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September 10, 2013

Why is content strategy implementation hard?

We are moving companies away from a heroic model to a process-driven model. Processes are much less exciting that the adrenaline rush that comes from working miracles to deliver the impossible.

For a interesting discussion of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) in the context of document engineering, refer to Bob Glushko’s business process analysis discussion.

Here are the basic CMM levels from Wikipedia:

  1. Initial (Chaotic)
  2. Repeatable
  3. Defined
  4. Managed
  5. Optimizing

These map quite nicely to Scriptorium’s much-less-formal content development process maturity:

  1. Crap on a page. There is no consistency in content. For example, two white papers from the same company are formatted inconsistently, are often badly written, and do not use consistent terminology. Two audio files might be encoded differently or have wildly varying levels of audio quality.
  2. Design consistency. Content appearance is consistent, but the methods used to achieve the look and feel vary. For example, two HTML files might render the same way in a browser, but one uses a CSS file and the other uses local overrides.
  3. Template-based content. Content appearance is consistent, and the methods used to achieve the look and feel are consistent. For example, all HTML files use a common CSS file, or page layout files use the same formatting template. Graphics are created, scaled, and rendered the same way.
  4. Structured content. Content is validated against a template by the software. This usually means that XML is the underlying file format. Information is organized in predictable, consistent ways.
  5. Content in a database. Information is stored in a database and can be searched and manipulated in interesting ways.

The reason that content strategy implementation is hard is because process may improve results, but it’s not much fun for the participants:

  • Following a template
  • Checking content in and out
  • Searching for reusable content instead of dashing off your own version
  • Ensuring information follows content standards with required elements and metadata

The benefits of content strategy are organizational—better information, better support for business goals, and improved business results. The costs are individual—mandatory processes and more difficult authoring tools.

And that is why change management is such a critical part of any new approach. Eventually, content creators adjust to the new methodology, but the transition is always challenging.

The heroic approach is individually satisfying, but it is obsolete.

Is your company still using the heroic model? Call us.