly speaking, markup is everything wrapping content that’s not the content itself. Markup describes and presents content and can include XML and content transformations.
  • Schema – Schema is a form of metadata that provides meaning and relationships to content. Schema often involves published standard vocabularies, such as, for describing concepts with standardized terms. Robots use schema to understand and relate ideas.
  • Taxonomy – A map of related concepts that are applied to content, often as tags. Taxonomy shows content relationships by enabling dynamic collections of content items. It enables and supports features like related content reuse, search, navigation, and personalization.
  • Topology – Topology is the art of developing organizational structures and containers to create coherence across CMS and publishing systems. The focus is on often-overlooked definitions for files, folders, asset-tracking IDs, and other containers that envelope content within systems of record.
  • Graph – Graph architecture and design competencies help to connect various parts of an enterprise content ecosystem and customer data platform. Graphs form node-based relationships between customer states and the modular content needed to deliver fluid, personalized experiences.

Where Does a Content Engineering Program Fit?

Content engineering can fit well into either an agile or waterfall development lifecycle. Because of the tight alignment between strategy and application development, integrating everyone into a single workflow ensures communication and integration of disciplines. For more traditional waterfall cycles, content engineering can be considered a phase following content strategy, and then run concurrent to development.

In general, for agile teams, a Scrum methodology seems to work well. Content Engineers get integrated into daily team standups; they also work against a backlog and tackle work in sprints. They can see their inputs mapped to outputs, and influence ad-hoc decision-making on the part of development teams.

It’s important for organizations contemplating the development of a content engineering practice to understand that content engineering adds significant time and cost up front, but saves a tremendous amount of even more time and cost on the backend. Whichever methodology is chosen, just know that content engineering is iterative and collaborative, and best played as a team sport.

Content Engineering Resources from [A]

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