Scriptorium Publishing

content strategy consulting

What makes a good leader—and a successful content strategy

May 19, 2015 by

General Stanley McChrystal offers sage leadership advice you can apply to your content strategy.

Here are your marching orders:

Acknowledge change resistance

Within the US Army, General McChrystal encountered high change resistance because people in the organization become very attached to existing processes:

[An individual’s] very identity is wrapped up into how things have been done.

The same is true in content development: workers become very adept at using the current tools and feel threatened when approached with the possibility of implementing new processes. The fear of the unknown is universal, and a strong leader will counteract that fear by resolving to…

Share information “until it’s almost illegal”

On the surface, this advice to overshare is surprising—it’s coming from a military official who had access to classified information the general public will never see. That said, company initiatives (content related or not) gain supporters much more quickly when management is painstakingly thorough in communicating the business requirements driving the changes, seeking input on the evaluation criteria for new tools, and so on.

Harness data to make it useful

[T]he idea that big data is suddenly going to give us the answer to the problem is something that [is] incorrect because the speed at which data is being created and changed stays ahead of our ability to harness it.

A company can supply vast amounts of data through multiple channels: tech comm, marcom, support, etc. Unless customers can pinpoint the information they want when they want it, that sea of data is useless. Therefore, our content processes must be intelligent to ensure information is findable and useful.

Moving past content strategy roadblocks (premium)

May 11, 2015 by

Keeping a content strategy implementation moving forward is important, but it isn’t always easy. You may have to deal with an extremely slow-moving project or unexpected delay. You may even have to put a project completely on hold. Here are some common obstacles that get in the way of progress, and some ways you can work to overcome them.

Obstacle 1: Funding

Don't let roadblocks stop your project. (flickr: Ryan McKnight)

Don’t let roadblocks stop your project.
(flickr: Ryan McKnight)

Content strategy is ultimately about improving your company’s bottom line, but there are always up-front costs involved. Even if you’ve proven that your strategy will have an excellent return on investment, you may have to work within limited financial constraints. Funding for your project may only be available during a certain time period based on your company’s budget and fiscal year. You may be required to use your funding by a specific date or lose it, and that date may not align with your project schedule and goals. You may also have funding alloted to your department by an executive or manager, only to have that budget cut or delayed until later.

Tips for dealing with funding constraints:

  • Do what you can with the money you have. If you end up with less funding than you anticipated, adjust your strategy accordingly. This may mean starting with a small-scale pilot project, converting only the most essential legacy content, or breaking up the project into less expensive steps that are rolled out one at a time. It’s not ideal to slow down a project because of funding, but it’s better than stopping altogether.
  • Plan in advance. Once you know that financial limitations might be an issue for your project, plan ahead as much as possible. This will help you stay in the confines of your budget so that you can work with it, not against it. The more you think ahead about potential limitations, the less chance they’ll have of throwing your project off-track.
  • Keep business goals at the forefront. Remind your management of the ways your content strategy will improve the bottom line, and have the numbers to back it up. This may increase your project’s chances of surviving a budget cut.

Obstacle 2: Bureaucracy

The larger your company’s size or the more complex its management structure is, the more difficult it can be to keep a project moving forward. When implementation decisions must be approved my many people at different levels (and sometimes in different departments), it can take a long time for any action to happen—and it can be far too easy for the project to come to a stop. It can also be a struggle to get past unexpected challenges or new circumstances that change the project’s direction.

Tips for dealing with bureaucratic constraints:

  • Demonstrate your expertise. Do the research it takes to develop a clear understanding of your content-related goals, your plan for implementing them, and the ways they will help your company. You will most likely need to explain the reasoning behind your project to many people in order to get things started. The more knowledgeable and confident you are, the more you’ll be taken seriously as you’re trying to gain support.
  • Know the chain of command. Learn how to navigate your company’s bureaucratic structure and use that knowledge to make helpful connections. Talking to the right people can go a long way toward moving a project forward, especially if you find yourself limited by how long you’ve been with the company or the position you hold.
  • Plan around slow movement. You know that it takes your company a long time to make changes, so build extra time into your implementation plan to account for this. Likewise, if you see the need for a future content strategy, don’t wait—start working on it as far in advance as you can.

Obstacle 3: Scheduling

It can be difficult (and sometimes feel impossible) to fit an overhaul of your content creation process into your company’s already-busy schedule. When faced with a choice between taking a major step in an implementation or sticking to production deadlines, most companies will choose the deadlines—especially if the implementation is still in its early stages. Of course it’s unreasonable to expect a company to delay its product releases for the sake of a content project, but if they never schedule time for the project, it can easily fall by the wayside. This leads to a “we say we’re going to do it but it never happens” kind of mentality.

Tips for dealing with impenetrable schedules:

  • Point out the costs of putting the project on hold. Your company’s executives keep delaying the project because of the financial risk they face if it interferes with product development. But not completing the project has its own risks. Fixing an unsustainable process costs money—more so if you have to fix it quickly. Waiting until you’re forced to make a change also runs a greater risk of interfering with production deadlines than solving your content problems gradually. If you can show how much delaying or stopping your project will cost your company, you have a better chance at getting things moving again.
  • Take small steps. Encourage the people in your department to fit in work on your new content strategy whenever possible, even if it’s only a little at a time. Even if you’re too busy for a full implementation, you may have enough downtime to start laying the groundwork. Take advantage of it. If you find yourself at loose ends waiting on a review or approval, maybe you could start coming up with specs for your content’s new output types or prioritizing your legacy content for conversion.

Obstacle 4: Learning curve

Your content project was your idea, so you understand all the ins and outs—but that doesn’t mean everyone else in your company does. Sometimes the learning curve for working in a new authoring environment or content management system can be so steep that implementation takes twice as long (or more) than you’d originally planned. In a few cases, it can even keep a project from getting started. If your executives anticipate a severe learning curve, or don’t have a solid understanding of the project themselves, they may be slow, fearful, and hesitant to sign off on a new system.

Tips for dealing with a major learning curve:

  • Educate those with a stake in the project. If you’re a content creator and your managers or executives are having trouble understanding your needs, provide them with information and resources that back up your content strategy. Knowing exactly what your implementation will involve—and what it will accomplish—will give them less reason to worry. Conversely, if you’re in a management position and your content creators are facing a learning curve, let them know what they can expect to change, provide quality training, and look into the possibility of offering follow-on support after the implementation.
  • Provide reassurance. Learning curve is often compounded with fears about how an average day at work will change. Some people who are really struggling to learn a new system may even worry about job security. As you deliver training, address their concerns and show them how their workday will change for the better. This will give them more motivation to learn and less reason to slow the project down by resisting change.

Obstacle 5: Surprises

Unanticipated events or challenges can crop up at the most inconvenient times and put a project on hold. These surprises can be negative (such as losing money on a product release that was expected to succeed, or having a crucial employee leave unexpectedly) or positive (such as being bought out by another company with better resources, or having to focus more on a product that’s suddenly in high demand). Either way, they can interrupt or even completely derail a content strategy project.

Tips for dealing with disruptive surprises:

  • Prioritize your content goals. If something puts your implementation on hold, which parts of the project would have been the most beneficial to your department? Which goals are the most important to keep working toward? If the surprise that stopped your project was a negative one, which parts of the project could be put aside for later while your company mitigates the disaster? Instead of letting a challenge stop your project, let the answers to these questions guide your decision-making in moving forward.
  • Have a backup plan. Many of the surprises companies face are caused by circumstances outside their control. Your company isn’t immune, and your content strategy should show an awareness of this. Make sure that you include plans for what you will do if something goes wrong during your implementation, or if your company undergoes major changes. That way, instead of getting stuck when you run into a new challenge, you’ll have an idea of where to go.

Content strategy implementations don’t always go smoothly, but there are plenty of ways to combat the obstacles that get in the way. Learn how to navigate your way around any roadblocks you might encounter—and remember that it’s always better to keep a project moving slowly than to let it come to a complete stop.

DITA training call for participation

May 1, 2015 by

One of the major challenges in implementing DITA projects is training. Although we (and others) offer fabulous live, instructor-led training, there is also a need for asynchronous learning–where can a student go to learn DITA independently? To address this need, Scriptorium is starting an open-source effort to develop training content for DITA.

We have chosen GitHub for the repository, and you can find the project here:

The content is licensed under Apache (same as the OT) with the possible exception of a few graphics that we might get from Flickr under Creative Commons.

The materials include short videos that help explain key points.

We are also adding external links to information that people have already published.

If you are a DITA user, and especially a DITA expert, we need your help. Please consider contributing content to the repository. We have providing a starting point with basic DITA content, but there is an enormous amount that needs to be done.

To contribute, you’ll need to know a few things about how to use GitHub. If you are already involved in other GitHub projects, you can fork the ditatraining repository. If that sounds vaguely obscene, you might want to read GibHub for Beginners.

There is a very basic style guide provided as a DITA topic at the root level of the repository. Here are some highlights:

  • Most content uses the learning specialization.
  • Include author names in the prolog, along with a creation or modification date.
  • Each learning module has instructional content and assessments.
  • We have provided a recommended file structure and topic breakdown.

Our next step will be to publish the learning content into an interactive web site. More on this later.

Will you help us build a DITA training resource for the community? Please participate on GitHub, or contact us to volunteer your help.

Campaigning with your content

April 28, 2015 by

The recent slate of announcements for candidacy in the 2016 US presidential election got me thinking—how do campaigns relate to content?

With every election cycle, candidates start their campaigns earlier, spend more money on them, and distribute them in a larger variety of ways. Your company’s content is just as important and serves a similar purpose—it’s the most direct way you engage with your audience.

(flickr: Theresa Thompson)

(flickr: Theresa Thompson)

Political candidates use different campaigning styles for different demographics based on what they believe will be most effective. One group of voters might respond well to campaigns based on facts and statistics, while another group might respond better to campaigns that tackle hot-button issues.

Just as a candidate may run different ads focusing on different aspects of their campaign, you may need to reach your customers in multiple ways. Gather as much information as you can about your customers (or potential new customer base) and use voice, tone, style, and presentation to make your content (and, by extension, your product) more appealing to them. The more diverse your audience is, the more important it is to make sure your content is appropriate for the demographics you’re targeting.

Another way you can connect with your audience is by using more channels of distribution. Candidates deliver their campaigns in numerous ways—running TV and print ads, giving speeches and debates, meeting face-to-face with potential voters, getting volunteers to campaign for them door-to-door or over the phone, and spreading their message via social media. Similarly, you should deliver your content in a variety of output types (such as print, PDF, HTML, EPUB, or webhelp) and optimize your electronic delivery formats for different devices and browsers. Find out which output types your audience prefers and focus your efforts on those especially.

Sometimes campaigns can affect candidates in a negative way. If a campaign includes factually incorrect information or demonstrates a lack of understanding of crucial issues, it can hurt a candidate’s credibility. A scandal (such as illegal use of campaign funds) can also be extremely damaging. Don’t let your content do this to your company.

Evaluate your content to make sure that nothing about it is harming your company or holding it back. Inconsistencies in your content’s style, language, and design can make your company seem less professional. Content that is inaccurate, difficult or confusing to use, unavailable, or that has accessibility issues will frustrate your audience and fail to provide them with a positive customer experience.

When you create content, you’re campaigning for your company. Customers ultimately decide whether you fail or succeed, and content is one of the most powerful ways to reach them. If you’re efficiently producing high-quality content, the company has a better chance of doing well in the polls. And if you’re not, it’s time to start thinking about a content strategy that can get you back on the campaign trail and help you win the election.

Content strategy and the big picture

April 20, 2015 by

What’s the best way to minimize conflict when developing and implementing a new content strategy?

Keep everyone focused on the big picture:

Conflict is inevitable, especially the unproductive kind. When people take their eyes off the bigger picture and focus narrowly on their own needs and views, conflict fills the gap. People who put aside their preferences, styles, assumptions, inflexibility and selfishness are seen as part of the solution.

On content strategy projects, I’ve often seen personal preferences affect the evaluation of tools and processes. Employees understandably get very attached to tools when they master them. That mastery, however, creates a tendency to view all other tools through the prism of the incumbent technology: the dreaded “tool myopia” described in Content Strategy 101.

Another common pattern is shifting the burdens of inefficient processes to other departments: “As long as I get my stuff done, I don’t care about how my department’s inefficiency affects you.”

Both of these content strategy showstoppers require all parties to focus on the big-picture business requirements. Upper management also needs to be very clear that supporting those goals is mandatory. Do the current tools and processes bolster business goals such as shorter time to market, the breakdown of content silos, or more efficient localization? If not, the new content strategy must address the deficiencies with new tools and processes.

Couple the implementation of those new tools and processes with thorough training and good communication, and you’ll reduce conflict and align your content strategy with the big picture.

P.S. I’ve yet to see “support each employee’s personal preferences” as a company’s big-picture goal. If such a business existed, I’m sure we’d all want to go to there (to paraphrase 30 Rock‘s Liz Lemon):

Content strategy: What’s your exit strategy?

April 13, 2015 by

You’ve probably heard the announcement countless times: “Please locate the nearest emergency exit.” Chances are you ignore these exits most of the time, but you feel safer knowing they’re there. You wouldn’t go to a restaurant or movie theater or travel on public transportation that didn’t have an emergency exit—so why would you develop a content strategy without one?

In a recent blog post, Alan Pringle brought up the the importance of having an exit strategy, and I wanted to expand on that idea. Without a plan for what to do if your implementation doesn’t go as expected, your company could face tremendous costs—in terms of both time and money—trying to move on to a system that works.

We’ve had some organizations come to us for help when they ended up stranded without an escape. This tends to happen as a result of some common content strategy mistakes:

Exit strategy plus extra legroom. flickr: Kevin Jaako

Exit strategy plus extra legroom.
(flickr: Kevin Jaako)

  • Choosing the wrong tool for the job. It can be difficult to resist trying out that shiny new tool that claims to do it all. Maybe you think it will provide a simple, all-encompassing solution to your content creation problems. Maybe your time for implementation is limited, so you don’t dig any deeper to make sure this tool really is the best choice. It’s not until after you’ve installed and begun using it that you realize it doesn’t serve your needs, after all. Now, you need to find another solution that will work—and, in some cases, deal with the painful process of extracting your content from your new tool.
  • Making hasty decisions. Your manager has agreed to help your department produce content more efficiently, but you only have a few weeks before you’ll lose your funding. With the deadline looming, you can’t stop and think about an exit strategy when you come up with a plan to move to a new system. Then, after you start trying to create new content—and after you’ve blown your budget—you discover that the new workflow actually has more problems than the old one, and you need a way out.
  • Not customizing your strategy to your needs. It’s good to pay attention to industry trends, but before you decide to follow along with them, you need to consider the issues your company is facing. Maybe you notice that all of your competitors are migrating to a certain content management system or using a new tool with great success. Before you jump on the bandwagon, do enough research to determine whether this is really the right solution for you. Remember that every company is unique, and if you measure your business by others’ standards, you may end up making a decision you regret.

While you should always have an exit strategy in place, you can reduce your chances of having to use it by being more careful in your content strategy planning:

  • Put your requirements first. Instead of buying a new tool and hoping it will solve everything, identify your current issues, needs, and goals and then choose your tool(s). Tool selection should be the last step in your equation, not the first. Keep in mind that you may need a combination of tools or services that provide your optimal workflow, rather than a single “fix-all” tool.
  • Think about the long term. A “quick fix” solution may help you in the short term, but if it doesn’t address the root of your problems, it won’t be sustainable. If you don’t solve the larger issue, you’ll be more likely to need an emergency exit in a few years (or even months). Your short-term solution could even fail altogether.
That didn't go so well—I'm outta here! flickr: Lord Jim

That didn’t go so well—I’m outta here!
(flickr: Lord Jim)

Exit strategies aren’t just helpful for dealing with the fallout of an implementation gone awry—they’re also a vital part of planning for your company’s future. Your content production process may need to scale up if your company grows larger or expands to serve an international audience. You may have to adapt your process to a company buyout or new management structure. Whether your company goes through major changes or not, you can always count on advances in technology affecting content development. In any of these situations, you’ll eventually need a way out of your old system, and planning for that in advance will help things go more smoothly when it happens.

Here are a few exit strategies you can put in place:

  • Keep your content in a standard format. Avoiding proprietary formats and sticking to standard ones (such as XML) will help ensure that your content is still usable in the event of a company buyout or major technology overhaul. It also means that you can transfer your content from one authoring tool or content management system to another without a painful, expensive conversion process. Along those lines…
  • Choose tools you can get out of easily. When evaluating tool choices, eliminate any that would be difficult to change if you realize they don’t work as well as you’d hoped. Watch out for strict file format requirements, workflow issues, or contractual obligations.
  • Try a pilot project. Instead of jumping headfirst into implementing your new content strategy, use a representative subset of your content to test things out on a small scale. That way, you can get a better idea of what works well and what needs changing before you make the full switch to a new system.

Even the best content strategies can end in failure. No matter how well your plan may be tailored to your needs, you could run into all sorts of unexpected roadblocks when you try to put it in place—change resistance, learning curve, or budget cuts, just to name a few. Before you implement a new system, you need to account for what could go wrong, and be prepared for what you will do if that happens. Don’t forget to build in those emergency exits. Otherwise, you could find yourself stuck in a system you can’t get out of.

The perils of early adoption

April 7, 2015 by

It finally happened. A part of your production pipeline has failed too many times, and everyone is in agreement: you need a hero.

You’ve identified your needs, researched your options, and your best option is something new. It’s on the cutting edge, promises to solve your problems, and supposedly has none of the issues that led to this point in the first place. But is this really the hero that you need? Before turning on the Batsignal, there are a few crucial things you need to take into account when you’re considering becoming an early adopter.


If you’re working with a new software vendor or implementing an upgrade to an existing vendor package, how much can you count on their support? If you run into a problem, there may not be a handy solution, either creating a bottleneck in your pipeline or forcing you to adopt unsavory workarounds. Is there a user community you can reach out to, or are you at the mercy of your vendor’s support?


How does this new process integrate into your current pipeline? You may have procedures in other parts of your pipeline that are specifically there to deal with your old process. You may even need to create entirely new procedures to handle the idiosyncrasies of your new process. Depending on the extent of these procedures, implementation may be significantly more difficult than anticipated, and in a worst case scenario, may be completely infeasible.

Cultural entrenchment

Processes can often ossify, with the result that any level of change can be very painful for an organization. How ready are you to dig out entrenched behaviors or practices that could sabotage the efforts of your new process? I’ve witnessed one instance of switching to a different project management platform where a developer lost hours of productivity because the hours tracking system was different.

No more heroes

A vendor or service can be as innovative and flashy as it likes. If what they offer doesn’t fit with the way you do business, you need to be ready to make hard calls about what you really need as opposed to what you think you need. Whether you’re looking to switch from a waterfall production method to Agile or Kanban, or changing your publishing platform from Word to InDesign, think of your options less as heroes and more as gears that keep your system working smoothly.

Uber, disruption, and content strategy

March 30, 2015 by

I used Uber and lived to tell the tale. And I found a lesson for content strategy in my rides to and from the airport in San Francisco.

Uber competes with taxi and car services. It is controversial and possibly disruptive.

From the customer’s point of view, Uber is an incredible improvement. It fixes all the bad things about the traditional taxi experiences—you get cashless transactions, a map on which you can watch your ride approach, and lower fares than taxis (sometimes). No tipping. Near-instant response.

But look a little deeper, and I’m troubled by the business model that seems unfair to taxi drivers, who have been thoroughly vetted and who paid a lot of money for their taxi licenses. Uber undercuts this model by providing the technology layer that connects drivers to riders, and arguing that they are not in fact a transportation company, only a match-maker for ride-sharing. The German government disagrees, and has banned some Uber services, as has the city of Portland, Oregon and several other jurisdictions around the world. Uber has also engaged in some…questionable…business strategies.

But my misgivings about using them were outweighed by the convenience and, critically, the strong recommendations from Val Swisher and Scott Abel, both of whom are Bay Area locals. After using Uber and emerging unscathed, I offer some lessons for content strategists:

  • The customer wants a good experience. They don’t really care about how you achieve the good experience. Your organizational problems are of no interest to the customer, only your interaction with the customer. A few companies have made their ethics a key reason to buy (Patagonia and Ben & Jerry’s come to mind), but without an explicit story, customers will not make this connection on your behalf. (Possible content marketing strategy for taxi companies: Tell the story of their cabbies—the plucky immigrant who is living the American dream, the New York native who loves working on cars and knows all the back roads, and so on.)
  • Your regulatory problems are of little interest to me, er, them. (Possible exception: life-and-death content, such as medical information or aircraft maintenance information.) Uber has aggressively positioned taxi regulations as outdated and inconvenient. The taxi companies need to tell the story of why the regulations are necessary and good, such as launching a sustained campaign around Uber’s infamous surge pricing policy.
  • Banning your unauthorized competitor is probably not going to work. (It doesn’t work with Uber; it’s definitely not going to work with information.) So figure out how to accommodate illicit content as part of your strategy. Or improve your customer experience so that people don’t go looking for a (possibly sketchy) alternative. (Unauthorized translations by resellers come to mind. They usually happen when the content owner fails to make the content available in the needed languages.)

Uber is a cautionary tale for anyone who makes their living in a closed market.

After finishing this article on Friday afternoon (March 28) and scheduling it for publication on Monday morning, I received this email late Friday night:

They are your drivers, and we want to celebrate them. Meet the people behind the wheel who make it all possible. (Image of smiling driver.)

Well played, Uber. Well played.

Money and technology are not a content strategy

March 23, 2015 by

Having the budget to buy new technology isn’t the same as having a content strategy. Case in point: the US government has spent billions on electronic medical record (EMR) systems that can’t communicate with each other.

The American taxpayer has funded the installation of electronic records systems in hospitals and doctors’ offices — to the tune of $30 billion since 2009. While those systems are supposed to make health care better and more efficient, most of them can’t talk to each other.

[Technology entrepreneur Jonathan] Bush lays a lot of blame for that at the feet of this federal financing.

“I called it the ‘Cash for Clunkers’ bill,” he says. “It gave $30 billion to buy the very pre-internet systems that all of the doctors and hospitals had already looked at and rejected,” he says.

On the surface, the idea of installing the EMR systems makes sense: sharing medical records electronically increases efficiency and accuracy, and it eliminates duplicated medical procedures. Unfortunately, the offices installing these systems were blinded by the government funding and didn’t ask some important questions:

  • What are the business goals the new technology must support? Easy exchange of medical information is a primary reason for implementing EMR systems. Therefore, the selection processes should have focused on interoperability and support of standards for data exchange.
  • Can I trust what the vendors are telling me? Generally, vendors are not going to volunteer information about their products’ deficiencies, tell you whether a product is reaching the end of its life, and so on. That’s where some good research on industry web forums, LinkedIn, and elsewhere can help you uncover information to back up (or refute) vendor claims. Also, spending some money on solid advice from a third-party consultant (such as Scriptorium) is a smart investment, especially compared to the cost of a system that ends up not supporting your needs.
  • What is the exit strategy for moving to another system? If you outgrow a system, how hard is it to transition to another system? Can you, for example, export data to an industry standard format that other systems can import? Completely re-creating information in a new system is an inefficient, error-prone time sink you want to avoid.

It’s always great to get the budget to buy new tools and technology. Just be sure the tools you buy support clearly defined business goals.

Breaking down content silos: expectation vs. reality

March 16, 2015 by

You’re probably hearing it more and more: silos are bad for your business. They discourage collaboration, lead to duplication and inconsistency, and prevent you from delivering a unified content experience to your customers. But what really happens when you try to break them down?

Expectation: One big happy content-creating family. Reality: "We don't like change!" (flickr: Daniele Nicolucci)

Expectation: One big happy content-creating family. Reality: “We don’t like change!”
(flickr: Daniele Nicolucci)

In Marcia Riefer Johnston’s recent post, Scott Abel discusses the importance of eliminating silos and restructuring content departments to foster collaboration. I agree that developing content without silos would be extremely beneficial for companies, content creators, and customers. However, the reality of achieving this goal can be slow, difficult, and painful.

Before you start the process of breaking down the barriers between your company’s content groups, it’s important to think about how and why those silos formed in the first place. Silos may not seem to add value to your business, but they do exist for several reasons:

  • Structure. Companies need to be divided into departments to stay organized and avoid chaos. This is especially true as a company grows larger and larger.
  • Accountability. With the department structure comes a reliable management system and chain of command. People can be held responsible for departments’ successes or failures.
  • Focus. It makes sense to group people together based on what type of content they are best at creating (for example, technical writers or marketing specialists).

Silos are often deeply entrenched. Maybe they’ve existed for years, or they’re an integral part of the company culture. Sometimes they lead to competitive relationships between departments (we’ve seen this happen with technical and marketing groups). The more ingrained these silos are, the more difficult they are to change. In many cases, it’s easier to leave silos as they arefor those who manage them as well as those who work inside themthan to try to dismantle them.

Here are challenges you can expect to face when you attempt to break down your company’s silos:

  • Lack of motivation. Some of your colleagues may say they support your efforts, but never do anything to back up their claims. Others may agree with you in principle, but feel that your goals are not realistic. Getting people to start thinking about breaking down silos is easyconvincing them to take action can be an uphill battle.
  • Change resistance. Be prepared for negative comments like, “We don’t have time for all this change with our deadlines,” “We’d never make up for the learning curve,” or “Why fix what’s been working for years?” Even if the people in one group can see the value in collaborating with others, they worry about what that means for their day-to-day work experience.
  • An extremely long process. It may be years before you see your efforts lead to any change in your company at all, much less achieve your end goal of no more silos. Future employees of your company may see more changes and fewer silos than you do.

Sometimes the best way to work toward breaking down silos is finding small ways to improve the relationships between departments. Introducing these compromises will likely be much more effective than suggesting drastic changes:

  • Encourage collaboration. Try having a weekly meeting with representatives from each content department so that they can each be aware of what the others are doing. Even if the silo structure is still in place, these meetings will keep the groups from working in isolation.
  • Manage your silos better. Remember that silos are important to your company from a management point of view, even if they hurt the business in other ways. If eliminating silos is not an option, suggest adding a new management positionsomeone who oversees all content and the coordination between departments.
  • Educate your colleagues. Talk about the benefits of working without silos. You can eliminate the risk of two separate groups producing duplicated or contradictory content, which will increase consistency and allow for reuse. More importantly, your content will have a unified look, feel, and message that improves customer experience and strengthens your brand.

Change can be slow, but it can also start small. Simply getting your colleagues into a collaborative mindset can be a great first step toward a future without silos. If you approach the problem of silos with reality in mind, you will achieve better results.