How to Overcome Content Management Challenges at Scale

Every organization runs into content management challenges when they reach a certain size.  
And keeping up with maintenance, updates, and personalization for specific audiences can be too much without the right strategy and structure.  

Content Backlogs & Bottlenecks

Lots of content managers and teams struggle to keep organization-wide information in sync. The content’s all out there, but it isn’t searchable. And often, it isn’t in a format that you can use later, such as training materials left in a slide deck after the training is over, or text and images trapped in a PDF. 

This issue escalates when someone finds a piece of content but they’re not sure if it’s valid. Or even worse, they refer to content that’s outdated or incorrect.  

Organizations that produce a lot of content know that it has to be accurate. People have to trust it — and today, in many cases, they don’t. Just about every organization and client we’ve ever talked to has a backlog of important content deliverables they’d really like to produce.

They can’t get to that list, though, because the existing content takes so much time to maintain and update. When you only have so many people and so much capacity, keeping up becomes overwhelming, if not impossible.

 

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Another common problem is lost source files for documents that need to be updated. Some organizations are embarrassed to admit it, but if it’s happened to you, it’s also a lot more common than you think. 

Part of the problem is that these files were created with desktop tools. And they exist on someone’s computer who may get promoted, or move to another department, or leave the company. Their computers get wiped, and those files are gone because they were never put in a central repository. Learn more about why these so called rapid tools are not really rapid.

From Chaos to Control

If you want to go from content management chaos to true control, you’ll need a process. And the very first step in the process is to get everything in a single repository. That way you can take inventory, search the content, and do basic things like global find-and-replace. 

This step alone can create major improvements in efficiency. From there, you can start to scale and make other significant improvementsThat may seem like  just a basic first step, but the basics have a lot of value. 

Reusable Content Components

There’s a fundamental mindset shift that can eliminate content management challenges — you have to think of your content as reusable components. 

Other industries, like marketing and engineering, have already figured this out. In marketing, you can take components and use them in different distributions. Car manufacturers use the same engine, or the same chassis, in different models. They reuse parts as much as possible.  We like to call this the Building Block Method.

The learning space, however, has been the last group to embrace this idea of components.

Granted, it can be hard to implement that mindset shift, because a lot of creators think like artists. They’re writing for a particular purpose and don’t recognize that the content can fit in many different structures and contexts. 

Lots of content uses repeatable structures across multiple instances. For example, think about episodes of a home makeover show. They use the same structure over and over again, but the content within that structure makes each episode different and engaging. And they can do that because they produce a lot of content in a short period of time, and they’ve figured out a formula that works. 

Structures can work for organizational content too. The blank page is the worst thing you can ever run into when you’re trying to create content. Structures, like scaffolding, are what allow you to be creative. 

If you use a consistent structure, and you work on it and measure it and get it right, you can be creative within that structure and mix and match content components to improve content outcomes while also driving organizational efficiency. 

Standardize to Personalize

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Val Swisher at Content Rules wrote  a book about the Personalization Paradox. She’s discovered that, in content creation, you must “standardize to personalize.”  

Because of today’s technology, if you want to dynamically personalize content for people, you have to break it into standard components that you can then mix and match. And you can’t mix and match without a predefined structure. But if you figure out that structure, you can make all kinds of magic happen.

Identifying Existing Components in Your Content

Components can seem daunting at first, but all you have to do is start by looking for components in your existing content.  

One component, for example, could be a procedure. Another could be a lab. Others could be discussion questions, case studies, scenarios, or safety alerts. When you start to look, you’ll see that these components exist, and then you start to see the structure behind them. 

Once you’ve embraced this component content structure, it unlocks your content because you can repurpose it.

You can mix and match content from one experience, which might be an instructor-led class, to another experience, which might be an eLearning course.  

Another experience might be a job aid, where you want the text to be clear and skimmable. In that case, you can embed the procedure into a CRM system so that someone can access it in a moment of need. Some customers have even experimented with embedding procedures as in-app help for their products.

Farewell to Frustration

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When it comes down to it, content authors are just wasting way too much time thinking about formatting and branding instead of the content itself. An ATD study found that authors are spending 40% of their time just formatting documents. That’s way too much! 

When you author structured content and publish it through templates, all that fussing with formatting goes away. And suddenly content creators have 40% more time to actually create content. Sound familiar, check out our article on Misadventures in Content Production article.

A structured authoring system like Xyleme comes with built-in, branded publishing templates, so correct formatting, branding and styling can be added regardless of output type or intended use. As a result, it becomes easier to reuse content and scale up quickly to servce new audiences.

A structured authoring system like Xyleme comes with built-in, branded publishing templates, so correct formatting, branding and styling can be added regardless of output type or intended use. As a result, it becomes easier to reuse content and scale up quickly to servce new audiences.
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End Content Management Challenges with One Source of Truth

In the end, the most important benefit of creating one source of content truth is that you know it’s accurate.  

You can schedule regular reviews, track what’s being used and what’s not, archive things and keep your repository clean, etc. And you can make changes and updates that propagate everywhere that piece of content is used, while still maintaining accurate version histories and access records. 

That’s true power, and that’s the best way to conquer content management challenges as an organization, especially when creating and delivering content at scale. 

To learn more about the challenges that you can solve with Xyleme’s component content management system, click here for a quick quiz. 

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