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Managing Content is a Team Sport

Keep an eye on the big picture with project management for content

Managing a content project takes teamwork, because content lives in a much wider world than just the words and pictures that comprise the basic matter of content itself.

Project management traditionally helps move a product or output from inception to completion and delivery. Often, all the inputs to the project are within the control of the project team. Their efforts are able to live within a finite department or function.

Content can be – and often is – produced in a finite, closed-loop way. Applying this closed-loop approach to content results in a linear process that delivers a content artifact, usually in the same static form, manually added across multiple channels. With traditional project management and the dated conception of content as single-form artwork, content becomes a product that is a finite output memorialized into an artifact form. 

To achieve successful omnichannel delivery and relevance for content across multiple consumer types and contexts in today’s market, we need a whole new approach to content project management. 

Teams are finding they must collaborate vertically and horizontally across the enterprise because they need to build content components connected and integrated with the larger ecosystem (of which they are a part). Therefore, smart teams on the leading edge of change are actively implementing an organizational structure that supports content primed to be used as part of intelligent customer experiences, decoupled content that is “customer journey ready”.

As customer interaction and customer journeys change, managers and executives find themselves facing the need to totally change the way they equip and train teams. They are modifying content supply chains, reimagining architectures, and shifting how communications flow internally within the organization. 

Let’s start with why this change is so important, then we’ll cover ways some teams are adapting.

Content never lives in a vacuum

The customer journey can start at almost any touchpoint within an enterprise’s outward-facing content. With honor to Mark Baker, ‘any touchpoint is touchpoint one’. Users move from one customer experience (CX) to another. Customers choose. Customers control. Customers lead.

Customers inherently connect across disciplines and functions within an organization. But, those connections today mostly happen by messy accident. It is time to build content which responds to customer sentiment and intent, based on patterns. 

In order to meet the needs of the full context that customers bring to the content, we need to realize that customer experience is never siloed. We are always bringing customers from one experience to the next. Customers always come FROM somewhere and go TO somewhere else, abandon, or take some action. 

So, we have to look at what context brings to interaction with the content. We need to reexamine the process of building content, treating it as cross-functional, channel-agnostic or channel-ready, and multipurpose. How does our content relate with different producers of an omnichannel publishing stack? Various creative, technical, and strategy stakeholders all contribute to content. Orchestrating even simple customer experiences takes teamwork. The more channels, the more complex the enterprise, the more teamwork and process it takes to manage. Content performs valuable work when primed and ready to do that work. 

In addition, there is a vertical stack to consider. For instance, modular content needs to work with modular design systems and interface patterns. We need to collaborate both horizontally and vertically within an organization to produce content assets that make sense as part of a holistic customer journey.  Successful content projects don't just manage the delivery of a content artifact.  They must manage the delivery of integrated knowledge and customer experiences.  That is, knowledge expressed in content.

[A] recommends that authoring teams also work within the cross-functional content organization that we call the Content Services Organization (CSO).  The CSO helps to connect these horizontal and vertical worlds. 

Horizontally, the CSO can be established to work across functional teams and business units. Vertically, the CSO can work across the whole CX stack: stakeholders, developers, and designers. Modular content needs to work with modular design systems and interface patterns—not just single artifacts. Shared patterns enabled by the CSO create vertical stack alignment, and horizontal functional alignment.

Content lives at the intersection of customer experience, so we need to orient the operations of that content at the intersections, making sure that knowledge is able to flow into content assets of varying types, and fit into the bigger strategic picture of the organization.

Content supply chain

Content in motion is content that matters. All content ROI emerges from motion: content that flows between producers, humans, or robots. This law of content motion applies internally within content workflows as well as externally, when content is published for consumption within customer experiences.

The path of systems content that moves along during authoring, enrichment, management, and delivery of content is the content supply chain. Everything in a content supply chain is subject to friction as content gets transformed from state to state. The combination of automated and manual transformation processes in a content supply chain largely dictates the throughput and velocity of that content. Therefore, building content supply chains with intention builds the future of customer experience. 
 
 

Empowering collaboration via Content Services Organization (CSO)

[A] proposes a new solution: within the context of a Content Orchestration Model (COM), form a chartered Content Services Organization (CSO) and empower it with durable leadership in the form of three major practices: Content Strategy, Content Engineering, and Content Operations.

As the demand for more relevant content interactions across platforms grows by the day, publishers are moving toward producing much smaller units of content that can be recombined. Accomplishing this environment of content intelligence, [A] believes, involves these three separate practices:

Content Strategy

Content Strategy organizes the vision for customer experience and establishes the business justification for investments to be made in improving how content is handled. This involves defining the necessary metrics that will be used to measure progress against the plan. 

Content Engineering

Content Engineering makes sure that correct practices, platforms, and technologies are in place to take the Content Strategy from a plan to a technically realized reality as a resource to development teams. Content engineers hold the keys that unlock the gates that both separate very talented, and often isolated, members of a content team, as well as the full potential of what the team can accomplish.

Content Operations

Content Operations performs the day-to-day business of acquiring, managing, and leveraging content. Content Operations facilitates the interactions throughout the content supply chain, implements systems that meet strategic goals, and manages all content production workflows that take place when applying content structural and semantic standards to governance frameworks. These standards include the Core Content Model® and centralized semantic annotation, terminology, and tagging standards.

The strategic role of Content Operations

Content Operations provides a foundation for the Intelligent Content Experience and has dedicated staff to make sure that all aspects of content coordination work smoothly and are scalable. Improving throughput of content supply chains, Content Operations ensures adherence to an organization’s overall Content Orchestration Model. The Content Orchestration Model lays the groundwork for a new way of working with the knowledge assets within an enterprise. They can become part of an integrated whole, paired in a service-oriented environment with the rest of the enterprise and external partners and customers. It takes real orchestration, and that requires discovery and strategy before it happens. 

Content Operations collaborates with both Content Strategy and Content Engineering to make an organization’s vision real. Working with Content Strategy, Content Ops helps create processes and solutions to best serve business goals. With Engineering, Content Ops ensures the systems and infrastructure support an efficient content supply chain. The ultimate result? Healthy internal rhythms and workflows, and customers rewarded with intuitive and seamless content interactions.

A simple way to understand Content Operations is to think of it as the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the enterprise’s content. Content Operations creates and manages the frameworks that empower Content Strategy to work more seamlessly with Content Engineering. It benefits stakeholders across teams and departments by improving efficiencies and communications.

When the content frameworks and processes function well, teams can be more effective and efficient in their work, which not only saves costs, but also improves time to market, builds customer engagement, and improves the overall customer experience.

A new approach to content project management

Working within the guidance of a CSO, content creators can make content that is modular, intelligent, and primed for self-assembly that responds to customer needs and intent. The goal of self-serviced content is for customers to be presented with the next best step in their decision making process or customer journey. 

Content Operations can ensure that strategy and engineering work together in-synch to ensure a friction-free experience for internal stakeholders and customers alike.  Operations does this through the orchestration of shared patterns (the Core Content Model®, the Core Semantic Modell) across authoring tools, systems, and processes— ensuring content can work as one whole born out of many parts across the organization.

To learn more about the content orchestration model and the Content Services Organization, download the whitepaper or check out the new YouTube series from [A], “The Invisible World of Content”.

For more detailed insights about the Content Services Organization download The [A] Guide to the Content Services Organization available for members of the Content Order.

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Authorship

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.

This column addresses the changing content ecosystem and the evolving dynamics in that space. Questions, suggestions, or feedback? Email editorial@simplea.com.