Andrew Lomas
By Andrew Lomas on Jul 31, 2018 12:33:21 AM

Nail your content process needs before choosing the tech

Nail your stakeholders' needs before choosing content technology

If you fail to take the needs of all stakeholders into account your content process transformation project is destined for trouble. Read on to discover why accurately establishing requirements is crucial to delivering a successful project.

If someone tells you that content process transformation is simply a matter of choosing the right software, we guarantee you they work in software sales.

Of course it would be great if supercharging your content output was simply a matter of whacking in a new application. Shiny new technology can be tempting: the website is cool, the promotional video is convincing and the guy who came to do the demo brought coffee!

But technology on its own is never the solution. In fact, when you do the discovery and analysis work we’ve recommended in our post, “An eye on the future: preparing for content process transformation”, you’ll find that the underlying problems with your content workflow are as much about people and processes as they are to do with which application stack you’re running.

Here we explore the four main reasons why you should accurately establish your content requirements before plunging into technology selection:

  1. You’ll fix the right problems.
  2. You won’t create new problems.
  3. Bad technology costs more than you think.
  4. Winning the change battle will be easier. 


But first, consider this scenario...

Company XYZ has a content marketing team producing web pages, a blog, emails and social media posts. There are content strategists, writers, graphic designers, a couple of UX people and a production manager – all talented and hard-working.

But the team has recently developed a problem: delivery. No matter how far ahead they plan and how streamlined the approval processes, they are often unable to publish on schedule.

So the CMO chats to a few members of the team and they all recount slightly different versions of the same basic story: the CMS is crap.

Bingo. Problem identified.

The CMO, known for their decisiveness, immediately launches a project to upgrade to a new CMS. Within a month they meet with potential vendors and selected the technology, and within another four months they deliver training and deploy the new CMS to staff.

Job. Done.

Except… not. Despite the fabulous new software, that everyone agrees is really great, delivering on time remains an issue.

What could have gone wrong?

1. You’ll fix the right problems

In the scenario above, the CMO, despite their best intentions, fixed the wrong problem.

Here’s what was really going on…

The graphic designers, who according to the formal process documentation were responsible for uploading content to the CMS, had decided not to do that anymore. Instead, they’d reached an informal agreement with the production manager that he would handle all content uploading.

This worked okay for a while, but the production manager had recently moved to a flexible part-time contract, so he was often away for two or three days at a time. This meant that posts and emails that were written, designed, reviewed and ready to be uploaded remained stuck in his inbox for lengthy periods.

In other words, the CMS wasn’t actually the problem. The real problem was this: people had made a bad decision that resulted in the process breaking down. It’s hardly surprising that the CMO had not been able to determine this from a handful of casual corridor conversations.

So what could they have done? One possible solution would have been to introduce a DAM and implement automation for posting to the CMS, rather than simply replacing like for like.

But that would have required proper root cause analysis, engagement of experts and learning about alternative content technologies – not just a half-baked quick-fix.

2. You won’t create new problems

Implementing the wrong software for your content process may not just produce sub-optimal results – it may actually be worse than doing nothing at all.

In the scenario above, the hasty introduction of a new CMS led to a breakdown in the downstream approval process. Final sign-off on all marketing emails resided with the company’s CEO, and some customisations had been introduced in the old CMS to facilitate this.

Unfortunately, after the new CMS was introduced, the CEO stopped receiving the automated alerts. In other words, the introduction of the new software, intended to prevent production blockages, created a brand-new blockage at the highest level of the organisation.

They were fortunate enough to be able to create a stop-gap with some customisations, but the impact could have been, and often is, much worse.

3. Bad technology costs more than you think

Introducing technology to your content process that is not fit for purpose may end up costing you in ways you haven't considered.

Apart from the original project cost, there are also:

  1. Lost productivity and business disruption.
  2. The cost of tweaking and customising.
  3. Rolling back and then implementing a different solution.
  4. Lost opportunities.

In the XYZ scenario, the business certainly incurred business disruption and customisation costs, although there was thankfully no need to rip the solution out entirely.

They also incurred a significant cost by forgoing the opportunity to implement a more comprehensive, value-adding solution, such as the DAM-based approach we suggested above.

For more detail on how shoddy software choices can hurt your bottom line we recommend reading “What a bad enterprise software purchase will cost you” from CIO.
 

4. Winning the change battle will be easier

Preparing an organisation for change is no easy feat. It requires the delicate handling of things like “emotions” and “culture” – complex and fuzzy concepts that are hard to quantify and model.

This means that change projects that may be technically simple to deploy may nevertheless fail in their ultimate execution because employees are insufficiently prepared for how the change will impact their jobs and how they value their work.

In our experience, nailing the change management side of any content process transformation involves the following:

  1. Getting users involved at the very start.
  2. Clearly and accurately explaining and demonstrating the who, what, why and how.
  3. Bringing users along the project journey.
  4. Delivering on your promises.
  5. Following up and feeding back.

In the scenario above the CMO made a decision based on very sketchy information without formal and thorough consultation with the content team i.e. they failed at step one.

Yet change projects shouldn’t merely be viewed as exercises in harm-minimisation; they ought to be seen as opportunities to actually improve culture and energise staff through upskilling, training and investment.

Although the CMS project in our scenario did not have an appreciably negative impact on the culture or how the team viewed their work, it was still a missed opportunity: no lessons were learned, no new skills acquired.

Conclusion

Choosing the right technology for your content process transformation is critical. But you can’t make that choice in a vacuum.

It’s crucial that you view technology as part of an overall solution that also involves reengineering processes and retraining people. And the only way you can do that properly is by first understanding the exact nature of the problem and then engaging experts to help you determine the best course of action.

If you don’t get that right, and you rush into selecting software, you risk fixing the wrong problem, creating new problems, incurring a whole lot of unnecessary cost, and damaging the organisation’s culture.

If change is needed, do it right, and do it once.

Read more of this series here: Building partnerships: choosing a vendor that’s right for you

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Topics: requirements gathering, content process transformation

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