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Activating Omnichannel with Content Intelligence

Enterprise brand publishers are building omnichannel organizations in order to engage with customers wherever they are – regardless of platform, device, or media form. Syndicating content from all sources requires intentional planning, focus, disciplines, and a new approach to content supply chains and workflows.

Noz Urbina, founder of the OmnichannelX conference and longtime industry consultant, interviews Cruce Saunders, founder of [A] and a longtime advocate for content engineering and content intelligence practices. Join these two thought leaders in jumping into multichannel, cross-channel, and omnichannel publishing approaches. Learn about the movement towards Content-as-a-Service (CaaS) and headless systems that support voice and other interactions with content beyond “the page”.

Interview Transcript

Noz Urbina
Hello, everybody. My name is Noz Urbina and welcome to the Omnichannel podcast, brought to you by OmnichannelX. I am here today with Cruce Saunders. Cruce is the founder and principal at [A] Content Intelligence consultancy. You can find [A] online at simplea.com. Cruce has spent more than 20 years focused on content technology and content engineering. And today Cruce and the [A] Team work with the largest and most complex enterprise content publishers on Earth, crafting the next generation of content, supply chains and publishing architecture.

[A] publishes articles and videos about how to power omnichannel customer experiences with content intelligence, content engineering, and content operations. And Cruce also hosts the Towards a Smarter World podcast where he connects with global leaders impacting content intelligence. So Cruce and I go back quite a few years now and we're both very passionate about the topics of Omnichannel, content strategy, content engineering, content modeling and how they all fit together. So I'm delighted to present him to you today. Our first time on our podcast, for OmnichannelX.

If you were listening to this before June 2, 2020, this is in the run up to the 2020 conference, which you can check out on OmnichannelX.digital. And if you're new to the podcast, you can check out all our episodes on OmnichannelX.digital/podcast. So Cruce, please introduce yourself to our podcasting audience.

Cruce Saunders
Noz, it's great to connect with you as always. And I am glad to be here. The OmnichannelX Conference and movement that is part of every enterprise dealing with content and the scaling challenges thereof across so many different channels. I think you've done a great job of pulling together all of the threads that help untangle this new world that everybody's walking into with both energy and enthusiasm, and also, a great challenge and concern to figure out how to navigate the landscape. And being a leader in that conversation is a great service to the content community. So thank you, Noz, for that.

Noz Urbina
Wow, thank you. Thank you very much. It's a very exciting role, honestly, and we are very, very happy and proud with the kind of people we've managed to gather. Just last year and this year, we have representatives from Google and Facebook and Cisco, IBM and Forester and all these people who are really excited to be part of it. I think it's because omnichannel is one of those challenges where it's a kind of feeling of finally, finally, we're having this conversation that we really needed to have.

The difference between omnichannel, multichannel, and cross-channel

Noz Urbina
Lots of people have been feeling pressure to take a holistic strategy. I know some people don't like the word holistic, but take the wider view, the integrated view of what's going on with their channels. And I actually use the same metaphor you just did about the threads. I think omnichannel is a tapestry woven of these various experiences that when you sew them all together, then that becomes the picture of what a customer is really experiencing.

And that's a difficult thing for most organizations to do at this point, bring those threads together and really see the big picture. But my question for you, I think first time on your podcasts, we're excited to have you and  someone who is uniquely qualified to maybe answer this question, which is one of the fundamentals that everybody asks. What is, in your opinion, the difference between omnichannel, multichannel and cross-channel, three terms which are all running around out there in the community, which are sometimes thrown around as synonyms? But I'd be interested in your thoughts on how you make those distinctions?

Cruce Saunders
Well, sure. You know, I think anybody dealing with content and publishing has had to interact with at least two channels. It used to be not so much the case. There is generally one web channel and most publishing efforts were focused on the web channel. But now that there are many versions of websites for one enterprise, including landing sites and campaign-oriented sites and subsidiaries and affiliates and partners and employee and internal communication and intranet-oriented websites. All of that is dealing with shared sets of content or they should be shared. But sadly, even within web as a common channel, it's very rare for anybody to be publishing in an integrated way across just various web channels.

But now we've added in all of the other channels that customers are interacting with us in. That's not just mobile services of web applications, but native mobile applications, various kinds of conversational interaction like chat bots and voice interactivity and email automation that has to be coordinated with onsite activity, so we're stitching together behavior across those channels. So that differentiation to me starts with anything that is more than one channel where content needs to be able to produce value in more than one place becomes multichannel. Anything where we're stitching together experiences across those channels.

So we're connecting the user from point X to Y, to Z, all of those connections are across channel, and if we need to pick up the context of the user being on step four of an eight-step reconciliation resolution or purchase process right there halfway through, can we pick them up and continue that process on another channel seamlessly? That's sort of a cross-channel interaction.

And then omnichannel to me really refers to the ability to publish to any destination – so n-channels. Whereas multichannel, I might be interested in moving my content from point to point, in omnichannel I'm interested in making sure our content endpoints out to infinite destinations. And that might look like content as a service, a content API endpoint. It might look like some combination of a streamlined content supply chain with a set of API endpoints. But it is definitely a service-oriented approach to publishing in which any future channel may be added without impacting the overall process of creating, managing and delivering the content.

That is huge because right now for most organizations, when they take that step to omnichannel, what they're doing is they're taking a step to duplicating their efforts. So that duplication happens in the form of staff and systems and process, and that duplication is highly inefficient. So really moving to an omnichannel mindset is moving to an endpoint agnostic, versatile set of content that can facilitate customer experiences regardless of the shape and permutation of the surface that the customer interacts with us upon. –@mrcruce
Whether that is visible surfaces like websites or whether that is voice-driven services which are increasing in the number of touch points with consumers and the amount of mindshare consumers are currently allocating to brands is growing on voice channels all of the time. There's some that say that we will live in a world that will eventually be heavily mediated by voice, even to the tune of greater than 50% of our interactions. 

That, I think, is a long way off from where we are today. But it's not untenable. It's not unseeable. And so moving towards omnichannel is really in many ways moving towards the beautiful, flexible future of knowledge.

Noz Urbina
Thank you. I think that the specificity with your treatment of cross-channel versus multichannel is very interesting. Those two, I think, are quite vague for a lot of people in the sense that you can produce your content in multiple formats or multiple endpoints, but that doesn't mean that they're linked up. And then also, just because they're linked up doesn't mean that you have this flexibility to produce your content on all the end points and link them up.

So it's ability to publish anywhere you want to publish in a connected way. So I think that's a very complete picture. On the voice thing, it's an interesting point there, I tried to Google it while you were talking, but I can't find a statistic. But I read somewhere where Google Maps queries were some enormous proportion now by voice. And this was a couple of years ago, I think it was nearing the 50% or more point. And for me, that was an indicative thing is the number of micro interactions we can have with services today is going to go up and up and up. 

Like simple commands which we can give things in our lives. And you wonder what point will we reach? Just by sheer volume, the greater number of interactions by voice. It's a very interesting question. 

Cruce Saunders
Today, as of the top of this year, 2020, we have about 20% of U.S. adults performing voice search at least once monthly. So that is not inconsequential that voice is already a part of 20% of the population's regular information interaction experience. That will reverse eventually. I think where the Pareto principle will flip and it'll end up being 80-20 in terms of originating queries. 

I think that's a bold prediction, but it is not unsupported in terms of the rate of growth within voice commerce, where grocery shopping already is happening at 20% or more origination from voice based orders for online originated grocery shopping. And there's this expectation that voice-based shopping is going to jump to over $40 billion by 2022. 

So that's a very significant portion of the market. And so there's a large teenage population as well. 55% of teenagers are using voice search daily now. So the teens are doing. Those are our consumers, right? That we're growing into. 

Noz Urbina
They will grow to replace us. So I'm interested in the voice thing. I don't want to go too far down any one channel. As hot as voice is and as interesting as voice is as a challenge, I think the point is that if you can do voice effectively, that's sort of right now the bar in the sense that if you can do voice effectively with your content and your processes, then you can probably integrate whatever other channels we can anticipate at this point, because the voice as a channel is so demanding. 

What’s holding organizations back from delivering omnichannel experiences?

Noz Urbina
But the point is, getting back to the omnichannel discussion is to be ready for whatever these channels are. What do you think is holding back organizations now from doing omnichannel? For being effective in this connected space?

Cruce Saunders
Well, yeah, and that is exactly right. I mean, omnichannel content derives from content that is structured to have multiple modes of interaction from its origin. And so when organizations are designing content, it is with an eye to multiple channels of distribution within the model itself, which then structures the authoring process, which then structures the management and delivery process. 

Today, all of those things are disconnected. The structures that manage any given authoring environment are completely disconnected from the ones that manage any given management environment which are completely different than the ones that manage any given delivery environment. And we are called to get those to work together in order to accomplish omnichannel customer interactions.

So the biggest blocker that we see today is that content is rarely structured independently from a system of record. When it is structured, that structure is tied to a CMS or Martech tool. So the structure that does exist exists as the set of fields in a CMS. So it's in somebody's AEM or Sitecore or Kentico or Ingeniux or Episerver or any platform out there has a structure for representing content. And most structural thinking today is tied into a single representative system.

And those structures don't agree from system to system. So if I do voice as a channel, I'm adding a new channel. I'm splitting the soul of content every time I add a new channel.

Noz Urbina
Let me jump in there, Cruce, and just ask you to back up because we throw the word, in certain sub-communities, we throw the word structure around a lot. So for the kind of person who is not used to it because they've never needed to think about content in structural terms, can you give us a little definition of what you mean when you say content structures? 

Cruce Saunders
Sure. So a content structure is any container for the stuff. So if I have words, my words can be different things. So my words could be a title. My words could be a subhead. My words could be an offer. My words could be an offer variation number one for Latin America. If I make an offer, my words could be in different containers. And those containers are like fields, fields in a CMS. Those fields have to be defined. They don't happen by magic. 

And that's the thing I think publishers have to bridge to is that when we're talking about structure, we're talking about the fundamental lingua franca of all customer communication. So it is not an abstract, nerdy thing that just content engineers or people in the back office should know about. It is literally the basis for all customer experience. So we need to get over our allergy to the raw concepts that power customer experience. The other one is taxonomy. Anybody that's allergic to the concept of taxonomy shouldn't be in the marketing business. 

Noz Urbina
And in the content business.

Cruce Saunders
Aggressive, but just exactly. I feel like: it's 2020, We need to get over our allergy to these concepts that are foundational and fundamental to the future. –@mrcruce We have to embrace it.
Noz Urbina
I think that that does definitely go beyond marketing and honestly beyond publishing. One of the things we're trying to do at OmnichannelX is throw our arms around our colleagues that consider themselves not to be in marketing per se. But experienced in design, content design or even the social media channels, content marketers or products. 

People who create product and that product has a content aspect to it, which most do these days, then understanding a little bit of how whatever the experience it is you're creating is how does that map back pre-sales, post sales in adoption? How does that map back to the assets that underpin it and by when I say assets I mean, it makes me sad that I have to clarify. But I mean, the content assets, so the content. How does that support what you're trying to accomplish? 

And I would agree that it's becoming table stakes, kind of referring to the idea that if you took your average CEO in 1970, would they even be able to type? The role of our interaction with new technologies, it changes and there's a point where, as you're saying, you have to go, "Well, tough. It's time now that if you want to be active and in a leadership role in this industry or in this industry being any kind of communications or experience related aspect of business, then you need to participate. And to participate you need to learn the fundamentals."

Cruce Saunders
I totally agree that it's hard, but our progress depends on a focus on the customer and what the customer needs and communicators instinctively understand that. In the era of desktop publishing, the customers moved beyond an era where typesetting was sufficient to serve the customer's needs. And so the customer demanded different levels of speed and interaction and facility with their consumption of digital material. 

And so people who are still tied to typesetting and old school publishing paradigms, it was hard to move to desktop publishing, but it was the right thing to do for the customer. It was the right thing to do for the market. And we're there again. This is it. We're at that junction point and it is the right thing to do for the customer to consider the shape and structure and I'll use another word, the semantics of content. –@mrcruce
[Read more about Structure and Semantics for Context here]

These are the kinds of things that will shape future customer experiences. So as marketers, as communicators, as leaders in an organization, we must go where the customer is going. We cannot tie ourselves into old paradigms and die by them. It makes no sense. It is time to move on. 

Noz Urbina
And I think that where the customer is going, if there's a give and take as each technology is introduced, then you have your adoption cycle. So the customers at the beginning don't have these expectations. But the tide is rising and lifting all the boats extraordinarily quickly now. The customers are seeing the power of personalization. Seamless experience across channels in some aspects of their life. And the minute they've tasted it, they don't want to go back. 

Cruce Saunders
It's so hard. I mean, this is just proven out over and over. You're exactly right. You look at Amazon or Netflix in their categories and the level to which those experiences are effortless versus their peers is significant by major percentages. So it is almost infinitely more efficient to be a Netflix consumer than it was to be a Blockbuster consumer. And nowadays, that analogy is super clear within the realm of e-commerce. 

Amazon has removed the friction and increased the benefits of loyalty and repurchase so much that it's just natural for consuming behavior to flow towards the point of less friction. And that's really what, as we engineer systems, we're doing is engineering for ease of customer interaction, velocity and throughput of the relevant experiences that our customers are seeking within the noise of overwhelming information. 

In this environment where there are too many search results for any given term to possibly interact with and there's too much noise within any vendor category, it is just so easy to get lost. So the highest signal and the most relevance and the easiest, most facile experience is the one as consumers, we naturally gravitate to and I think we know that just by going around interacting with the world ourselves. 

It's a busy world and we try to make it as easy as possible so that our brains can be focused on the creative and rewarding things that we want to do. Not on digging and searching and finding and figuring out some other vendor's world.

Noz Urbina
OK. So I think we've built up the challenge and the reasoning here. So tell me some stories. Out there in the world, what can people do? So you're a listener on this podcast and you're compelled by the idea that you have to do something about this omnichannel challenge. You have to help your organization. You have to restructure your organization. You have to adjust what you're doing in some way. 

What supports an omnichannel workflow?

Noz Urbina
So one of the main things that I think people are struggling with are the way that organizations are simply built. What are the organizational structures in the enterprise that support an omnichannel workflow? Because they're in traditional hierarchy where their objectives roll up into their departmental team leader and their team leader rolls up into their departmental leader and those departments are built around channels. 

There's the social media team, there's the website team, there's the app team. And these are different teams with different KPIs, different schedules where collaboration and integration is given to them as an order, but then it's not supported by the nature of the way that companies are built today. So what have you seen that works? How can we do something about this and work across this gap? 

Cruce Saunders
There's a lot of answer here, but we'll drill it down to some essential precepts. First is the organizational structure changes necessary to facilitate content intelligence that supports omnichannel. And two is the patterns and principles associated with the handling of content sets within that organizational structure. So first on structure of an organization. So just like structuring content is important for multichannel omnichannel output, structuring an organization is important for the creation of those new modular content forms.

We've been producing in a page-driven paradigm and an output-oriented mode for decades. And it is true that our organizations have grown up around a single channel, page-driven, artifact-oriented, single publish environment way of thinking. So it is a big change, really not inconsequential, to evolve towards modular omnichannel content production that is integrated. 

So the thing I think everybody can feel relieved about is even though this stuff is important and it's something we need to tackle in terms of the learning curve, it is not impossible. There is time. There is the ability to do it a step at a time. –@mrcruce Nobody is going to go out of business, as long as there's a progress being made toward new work structures; they're not going to happen overnight. New sponsorship approaches aren't going to happen overnight. 
[A] has done a lot of thinking about this though, about the structure of the organization. We issued a white paper in the last year called the Content Services Organization, which defines these various organizational practices that need to exist, preferably within a cross-functional organization we call the Content Services Organization. It includes several really important functions: content strategy, content engineering and content operations. 

It also includes things like digital policy. As we deal with privacy laws on a global basis, as we deal with a proliferation of regulatory overhead that we're having to deal with. It doesn't make sense to do that either in just the legal department or within an individual functional area. It really needs to be orchestrated. The same thing with content standards, they need to be orchestrated across the organization.

And so we see the content services organization as a cross-functional orchestration layer for content that needs to exist to incorporate these threads that impact multiple parts of the customer experience. –@mrcruce The good news, the very good news is that there are already significant movements across many enterprises towards a role, something like the chief customer officer, chief digital officer, customer experience leaders, CXOs who are, if not C-level executives, are highly, highly empowered cross-functional leaders that are trying to address the portfolio of change that needs to happen.
And they're the ones that are where these CSOs are starting to be formed and created. We've seen it in the wild more than a few times. It's a significant set of dollars and people that have been moving  in this general direction towards organizational facilitation of content sets within very close distance, handshake distance, to the CEO of an organization. And that is the kind of sponsorship and authority needed in order to inspire these changes but it's not enough.

We also have to educate and move the minds of all of the folks who have been building and chiseling pages into creation at a very high speed, more, faster and faster now than ever before and are just super busy and also super tired of the amount of redundancy and inefficiency within publishing. We have to educate from the ground up and lead from the top down. –@mrcruce
And in there lies the difference that we can make for publishing systems and starting to issue new experiences built on more integrated content sets one content domain at a time. The other side of that is patterns. And patterns have everything to do with what we talked about at the top of the show, where there is a need to share an understanding of the structure in an organization. 

There's also a need to share an understanding of semantics or taxonomy or tags within a system, an organization, a knowledge domain. And those tags are absolutely critical to being able to segment content and segment audiences and put those segments into interaction, because otherwise we're just doing one to many publishing across many channels.

But what we really are working toward is one-to-one communication across many channels. And so that maturity takes a while as well, to go from publishing one message out through many channels to publishing variable messaging, targeted messaging out to individual cohorts or even individual people. And that's a longer-term movement but that is the movement towards omnichannel personalization. And so our whole system from the org design and the patterns and processes and shared artifacts that facilitate it has to evolve.

Noz Urbina
I think that the omnichannel personalization is the new thing that everybody wants, it's like the new smartphone. It's like everybody is asking for it. Everywhere I go now, they want to do their channels coherently. They want to be able to deliver on all of them. They want to deliver consistently, but they want to do it in a personalized way. You talked about the organizational structure, but can you give us like a narrative? Do you have any examples beyond the theory, which I think is sound, how do you get from A to B? 

I agree with where B is. It's the progress, that's I think where people are struggling is when they look at themselves, they go, "Well, that's not me. My organization doesn't have that." So what are some steps they can take to get them or what path have you seen a company successfully take to get from that very not be place that they are at A and start kind of walking in the right direction?

Cruce Saunders
Yeah. So in large enterprises, it really is a function of being able to build a peer group of interested parties that are invested in customer experience and bringing that peer group into a shared understanding of the problem and then getting that shared understanding of the problem translated into actionable pilots that can be funded in a super organizational way. 

Noz Urbina
Super organizational? 

Cruce Saunders
Yeah, something like outside of just marketing or outside of just post-sales or outside of just one organization within the enterprise.

Noz Urbina
So getting some pilot off the ground where you've managed to prove that if we invest together, then we're going to get an ROI together. 

Cruce Saunders
Yeah. So we have seen the everybody contributes some budget to an organized function, but we've also seen the everybody contributes to building out a picture of the problem set and the opportunity set. And then works to sell up to the organizational leadership in order to advocate for a shared resource pool. It's hard because if you start this change process in just the office of the CMO, it can be done and it can be effectively done.

But it is being done with a content model that touches just the pre-sales funnel. And ultimately, the effectiveness of integrated customer experience is one in which there is a shared content model and a shared taxonomy, so that the understanding bridges across lines. –@mrcruce I'll also share a story about a mid-market company that we're working with. It's a publisher in a highly regulated industry and insurance.
Noz Urbina
Just to be clear, when you say publisher, you mean like literally a publisher? Like they publish books or something or do you mean an organization who has to publish? 

Cruce Saunders
Well, thank you. Yeah. I think of all enterprises as publishers nowadays and I think of publishing operations within an enterprise as publishing. I think the traditional publishing industry is leading some of the thinking here that will be part of the DNA of every enterprise. I don't think enterprise and publishing will be disconnected ideas. Anybody that thinks they're just in the business of delivering a product is really sorely mistaken. 

Even look at large Fintech organizations or banks or whatever, we had one client say to us, "Our organization", which is one of the largest fintech organizations in the world. They said, "We're basically content and code or code and content. Those are the two things our organization nets out to. We do code really well. We don't do content well." 

And so we look at, hey, the core fundamental value creation of the business nets out to those two things. So we have to do both well, right? You know, but this mid-market company, they do actually have quite a few publications as a part of their value proposition for their clients. Big part of what they do is deliver knowledge. But they had an old school publishing paradigm for decades and decades and decades. 

Organizational Structure Facilitates Content Intelligence

Cruce Saunders
And so we're going through a whole modernization initiative which started with one looking at the content supply chain and coming up with a new picture for how content should work. And then we looked at how the organizational structure should work. And then we looked at how the content model and the sematic model should function within that. 

The org structure in that case, like literally we're doing job descriptions and hunting for the right talent to fill those roles, we're actually doing recruiting and management of the whole lifecycle for them. And they've got a change management process that their existing publishing teams are being mapped into a new content services organization. 

So they went through a whole process of interviewing existing leaders after we went through the whole education process and built a master content model, a master semantic model and built a roadmap to their next generation of publishing. They're actually recruiting and staffing an organization to step into. 

And as of the top of this year, they filled those roles with the exception of the content strategy role, which we're still trying to find the right match for. And the organization is starting to build patterns that are new. So they're building a new way of handling, for example, any kind of rolling out a new structured authoring program, and any changes that the authors need to introduce to that structure go through a process.

They need a new element, because they're used to really just kind of writing in Word and publishing whatever they want to. So now it's like, OK, well, now we need to operate against a set of standards instead of sheet music, so structural containers. That changes things. It's uncomfortable, but it's got huge advantages. So everybody's on board with the advantages and they're willing to go through the pain of figuring out how to do structured authoring and how to type into boxes instead of documents and whatnot.

But they want the flexibility to influence what that output format is. That's a new process, right? So we need to be able to suggest an element that needs to be able to go through a rapid internal lifecycle to be added into the model. And then it needs to impact both the templating of the delivery, right, the presentation, the CSS or the PDF layout, which now has a new element to accommodate. 

And then it needs to impact the authoring environment and that has to be managed. And the content operations side of that CSO is now facilitating that outcome. 

Noz Urbina
Sorry, CSO? 

Cruce Saunders
The Content Services Organization. That's how we get something in to reality, it's get everybody on board with first what the big picture is, where we're headed, and then figure out, okay, well, what is the initial project we're going to work on in this new model? In this case, it's one of their dotcoms. So we're focused on let's get a new dotcom.

So let's get the org structure to support the delivery of this new dotcom in a new way. Let's not repeat the same mistakes we've made through every CMS implementation over the last two decades because everybody's been through four. It's like don't make the same mistake over and over. Let's go ahead and do this next one with a new org structure, a new approach to delivery, which steps up the maturity of the organization as a whole.

Noz Urbina
OK, I think I love it and I hate it. Let me explain. I totally agree that the way we should do it is that the enterprise needs to realize that the market has changed and take on the kind of changes needed to thrive, not just survive, in the new market landscape that we all live in. At the same time, especially because I'm running a conference, I'm trying to think of how can every single person go home and make their world a little bit better?

So at the top end, if you're in a position to really drive change in your organization, which many of our attendees are in the middle and even in senior and executive leadership roles. Then I think that you have to be a champion for change and you have to be going to your fellow leaders and kind of describing that bigger picture that the organization needs to be a part of. 

However, I think anybody at any level can take your advice on how can we pilot something which demonstrates cross departmental collaboration? Use that to be the internal center of excellence. Use that to be the internal thought leaders. Say, "Hey, look, we were disconnected before, these properties were disconnected and now we've brought them together." 

And use that as a demonstrator for starting to bring the rest of the minds in the organization onto this problem together. I really liked what you said about building up the problem statements in a shared way and getting everyone to kind of be looking at that set of problems together and driving that up the management chain. 

The higher up you already are, the easier your time of it. But I think it's important for everybody, no matter where you are in the pecking order or in the food chain to be doing their little bit. Because it's got to come from all directions because it is transformational for the organization. It's a fundamental change in the way that they operate. So everybody needs to do their bit to drag these battleships in a new direction.

Cruce Saunders
The one thing I would caution is that if doing a pilot, don't let it be a tactical project. Let me explain what I mean. Tactical outcomes are useful, necessary, change doesn't happen without them. There tends to be this split in thinking where people are like, if it's strategic, it might be kind of BS. It might just become shelf ware. And they're right. 

If it's just strategic, like if all we did is chart this new course to a brave new world of content and put it on a shelf, it would be absolutely no use to anybody, even if everybody along the way was like, "That sounded good." It doesn't matter unless it becomes real. But at the same time, it is very, very possible. In fact, I think it's the default position to take tactical steps as the only way to progress.

If it's just strategic, if all we did is chart this new course to a brave new world of content and put it on a shelf, it would be absolutely no use to anybody ...  It doesn't matter unless it becomes real. –@mrcruce
And I think that's dangerous as well, or even more so. If the project is seen as a PNL oriented, disposable tactical initiative that is just contained within a quarter or a couple of quarters and is focused on some piece of a single pie, that is not going to ever move the ship. We can talk about it. We can wish it, but it's never going to do it. It's just going to be a really successful little project that you'll get patted on your head by your manager. And that's good. 

But it's so much more than that. You have to make those tactical projects matter. And the only way to do that is to put it in the bigger frame for people and educate where the tactical project fits within a transformation. Because otherwise it's very possible that people will reward your proactive effort within a departmental single quarter, single year context, but it will be isolated and shutdown within that.

The only way that tactical initiative will make a difference is if it is packaged within a strategic frame and sold as a step within a transformation to upper management. They have to see that there's a bigger picture that this is moving towards and they need to understand what that looks like in order to make sure there is an investment strategy that is possible or plausible out of that tactical intervention.

Noz Urbina
I think you mentioned the S word there, which is for me, the most important one, and actually, the most fun one, which is the sale, the internal sale of the idea, which is, I think, fundamental. I've been a content strategist and a content modeler and so on for years and I'm finding that so much of my job now is spent helping with the internal sales pitch. I think that the importance of that is huge.

So it's taking whatever it is you've done. However it is you've proved the point in principle or whatever it is you're asking for support to do. If you want to go omnichannel, then you have to tackle the selling of the problem and solution and really addressing it with research and a good internal strategy of selling that up the value chain. And that's true, even if you're one below the CEO, you've got to sell it to CEO. And if it's that transformative, maybe the CEO has to sell it to the board of directors. 

But even if you're one content creator or if you run a small team, you still have to get your colleagues on board and then collectively get your management on board. And that requires a lot of attention to what are we pitching here? How can we translate that into terms that the executive is going to see as strategic? And how do we properly position this, get ourselves the credibility and get ourselves the authority we need to move it forward?

I think that bit is fundamental. So, I see what you're saying in terms of it can be a boxed in thing, or it can be a time box or within the organization maybe isn't the hugest scope, but you're going to have to sell it up. You're going to have to sell it strategically. You're going to have to make sure that that is presented not as we did a little thing here. Wasn't that great? 

Especially not, wasn't we were more efficient, like we saved money, but we created something better than we've ever created before. And this has the potential to really move the needle if adopted properly.

Cruce Saunders
100%, yeah, totally agree that the challenge in coming from the position of, let's say, a content strategy leader inside of the marketing organization or inside of the product team is that there's sometimes a difficulty at painting the bigger organizational picture within the context of a single silo. So it does help to get friends within the company together, even a friend, right? Just somebody else who can share the vision with you that is not necessarily in your work group. 

And that, I mean, even if it's somebody in IT or it's somebody handles design and interface layer and is dealing with modularity or it's somebody that is interested in how the web channel and the voice channel should work together or something like that. So that way there's the collaboration that comes between those two people thinking together, made even more powerful when you add a third. 

That starts to become really interesting and the brainstorming that comes to fruition from thinking through value propositions and the pilot and the incremental org steps that can be taken in the bigger picture to paint. All of those things can come together in a way that makes it much easier to sell up when you've got colleagues. 

And I will say that in most cultures that is actually encouraged, even if it's not ever stated that that kind of cross-functional participation or collaboration is encouraged. Some cultures don't ever talk about that, but that doesn't mean they don't reward and recognize when good cross-functional collaboration happens. And so the question is, will your manager, or will your director, will your VP support that, reaching out across org lines to create a vision together and then pilot that in some way? 

And there's some tricky sometimes political territory there. But like you said, that's really the only way to move the industry forward is to navigate some of that. Move the company forward, move your department forward is to kind of embrace and navigate some of those politics in order to create a shared conversation. 

Noz Urbina
I think that's a great note to go out on, is find a friend, find someone else that you can start to bridge the gap with, define a scope that you can tackle. And then the big challenge is making sure that you properly contextualize that as something strategic, regardless of where you're from in the organization. 

That coming together around customer experience is going to be strategically better for the organization in the long run and then grow it from there. So I like that image. I thank you very much for your time, Cruce. Thank you to all our listeners. I really had a great time today and hope that you'll be back on the podcast.

As I said, you can check us out on OmnichannelX.digital/podcast. You can check out Cruce on Twitter @mrcruce as well as check him out on LinkedIn and the website for [A] is simplea.com. And I hope to all see you at the next physical event whenever that happens to be for OmnichannelX. So thank you, Cruce, for your time. 

Cruce Saunders
Thanks, Noz. This has been a lot of fun.

Catch up on the OmnichannelX Podcast

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Authorship

Noz Urbina is a globally recognised leader in the field of content strategy and customer experience. He’s well known as a pioneer in customer journey mapping and adaptive content modelling for delivering personalised, contextually relevant content experiences in an omnichannel environment. Noz is co-founder and Programme Director of OmnichannelX


Cruce Saunders is the founder and principal at [A] and author of Content Engineering for a Multi-Channel World. He regularly speaks on omnichannel customer experience, content intelligence, AI, chatbots, personalization, content structural and semantic standards, and intelligence transformation. He also hosts the Towards a Smarter World podcast, where he connects with leaders impacting global intelligence.

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