Content is often an unsung hero at many organizations, not getting the attention it deserves.
Whether up-skilling and re-skilling for current employees, providing onboarding materials for new customers and partners or adding additional performance support for teams in the field — content is at the center of all of it.
As recent world events have shown us, in order to drive continued success, organizations must be flexible and adaptive. However, traditional content management hasn’t changed much in the past decade, even though the world continues to evolve in the digital landscape with AR/VR, virtual assistants, and other applications.
Organizations must have a mindset transformation to start treating content as a business asset to gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Model for Success
Serving the right content, in the right format at the right place is a model that has been in place for at least a decade.
- Right content – tailored and personalized content for role, region, etc.
- Right format – microlearning, an entire course, a PDF checklist, etc.
- Right place – in a specific system, on a specific device (mobile, desktop, tablet, smart watch), in the flow of work, etc.
To some degree, most organizations have utilized this model, but have struggled to fully reap the benefits. Inadequate time frames, deficiency of staffing and resources, lack of access to content on demand, and overall internal change management are all barriers that prevent companies from being able to achieve this vision.
Producing, tailoring, and managing content efficiently at this level is all but impossible without the right technology, especially at scale — we call this the content explosion problem.
Rethinking What Content Is
The only way to truly achieve this vision and adapt to changes and challenges in the future, is to fundamentally shift the way we think about content creation today.
Creating adaptable content at scale is a core competitive advantage. Organizations that can rethink content itself will gain tremendous speed to market.
In order for content to be adaptable, the content itself has to be decoupled from the presentation and formatting layers. Despite considerable technology advancements in content management, the process of creating content coupled with the presentation and layout remains customary, which traps content in specific formats and limits your ability to easily reuse and repurpose it.
From contextual in-application support to dynamically-driven processes, the way content is going out to the world will change dramatically. No longer will static delivery of a PDF or a course be sufficient. Pieces of that content need to be available to different audiences, roles, times, places and formats.
1. Treat Content as a Business Asset
From internal and external corporate communications to product training, technical documentation, learning & development, and customer education — and everything in between — treating content as a business asset will streamline processes, increase agility, and drive a better user experience.
By utilizing technology to digitize and atomize content, content can be created as individual components, which allows information to be broken down, reused and future proofed. AR/VR, virtual assistants, or other applications are being integrated in the workplace more and more, and the only way to sustain a scalable content approach is to treat content as individual assets.
According to a recent report by Forrester, “the next decade will reveal new cloud-native and structured approaches to document authoring — and enterprises need to get ready now.”
2. Re-imagine Processes & Tools
Organizations must learn that, in order to gain a competitive advantage, they must personalize content. And in order to personalize, they must standardize.
Neighborhood housing divisions, for example, are touted as ‘custom homes,’ but they are actually constructed with slight standardized modifications to mix and match (garage on left or right side, stairway flipped, marble versus laminate countertops). Mass customization is the key.
Most tools used for content creation are WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), which bundle content and layout together, causing content teams to start from scratch for every project. This is simply not sustainable, particularly at scale.
Focusing on succinct pieces of content first and applying the presentation elements later, makes it possible for content teams to efficiently reuse and adapt content at scale.
2. Re-think Content Strategy
Processes in content design, development and delivery need to be reimagined.
Content teams tend to live in a project-based, program- or initiative-driven type of world and design to each specific objective. Shifting to an enterprise strategy approach will not only support a specific department, but because the content is designed with a bigger picture in mind, an enterprise strategy provides content teams the ability to be agile and shift so that content can span different teams or groups.
The most common type of content inefficiencies are creating content as a one-off deliverable. Pivoting from a one-off approach to designing with reuse in mind shifts content development from a linear approach to a component-based approach, where each individual piece of content can stand on its own — allowing content teams to easily repurpose content at the point of need.
Rethinking content strategy also means that content needs to be format agnostic — meaning that content is written in such a way that it can stand alone and isn’t implicitly tied to any other pieces of content. This allows content teams to pick from content libraries, like building blocks, to mix and match individual content pieces to meet specific needs and experiences.
In order to truly turn content into a competitive advantage, a key mindset shift needs to occur.
Rethinking content strategy requires forethought, but provides flexibility, adaptability and longevity. Being more strategic up front, instead of duplicating content each time a new need arises, can save a tremendous amount of time while also giving organizations the ability to refine specific pieces of content without having to overhaul and republish entire programs, courses, etc.
The first step is to think differently about content itself — it is the information and knowledge that organizations and customers need, not how that information looks.
It isn’t easy changing the way we do things, which is why from the printing press to the digital creation of eBooks, the way in which we create content really hasn’t changed much. Most organizations are still creating content with the presentation layer attached — lining up bullets and spending time redesigning how things look and feel — which is only trapping content into a single, restrictive format and preventing organizations from being agile enough to truly gaining a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
Building a reusable library of content components takes time, but with the right strategy and technology in place, content teams can start small and build to their desired future-state over time.