Welcome to Towards a Smarter World
. This is your host, Cruce Saunders
and I’m fortunate to be here today with Anna Schlegel
. Anna is a native of Catalonia and a linguist at heart. Today, she's the senior director of information engineering, product portfolio solutions, and globalization strategy at NetApp
and she's been a head of globalization, information and digital presence at companies like VMware
, and Xerox
Anna has also been the CEO and general manager of two bay area globalization agencies. She's also the author of Truly Global
, which just won the number one global markets book. Really remarkable enterprise content leader, architect, technical communications executive, globalization leader with years of innovation and transformation. Anna, thanks for joining us!
Thank you very much.
Tell us about the changing relationship that executives have with content in global organizations and how are those relationships continuing to change today?
I'm going to speak on behalf of the companies that have been working on, which is typically high tech in the silicon valley where the product is everything, the features of the product is everything. And content typically has played a secondary role to the product feature, just as globalization usually is an afterthought or it's not seen as key or crucial. However, I think that's changing and there are some executives, they're thinking about content all the time. For example, a chief marketing officer is very, very concerned about content and what appears and the sentences and the brand and the value of that content, and it's a very dynamic world for marketing executives. I think executives that drive the digital support experience also, but they see very differently. Right?
They see from the support lens, there are few executives that have it as a core goal, for example, for their yearly achievements, but I don't see many other executives, maybe the e-Learning executives, so vice presidents of e-Learning organizations, obviously how content performed and how they explained the products is very, very important. These are typically the champions for content. In our case right now, I’m the person inside of the product business units that’s driving this content strategy
Do you think it's unified around the customer experience? Are the executives most accountable for customer experience? Are those the ones most interested in the content or what is the distinguishing factor between interests versus ignorance of content?
I think if you would interview a C-level or senior VP – vice presidents, ‘is content important?’ I think everybody would say ‘yes.’ Do they have projects and programs to improve the performance of that content or the value of that content? I would say that you will get a lot of blank stares and so that's why it's very important that there are a few champions at that level instead of the company because it is about the customer experience. If you can't find the content, you get upset. If you come to a company with a support problem and you can't find the answer, you get really upset. Right? So yes it could leave, or the strategy could leave in customer experience and if it doesn’t it needs to be very well tied into that.
It reminds me of the content supply chain
dynamic, where there's a huge awareness within the executive ranks that product supply chains and distribution supply chains. All need to be matched with a content supply chain
That's right. Yeah, we see vice presidents of manufacturing and you see the vice president of supply chains, but you don't see the vice president of the content. You see market leaders, you see support leaders but not necessarily from the content angle. And I think the word chief marketing officer didn’t exist a few years back. and if companies are siloed, just looking at support, just looking at e-learning, just looking at marketing, just looking at the product. It's not healthy. You need to unite all of that. But who is that person?
Yeah, who is responsible for the holistic omnichannel cross-functional customer experience? Every one of our clients has that issue. We don’t report to an omnichannel
that ultimate source, so of course we create in verticals.
That's right. I don't know anybody with the title chief content strategies. I think maybe Scott Abel
, I've seen him sign he’s title sometimes as chief content strategies or instigator or whatever. Right?
I don't see think we’re there yet. and I think yes, silos are there, silos are good, but then the enterprise-wide, there are some layers of those silos that need to collaborate and yes, it would be great if companies had a chief content strategy
. Somebody whose only job is to look at all these pieces of content. Are they necessary? Are they following the customer experience? Not just survive, but the support and return and try and renew and reconfigure your products and compare your products and find upgrades, etc. All those things live in very different corners of the company. And so who is that one person that looks across, in our case where we're attempting to do is put a forum that's actually starting to understand this is a problem, but it's also a huge opportunity to delete, unify, cross-link, understand others, etc. So, it's kind of like the journey of empathy around content.
Let's talk about that forum because one of the things we're constantly advocating is this idea of cross-functional conversation, create a community of interest, create a dialogue, create a committee, created a steering group. Ultimately, we'd like to see that in the form of a content services organization that's actually chartered permanent, cross-functional org. But the idea of the forum is remarkable and you've made incredible progress in getting so many stakeholders involved. Can you tell us about the shape and size of the forum at the NetApp
and what it took to get there?
The forum was an idea that we had but we didn't know [if] we could pull [it] off. And so we had to involve everybody in my team. We sat down and we said, ‘is this something we want to try? Is this something that we think we can pull off? Who is going to be not wanting to participate? Who do you think will want to participate? So, once we mapped the stakeholders that we thought needed to be in this forum, we started shopping the forum around. And at the same time we did see a need from the CIO of the company to remove some of the redundant architectures. We have too many content management systems, I think this is a natural for companies that have been around for a while that don't have a chief content strategy
where different departments acquire different systems. You don't need all of these systems. and if it doesn't go towards this customer experience, that architecture should not be there, should be consolidated. It should be a really be questioned of why is it there?
Right. All of the regency creates so much cost.
There is a lot of costs. There is a lot of licensing fees. There is a lot of people maintaining this systems. And equally important is to understand how many sites and portals and wikis and communities are out there and which ones are being updated or not. I mean if you, any company, you can do an inventory and ask very simple questions. Can you call someone, can you email someone? Is the copyright from this year? You know, you're going to start understanding very quickly if the sites are updated. If somebody's taking care of the sites or if the sites are being curated and if they're not, then you need to understand what's the goal of this site. And if you don't get any good answers, you need to delete this site. You need to obsolete these sites and for the sites that exist, you need to map those sites to the journey and the pieces that don't go to the journey, they need to be removed out of the way of the customer experience.
Wow, and as somebody who I understand has consolidated over seventy different properties and huge initiative. You've seen the dark and difficult times of transformation of content sets.
We are on that journey. We have identified a larger than usual, a larger than we would like to number of sites that we're now going through methodically and saying ‘is this needed? How does this map?’ Another way of doing this, which I think we are looking at, is what is the right customer journey and then what are the sites that are feeding into that. So, we're going to start feeding those and we're going to starve the other ones. We're going to invest in the search experience in the taxonomy, experiencing the offering experience and the localization experience, in the cross-linking experiencing, in the accountability of that side. That's where we're going to put our efforts.
What’s the role of the forum in helping to facilitate those kinds of transformations?
The forum has folks from across the company and we have a lot of blind spots. I am in engineering, I don't know what support is doing. I don't know what the university team is doing, so they bring in, their focuses around content. What is it that we can touch? What is it that needs to be cross-pollinated? So, it’s a large puzzle and everybody has a few pieces of this puzzle. This puzzle needs to be mapped to the customer journey, not just the buying journey. It needs to be mapped to the whole enterprise in direction of the customer to get support, to renew, to return, to upgrade, to reconfigure, to complain, to come and join and learn, to get NDAs for new product roadmaps. So, what are all those pieces you really need to understand? And we have different personas, we have different business units, we have cloud products that the content goes up and down very, very quickly. We have larger, more historical products at NetApp that have been in development for 25+ years, so the experience is very different. We have to be very careful.
That customer journey collaboration, does that happen in the forum as well, like understanding the customer journey as a group?
Yes, this forum has a very specific number of meetings and we spend a lot of time working on what are those meetings going to be and what are we going to get out of those meetings. A lot of, in the beginning, I think we're in the middle of this forum now, but at the beginning was very much who are you, what do you own and what's your part of the experience? And let everybody speak up freely on what did they think they own. And then we were able to see, okay, we own this piece, we own this piece, they own this piece. Now, what are the gaps? What are the beautiful things that we need to learn from each other, etc? So, the experience, yeah, for sure.
Absolutely love that. The ability to enact exchange also involves patterns, especially in a larger organization needing to create standards or ways of thinking that help people to act in a local way towards a global end. And so one of the things I've heard you speak about that as a shared passion is this idea of principles for organizations. And I've heard you're talking about the magnificent seven. Tell us a little bit more about that.
Yeah, the magnificent seven is a movie that I watched when I was a little kid in Europe. And I always thought to see in very powerful, and they're always like riding on a horse. And when we were working with my team, we came up with seven attributes
of great content and for whatever reason, I made the connection. These need to be seven very powerful attributes
and we just call them the magnificent seven. And these attributes
need to resonate to anyone that owns a content experience. It applies to everybody pretty much. Maybe there are one or two things that don't apply, but in principle, this is a baseline of is the content being measured would be one of these attributes. Is the content modular, is a content ready to be cross-linked, is the content localizable? We spend a lot of time, andmoney localizing content. We need to be able to do that very efficiently. Is the content well authored?
The Magnificent Seven
- All media types available – the right format
- Content is modular and shareable – can remix and repurpose
- Cross-linked for opportunity – readers can discover more
- Goal oriented – content gets to the point
- Localized – the right language
- Measured – use metrics to drive content decisions
- UX aligned – all content looks related
So, each one of these sayings is one of those magnificent seven and it was a good story and it's been a good story for us to make it very simple because to drive change, you need to put something out there or throw it in the middle of the table that people can grab on to, or hang on to and make it theirs. We put these principles there, but then how do you measure? What are your thoughts on these magnificent seven attributes
? Are you there? How can we help you start measuring your content?
Absolutely love the coherence that comes out of having shared understanding of action. Right, in the form of a framework, in the form of a set of standards. And when you talk about the mottos and emblems and making it their own and all of that. It reminds me of a political campaign and I heard you also say that, that it's like a political campaign. What is that mean?
Well, the driving change inside of a corporation with a revolving door of new players throughout the year is not easy. And so I've always tried to understand who are the best politicians, or who are the best people that drive change out there. And I've tried to mimic some of their methodologies of having a consistent message, of having the right words. Your team needs to be knowing what you're about to do. So, that they can represent or compliment or be ambassadors of these ideas, the phrases, the keywords, the elevator pitches, the visions, right? So, how do we replicate ourselves through social media, through the internal mechanisms that anybody in my team can speak to this, can represent the mission and the vision of running the enterprise content strategy
. It takes a lot of preparation.
How do you empower that team with that sort of tools? Is it a campaign guide? How do you run that?
So, I took the class first myself, right? And I brought in some people to train me and I did that many, many years ago and so that the things that have worked well for me, I always love to pass onto people that work in my organizations. So, in the beginning, they think I'm a little bit out there or different, but when they see that it works, right? So, then we trained the directors, senior managers and your program managers that work in whatever effort we have to do. It's a one day or two-day effort on here's how you speak, here's you go from saying this, to saying that and then they need to trickle it down to their teams.
I speak throughout the organization of why we're trying to do this. There are people that will say, this is not for me. And so then you need to identify who are the people that are taking some time to get there. And it's a curve of change management that you always start with.
‘This is not for me. I will never do this.’ And so how do you take them to, So, that journey is what we work on.
Wow. One of the things that drive change is, of course, is economic motivation value that's being demonstrably, and of course as we're working with senior executives who have some really massive market pressures they're dealing with time and attention are stretched. Value needs to be foremost on everybody's mind. What is it about content that makes it valuable and how do you communicate that within enterprise executive conversations?
I look at it a little bit different. So, usually, companies are really good at explaining what are there must-win battles or their top priority user. And so number one every year, we listen very carefully to the C-suite on what are the products we have to nail, what are the markets, what are the maturity of these products? Some of these products are in growth mode. Some of these products are the cash cow of the company. So, then you map your team towards this and you have to make them very, very successful and you need to be in their business reviews and you need to be in their design reviews and their usability studies.
We make sure that we place content architects in the GUI design, in the design reviews and that's my job or the director of the content services job to make sure that content and digital experience is top of mind in how these products are being designed. And so that– we go through that lens and there's sometimes there's natural tension of why do we need all this content to why is this product so complicated?
I mean we build products that are complex and perform some very important roles in the lives of many, many very well-known companies. Then you have legal compliance. We have to write some things for legal compliance, but obviously, our goal is less content and more intuitive GUIs. And so the architects can play a really big role in helping design these products that are more intuitive, then you need less contents to install them or to renew them, etc.
You wrote in the paper that talks about the content fabric or talked about it as well, and I'd love to hear about that term you coined and what does that mean and how does it apply?
Yeah, so one of the NetApp tag lines is ‘data fabric,’ because we help our customers and consumers move data through a fabric. They can have their data on servers on-prem, but they can move their data on the cloud service as an example, right? So, that seamless movement of data storage solutions is what we call the data fabric. Now, when I thought that is something that resonates - one day I was sitting in a conference room with some other person and I said, “Well, even the product and the data needs to be moving seamlessly, so does the content.” But it's not the case. We have content in silos in different sites.
So, that was the first time we said, Oh wow, we need content moving seamlessly from one side to the other. And that's when we started doing the inventory of, oh my goodness, we have too many sites to make this a reality. If we had half of the sites it would be easier. And so the content fabric is stitching all these content and the first visual that we created was like somebody and knitting a content together, right? So, how do you grab this content? And we were looking for architectures that would be able to pull content from a variety of sites and give you a personalized view
of really only what you need in your language. And that's our vision is the content fabric.
The relationship between content and data, it seems to be close cousins. We ended up working in a lot of environments where data is a very strong internal skill where there's customer database, customer 360 database that’s very faceted and focus and available to marketing experiences and technical support experiences, but rarely do marketers across the technical communicators actually use the data available to personalize experiences.
I'm curious about your vision on a personalization longer term and what you think are some of the steps that will be needed to help to start marrying together the content and the data in ways that created personalized effect?
This is going to have to do with our deficient intelligence. Even if I had 500 people in my team couldn’t do this without some smart solution using artificial intelligence, so we've seen the difficult case that everybody understands is natural language processing. We have millions and millions of beautifully curated content in translation management systems. What are we going to do with all that data, right, and one of the solutions as well?
We're going to translate for free because we free translated this content. Now, we can map the new segments, see written those databases, those segments and are the official intelligence neural machine translation is going to translate for you pretty much for free. And so we are doing that already out of 55% of all our content is translated through that way, but we are starting to see other areas, for example, were support engineers are writing super valuable information for companies that content, those issues that are entering on behalf of our customers is content, is data that we want to use to resolve and predict the problems moving forward.
So data, the more you collect it, obviously with the permission GDPR consents and all of that, but obviously the more data you have, the more you can predict and help and avoid escalations and recommend to your customers and NetApp is huge on that. There's a product that NetApp is working on that's called Active IQ
that collects information from our customers and it helps them understand when their systems are down when their systems are going to have to be renewed, it gives them a very good picture of their setup and their data storage solutions.
So, why can we do that with content? What are all these data repositories of content that the customer can say, build me this right now, build me that right now, or localize it with a click of a button? That's what I think some of the areas that we're looking at.
, you can be able to perform more atomize sorts of customer interactions, and it involves an attention to structure that not all enterprises have and within the technical communications community. There's a lot more awareness of structure and a lot more native structural thinking, but I'm curious about your thoughts on how the structuralists inside of Tech comms can influence the conversation about content structure
around the organization that desperately needs that kind of content fabric to come together, but it doesn't have the mindset for it yet.
I see technical publication teams and information engineering teams talking a lot about DITA and XML and champion content and modular and all of that and that there are other areas are equally important and so authoring is very, very important. Taxonomies are very, very important. I always asked, you know, peers that ask, how do you drive this? I tried to look for people inside the teams that want to drive change that wanted a new role inside of an information engineering team. I always point them to why don't you become the expert in taxonomy
and actually lead it for the company? Why don't you become the champion for authoring and drive that for the company, all these cure and baby sitting of the content initially so important to then share it much, much faster?
We have our CMO right now, is leading a huge effort to make sure that a lot of the content use on similar repository so that we can share it. We are seeing more and more software for writers. Then you don't need to be a super expert in DITA
. There's like the easy DITA to you know sort of solutions there so that others, a non-traditional information engineering teams can start doing that. And so we need to get out of our own shell and start evangelizing the beauty and the possibilities to folks in support teams and other teams. And the more we are creating content that’s shareable.
You’ve talked about building a content culture, the cross-functional initiatives, and conversations with the forum and a lot of other efforts that you've been working towards, all aim at this content culture. What are the things that our listeners can do inside of their own organizations to help to start to build a content culture?
Identify who are the main thought leaders inside the company. That would be number one. Number two, take them out for lunch. Number three, understand all the systems that are floating around the company and create a good map of the company. More often than not, you're going to have a story right there and you will be able to create a future history. So, you will say, well today, company ABC, we have these many writers. They don't collaborate. We have these many systems. They don't talk to each other. So right, there is a lot of opportunities. Well, maybe it's not that bad, the middle of this journey. So, if you're in the middle of these journeys, get yourself some amazing sponsor. It could be your CMO, it could be a Head of Customer Experience, it could be your CIO. CIO is always there and trying to save costs and architectures so that could be something else.
Go to the C suite with a good story and well researched. All of those things are very good. These are good things for your company. Always have again, the customer experience in mind. You can videotape yourself, trying to perform some tests once he couldn't be, my son just lost the game and I need the range solid. I need to sign in, I need to find it. I navigate the keyword, these are not there. Then I find it in a language that I don't need.
Go and explain all the stories but spend time studying this. I know people get very frustrated. This doesn’t work. That doesn't work. Well, it doesn't. So, go and explain it and then see what is it that you would like to do about it. I am not a big fan of people that point out problems, the big fan of people that research the problems not to be and then come up with we could do three things, we could let it be, we could do something about it,
Or we could go and get major sponsorship for it. And also very important is to show some small Queen Queens. So, guess what? I went to have lunch with someone. We decided to cross-link each other’s website. Well, that's a win. Or I went to evangelize a localization to somebody else and we talked about Korean customers and Japanese customers. Guess what we're about to localize those pages, right? So, what are those scenes there? Small, not too expensive, but your customer is going to think like, okay, they're getting their act together, they're starting to make my life easier. It's always about the customer.
This is very valuable wisdom, you describe reasoning long-term, creating conversations and connections and then working in a short term tactical way that can also make progress. So, there's this layer...multiple layers of action that individuals can take that are there.
These are the folks that are just starting, right? That means you now see the major join that has to figure these out years ago and mean you see Netflix
going in multiple countries, you see Microsoft
, you see Amazon
, you see PayPal
, there are lots of people who have figured this out. They still have a lot of challenges because there's a proliferation of sides and new VPs coming in and new directors are coming in and people thinking that they can spin up something all the time.
So, I think content governance is very, very important. It doesn't matter the size of your company. And I know there are many companies that want to remain siloed because it's more agile and that's okay. There's still has to be somebody looking over at the use case of a kid going into your website of a grandma going to your website, my mom going into your website, or an executive going into the website, what they going into your website, what are those experiences and how does the company react to all of those? Well, ft departments are not talking to each other. It's the experience. It's not going to be very good.
As a last thread, I feel like we could talk for an afternoon here,, I'm really enjoying getting the chance to speak with somebody who has so much practical experience. The other dimension of your leadership has been expressed in globalization and localization. Truly global has made a major impact for a lot of people. Can you talk about the difference between globalization - localization and provide some advice for enterprise content leaders who are needing to confront increasingly complex localization requirements?
This would take the whole afternoon. But, the localization means your product, your project, your program, what you’re trying to convince the other person to accept or buy makes sense to the other person. It can be used in their language, it’s working in their country, not encrypted, easy to download. The GUI makes sense in your language. The documentation is there. So that's the localization part of it.
To me, globalization － the enterprise globalization means that that company shows up as a local company, not just one product, but the company and the company shows up as a local competitor, as a local vendor, as a local agency, as a local thought leader. That is true globalization and that takes years and that takes a lot of convincing. And again, in the same case as confident, there's no chief globalization officer. That customer experience at the local level requires that every single executive is very globally savvy and he's very difficult for companies. I went and talked to somebody in HR who was about to hire a major senior vice president in the company.
I said, can you ask this person if they've done global business before? Oh, okay. I wasn’t thinking about that. So, executives are the ones that drive the company globally. It's not the localization team. The localization team gets the complaints of this is not localized. So, then you need some globalization champion inside of the company that is tied into the C-suite to explain what's working, what's not working, what department should invest more. You need to be in tune with the strategy of the company. Chief strategies officers are very important in the world on globalization, chief customer advocacy teams as well. It's a large orchestra to put a product inside of another market and that’s globalization. Now, those products need to be localized, otherwise, they're not going to stay there.
How should we approach the China market in particular?
It's going to depend on what product you're trying to get into The China market. China is a major powerhouse. They don't want other products getting in and they want their products getting in. They have a knob of a market they want to employ their people. They want to have their universities supporting their local factories, their innovation centers that China will play with other countries. If they can take the lead on that conversation and they can do a joint venture. If you can support their manufacturing process, they are leading the trades discussion right now. They're so well organized. They have government goals, they're very focused. They know what companies are going to be aligned with those goals. They're like a corporation. If you understand how they do this, they understand that to win trade, you need railroads, so they are building railroads and the Silk-road, right? They are reinventing all of that. They have everything so well mapped, so how you play with that, you obviously need a local team in China.
You need very savvy folks. If you're trying to get in front of The States or from Europe, you need to have friends in there and you need to have folks in there that know how to deal with the government because the government runs the show. I mean universities run the show, but the universities are absorbed and watched by the government. So, once you understand that multi-play; you need to have gone a few times and you need to have failed a few times. There are ways of getting you through joint ventures or OEMs and you see a VMware doing a joint venture with Sugon
, or NetApp doing a joint venture with Lenovo
. A lot of companies have tried very often the joint ventures are between China and the US or between China and European leaders.
So, you have to really be careful that the balance of power inside the joint venture is a balance, it's something that you want to watch very, very closly. And then you define, how much intellectual property you want to let in or not and who's going to own the code, who's going to own what IP. And so that's how you build it little by little and obviously, you need people that are very trusted by the other side of the world, whatever you started the conversation from locally and you need to be collaborating all the time. You need to be traveling there all the time. That has been my experience so far. Having done this for a couple of companies.
Impressive! I'm looking forward to being the key-note at tcworld China
in Shanghai later next year and I'm interested in seeing the artificial intelligence commercialization zones that have been developed. It's a remarkable pace of innovation that China has been able to create and sponsor from public funding as well.
It's unbelievable. They are so far ahead in so many spaces. They don't carry any money anymore. They don't carry credit cards anymore. So, there are a lot of areas, and I’m speaking as an American, I’m Catalonian but I’m also American, I keep an eye very, very close. They are very advanced. They're very focused on how the education of little kids right now, having kids here in the States and having many friends that are raising their kids in China. I think we have a problem.
And, an opportunity?
An opportunity, yes.
It's an exciting world that we're walking into it - changing the way, not only consumers work with knowledge, but how enterprises and universities and every one of our consumers and publishers of content are interchanging their whole relationship in a new way. And we are at vanguard right now where we're transforming the nature of content and you're doing that and one of the largest companies on earth in a very multifaceted global way. I'm incredibly impressed with your leadership and I know our listeners are very lucky to have been part of your conversation today. Thank you for joining us.
Oh my God, thank you for doing this, that we can listen to each other and we can all learn together.