How to Save Time and Money with Content Operations

Our goal as organizations should be to use our content to drive value for our customers. When we study Content Operations, we are examining the activity that monitors, manages and guides the entire content lifecycle. We must ensure that our customer experiences are able to be powered by our content assets.

Content Operations systematizes the functions of:
  • Planning
  • Policy
  • Process
  • Analysis
  • Quality
  • Team support

Content Ops ensures that these processes are functioning properly. Creating a conscious, proactive process rather than reacting to content problems seems the logical solution, but many companies are not yet doing this. 

Some of the things to look for with operations are replicability, consistency, and quality. You have to look upstream from the symptom to make sure that you’re solving the problem. 
  • Adjust: if the process isn’t working, change the process.
  • Make it flow: process is intended to facilitate the work, not hinder the work.
  • Optimize: it’s normal for processes to need continuous improvement.
  • Look at the big picture: we need perspective to find systemic issues and solutions.

Sometimes, a good start is to simply become aware that a process is already happening, even if it isn’t well-developed, and document that process. If no one is responsible for looking for the problems, there’s no way to fix them. Help ensure that there is accountability for the process itself. 

Go to the source of the problems

Don’t wait until problems occur downstream in your content lifecycle. Determine where the root of the cause lies, where and when in the content creation process. Connect with the experts at [A] and take the first step with an operations health check. 

A good example is found in localization. For instance, when putting text within graphics, the number of assets that must be localized expands exponentially. A lack of efficient QA processes to detect problems early before localization will lead to multiplied instances of assets that need correction. 

Moving to structured authoring to publish can save up to 50% of your localization costs, because you no longer have to manually desktop publish or engineer every language and situation.

The interior of any process is subject to external influences. No process, like localization, is monolithic. Those connections between the internals in this process and the externalities need to be examined in order to make sure that hand-offs are as clean and automated as possible. For any given process there are often multiple inputs, but we don’t know where those multiple inputs come from, the individual processes can get disorganized very quickly. 

The key to a problem usually starts further upstream from where the symptoms occur. When you look far enough, what seemed to be a very difficult thing to solve may actually be quite simple. Sometimes as simple as changing a template to better support global expectations, or automating functions that machines can do more efficiently than people. 

Content Karma: the law of unintended consequences 

It's happened to all of us: you fix one thing and then break six more.

A perfect example is purchasing new software without enough careful thought as to whether that solution is appropriate. Often, the result is software customization and plug-in additions that then have to be maintained and make upgrades very difficult. We’ve all run across companies who are several versions behind in a specific software because they are afraid to upgrade and break all of the customization.

Customization vs. configuration: customizing is building software add-ons to force that software to achieve a new goal. Configuring is utilizing the inherent capabilities of the system to optimize it for a particular use. 

How to fix it?

Try to take a pattern-based approach to resolution. Sharing the underlying set of structural or semantic standards helps teams that are working across a busy supply chain have some common references to allow them to interoperate. That helps alleviate some of those unintended consequences. If teams are sharing similar patterns, it's much easier for them to work well together, rather than discovering issues as they pass from one stage to the next. 

In summary:

  • Make a diagnosis: Take the time to characterize the problem to come up with potential solutions before acquiring new tools.
  • Implement supportive technology: Set up tools to bring your teams together, not separate them into silos with content creators working in different platforms.
  • IT and Stakeholders should work in hand: Partners need to get involved and take business-driven decisions around the use of the content assets.

Tools won’t provide a “silver bullet”

Be careful not to get distracted by the latest cool, new tool, and expect it to solve all of your problems. When you transition to a new technology, all of those people and processes that have caused problems come to the surface. Issues within teams and processes are often exacerbated by the attempt to make a change. 

There’s a lot of inertia behind making a digital transformation, and if you don’t bring the people along, if you don’t have mature processes, you won’t be successful in implementing that technology. 

We have a tendency to work on projects within an enterprise, and reach a point with technology implementation where we consider it “done.” However, there needs to be a process for catching and managing changes over time… a dedicated Content Operations function. There needs to be an owner to help manage changes, as  innovations happen across the content lifecycle and the content supply chain that supports it. 

Looking for assistance on Content Operation initiatives? [A] can meet you on your timeline, scale, and budget. Find the solutions that best serves team and organization, reach out today

Minimizing the problem

Lack of continuous analysis can lead to oversights and problem minimization. If you don’t spend enough time diagnosing the problem and characterizing it properly, this can really sting you. 

Here's how [A] does it right: 
  • Attitude of excellence: Set standards and goals and pay closer attention to detail. Provide a space for people to recognize, report issues and be recognized for their diligence. The ability to document failures and establish corrective action in content transformation is as critical as QA processes for bugs in software. Team needs tools to diagnose and document problems, then implement a corrective action in a visible way. The corrective fixes should be systemized so that problems don’t reoccur.
  • Learn and adjust: Do not assume you know it all. Resisting change won’t help you to improve or move forward.
  • Dedicate time to QA processes: Measure the success of teams and processes to decrease further mistakes.

Are some or all of these problems sounding all too familiar? Check out our resources and talk to us today about a Content Operations audit. 

Neglecting people and training

When you initiate major digital transformation projects, and you don’t bring the people along with training and support, it's like expecting someone to drive industrial transport with no license. Without training, you are setting your team and your organization up for very expensive system failure. 

Changes to management and staff training are key for successful digital transformation. Make it “sticky.” Make training and procedures memorable and easy for the people who use it day-to-day. There is significant effect downstream, both in terms of revenue and customer experience. Training must be timely and oriented properly towards a specific audience.

Content Operations isn’t just a “nice to have” feature, it is a key driver in the overall profit and loss of an organization. It drives a significant portion of the portfolio of customer experience. 

Don’t start without an established baseline

Sadly, teams often just dive in and attempt to start a transformation without creating a baseline. In the eyes of upper management, “if you can’t measure it, it didn’t happen.” How do you know you have improved, if you didn’t measure? How can you show major changes to upper management? Management only cares about the overall costs. 

A baseline with measured metrics is critical to the long term business case for digital transformation. 

Make sure you are measuring the right thing - It’s a good idea to have multiple metrics so you can dive below the level of the data and figure out what it is that data really means. Lack of data-points causes initiative to get shelved. 

You need to be able to share metrics and persuade management that your content operations have a high ROI. 

Example, pharmaceutical company: At a large pharmaceutical organization, it can be clearly demonstrated that the velocity to create campaign pieces for multiple products and markets was unacceptably slow, inhibiting the performance of the sales and market of the business, as well as the regulatory risk. Therefore, after reviewing a broad-based transformation approach, this client decided to narrow in on some very specific velocity and capability improvements that could be measured in terms of time to market, numbers of steps involved in the process, and the ability to meet specific capability objectives set out by management.

Guidelines for establishing successful baselines: 
  • Define clear metrics: Keep metrics understandable to recognize the story behind the numbers.
  • Share the results: Share successes and discuss problems.
  • Strive for continuous improvement: Review metrics periodically to identify areas of opportunity.

Neglecting governance or process

A big risk for Content Operations is neglecting the governance or process of maintaining the content life cycle. Many companies are great at creating content, but not at retiring content after it has fulfilled its mission. 

If the process that produces the content itself is misaligned, it incurs a lot of cost. For example, a major airline had a discrepancy in the maintenance manuals. One version indicated inspections every 6 weeks, while another manual said 6 months. The FAA grounded the airlines fleet of this model of aircraft until the correct version was confirmed and documentation was reconciled. 

The cost of doing it wrong:
  • Regulatory risk and exposure
  • Team frustrations and lack of motivation
  • Unclear responsibilities and process
  • Regulatory compliance and  fines
  • Brand dilution
  • Duplication of effort
  • Lack of reuse 
  • Inconsistencies across quality

How to do it right:
  • Engagement matters: Executives must help the organization to engage with stakeholders and employees
  • Organizational alignment: Ensure all resources enable you to align your goals and set priorities for success 
  • Transparency and accountability: Clarify individual responsibilities and organizational expectations of executives 

The role of metadata

It is critical to understand the content structure, including the metadata fields that need to be accounted for at a system-wide level. These include content governance, regulatory compliance, age and retirement.

Metadata associated with usage helps to create an intelligent set of content that is accruing knowledge as to how it is being used. Such metadata gives everyone a handle on the content so they can assess the content assets at a lifecycle level, at an age level, and at a regulatory compliance level.

All this can be done through a Content Operations function. If there is no Content Operations, content never gets shared properly through the content lifecycle.

First steps towards Content Operations

  1. Define and value: Define how content operations supports the value of content and CX, and how you perform day to day buisness of acquiring content. If processes are broken, you need to know that before you start. Then, you can build a content supply change that is complete and effective. 
  2. Map and survey: Assess the content supply chain and organizational structure, with metrics.
  3. Envision and architect: Begin to envision the Content Orchestration Model and the supply chain architecture.

This article is inspired by the webinar “7 Ways to Avoid the Biggest Failures in Content Operations” with Kit Brown-Hoekstra and Cruce Saunders. Click here to watch the full recording.

Further Resources

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[A] Expertise
Content Operations