Cleve Gibbon

content management, content modelling, digital ecosystems, technology evangelist.

My Simple Meeting Policy

This is my simple meeting policy. With more virtual meetings, we need more time to recover between meetings.

To any meeting organizer, I will commit to:

  1. Arriving on time.
  2. Leaving on time.

To any meeting organizer, I need:

  1. An agenda in the invite.
  2. Proactive management of the agenda to the allotted time.

To any meeting organizer, I encourage you to:

  1. Shorten your meetings (25min, 50 mins).
  2. Adopt a simple meeting policy, like this one.
  3. Encourage others to do the same.

Nobody likes:

  1. Meetings that start late.
  2. Meetings that overrun.
  3. Poorly managed meetings.
  4. Running between meetings.
  5. Meetings!

So if you have to have a meeting, please, make it simple!

Content modeling revisited

I miss writing about content design. However, when I wrapped up my content modeling series four years ago (Oct 2016), I started getting mail. A lot of mail. From practitioners to managers, and the odd executive. All asking the same questions. So today, let’s revisit content modeling to see what was on their minds.

Advertising & Marketing

I work in the advertising and marketing industry. Brands implement data-driven processes to get to know you, the consumer. Research shows, and purchases prove that the just-in-time assembly. of content, to drive personalization, which delivers better customer experiences. Innovations in advertising and marketing look to reach target audiences with relevant messaging that resonates. Get it right and consumer engagement increases exponentially. Everybody is happy.

Web, mobile, social, and email are some of the more important channels to reach consumers. However, content that is relevant (across channels), resonates (on message), and has the desired reach (typically global) needs well-designed content to get everywhere it needs to be. And this is where the content modeling questions wanted specific answers that showed them how.

Insights behind the questions

So Cleve,

  • Where do we personalize the content within the model?
  • Can you design content so it’s shareable across email and web?
  • How does taxonomy fit with content modeling?
  • Should the content strategist own the content model?
  • What is the best way to overlay audiences with atomic content?
  • What tools are you using and which ones should be core?

Better questions requiring more in-depth answers. But look at them. The questions focused on how and who (modeling) rather than what (model). This told me that content models were being used. The industry had moved on.

So, whilst answering the questions, a few recurring themes kept popping up. I wrote them down as observations that the people asking the questions had. To be clear, they are not my observations, but I agree with them! For sure, we have all got smarter about content design. Take a look at what we thinking:

  • Copy and assets are both content, but with different lifecycles
  • CMS for Copy and DAM for Assets, obvious but important
  • Content modeling is an iterative and incremental design process
  • Designing for content requires a multi-disciplinary team
  • DO NOT leave content modeling to technologists
  • Content modeling is based upon tried and tested design principles
  • UXers and Content people still struggle to work together
  • Atomic content is not cheap

There were many more. However, I’d like to pick up on the last bullet as it always comes as a surprise to those responsible for funding well-design content.

Atomic content is not cheap

Breaking stuff is easy. Atomizing content so that it can be assembled, disassembled, and re-assembled into different forms, by machines is a totally different ball game.. However, it’s possible, if you design for it.

Designing content that is raw (channel-agnostic), self-describing (machine-readable), and modular (like lego) requires time and effort from everyone participating in the end-to-end orchestration of customer journeys. This is what costs the money.

A solid right-to-left plan helps you focus on the content design outcomes and outputs. Then test and break the model against real engagement use cases, with real audiences to ensure that the content delivers the right communication at every moment in the journey. Even if you build this, the test effort alone requires a significant investment of time upfront, and ongoing people and processes to run and operate effective content delivery.

Summary

For the record, I didn’t have silver bullet answers to the questions. My answers were merely confirmation of what they already knew, with a few tweaks.

The noticeable shift in thinking from how do we create a content model (design-time) to how to best apply atomic content (runtime) is clear. The need for atomic content is well known, however, the effort required to apply it, not so well understood.

We have moved from awareness to the adoption of atomic content within our people, processes, products, production, and publishing efforts. Leaders in the field are scaling up to liquidize their content fast. They are done with experimenting and are actively executing (read as connecting) across more and more channels. The laggards are not, and struggling to structure within existing channel silos.

Where are you?

Measure What Matters

Measure What Matters

So I read Measure What Matters. It was awesome. The book outlines a goal setting system that scales from small projects to the large programmes of work. Started at Intel, popularised by Google, Objective Key Results (OKRs) are widespread from Bono to Bill Gates. Today, OKRs are a proven approach to operating excellence that focuses teams to measure what matters.

My recommendation for anyone, particularly in managerial or leadership positions to read the book. It’s an example-driven, people-oriented account of how to bring order out of chaos.

Objective Key Results

The model is simple. Objectives define what we seek to achieve. They are directional. Sometimes aspirational. But always clear and concise in their description.

Key results are how to achieve objectives. They have concrete steps to success. Always specific, measurable actions, and within a set time frame.

Time for example. Here is a 4 year OKR from YouTube set back in 2012. It was further broken down into a set of rolling, annual objectives and quarterly, incremental key results.


OBJECTIVE
Reach 1 billion hours of watch time per day by 2016
KEY RESULTS
Search team + Main App (+XX%), Living Room (+XX%)
Grow Engagement and gaming watch time (X watch hours per day)
Launch YouTube VR experience and grow VR catalogy from X to Y videos


Plans, Progress and Problems Report

OKRs are your target and steps to get there. However, you still need to continuously track progress towards success. Weekly checkins with your teams are important. And that’s when I realised what was missing. Let me explain.

Back in 2013, I shared the power of PPP reports for effective communication of problems and progress against a plan. Plans needs clear targets, however, these were always difficult to standardise on.

But what if OKRs are the plans (objectives) with the milestones (key results). Combining OKRs with PPP reports, we suddenly have an framework to track progress and problems against clear plans, or OKRs.

There is definitely a bit of trial and error going on here, but I think it worth a try. So I decided to put this into action. Give me a quarter and I’ll share whether they are a match made in heaven, or not.

Summary

OKRs are simple but effective goal setting system. The simplicity comes from the investment in time and people to write good OKRs. They should not be delivered from on high (directors) to the little people (doers) with consultation. Instead, OKRs writing requires pro-active engagement of top-down and bottom-up thinking.

PPP reports provide a great vehicle to track and report progress against OKRs.

Separate Work from Home

Separate Work from Home

I’m a big fan of productivity. There is always too much to do. That’s why I’m continually looking for ways to do more with less. Over the last twenty years I’ve adopted best practices (e.g. GTD – Getting Things Done), embraced planning methodologies (e.g. PPPs – Plan, Progress, Problems ), and picked up new habits (e.g. DDD – Delete, Delegate, Do). Then, sought out the best tools to make it easy to use across the many devices I work with. I done an okay job of that. However, I have always struggled to separate work from home life. Why?

What’s the problem?

Over the last 14 years working at Cognifide, I have always used the same devices to carry out my work and home tasks. As a result, I never really switched off. Ever! That’s the problem. It is too easy to switch from work to home, and vice-versa, when both worlds live on the same machine.

What did I do?

On December 31st 2018, I decided to physically separate my work from home life. Let’s call this Separation Day!

Prior to Separation Day I had a MacBook laptop and an iPhone. I had multiple profiles and documents for both my work and home life across these devices. My Dropbox for Business was the unifying filesystem where everything was stored.

On Separation Day, I bought a MacBook Air and another iPhone. I purchased a personal Dropbox Account. Then I moved all my personal files, data and documents across to my new acquired MacBook Air, and deleted all aspects of my home life from the work MacBook. I went through a similar exercise with my iPhone. It was bloody painful. It took a month to sift through all everything, but by the end of January, it was all done. I had separated work from home.

What happened next?

I carry two phones now. My home phone is always with me, where my work phone travels with me for work only. I have two laptops. Same deal. My work laptop is for work. I keep it closed at home and use my personal laptop when not at work.

Over time it became more and more comfortable to not work at home. It is easy to walk through the door, put down my work phone, and leave my work laptop in my bag. Prior to Separation Day this was impossible.

If I need to work, it is for a discrete task, and when it was done, the laptop goes away. The work laptop is no longer always on, which means, never am I. This was by far the biggest mindset change for separating work from home.

What other changes are happening?

I rarely use my work phone at home now or my work laptop at home. I love opening up my home laptop because that is for fun. My wife is cool when I’m at home on my home laptop, because I doing my stuff.

I’m also much more productive on my work machine . I’ve removed things like instagram, facebook, and all the other distractions from work. I have greater focus now with fewer distractions. If I need to have a break at work, I pull out my home phone and play. When I’m not working, my work machines become instantly irrelevant. Literally, no interest to me! In much the same way that when I’m on my home laptop, work never comes to mind. I will never have a work document on my home devices .

Why does it work?

Hard boundaries work. I needed that physical separation of laptops and phones. Only now do I have clear water between my work and home life. It’s really working for me. I wholeheartedly recommend this for you.

Soft boundaries don’t work. They are conflicted. I had Chrome for work and Firefox for home on the same laptop. Always convincing myself that I had go this sorted. I was kidding myself. It didn’t work. I found myself switching between the two often. It was way too easy and tempting to slip into work at home, to check that last email. The hard boundary put a complete stop to that.

Separate Work from Home

I’m much more productive at work now, and I can completely switch off at home.

At the end of this month, I leave Cognifide, UK to join Wunderman Thompson North America as their CTO. Thankfully, the work transition is painless. I had done all the hard work back into January on Separation Day. I will hand back my work laptop and phone here in London and pick up a new work laptop and phone Seattle. There are no work-to-home life conflicts to deal with. Life is simpler.

I will never go back to putting for my work and home life on the same devices. I’ve blown up that bridge. They are mutually exclusive. Trust me, once you make the change, guaranteed, you will never look back. Well, you’ll ask yourself, why didn’t I do this before? But don’t beat yourself up, just make the change now, and enjoy your new freedoms.

Towards a Marketing Content Hub

Last month industry experts met to discuss the state of content management. Janus Boye facilitated CEOs, CTOs, market analysts, and subject matter experts unpack the term content. What we discovered, with the help of Theresa Regli, was the undeniable rise of the marketing content hub.

Content

Content is communication. As an industry, we struggle to communicate effectively at scale across multiple:

  • Audiences
  • Languages
  • Markets
  • Channels
  • Devices
  • Technologies

Traditionally, we view content through two important lenses:

  • Copy as text
  • Assets as images, documents, videos, sound, etc.

In doing so, this gives us to very simple formula for defining what content is:

  • Content = Copy + Assets

About Copy

In the early days of the web, communication was heavy on copy. A web site migration was a lift and shift of company documents onto the web. The resultant was walls of text positioned copy was king.

As we learnt to write more effectively for the web, websites applied the “less is more rule” to copy. Web pages became easier to read. Whitespace was celebrated. The amount of web copy reduced and the use of assets increased.

About Assets

Today, people are engaging more and more with videos, sound and images than ever before.  The use of assets in marketing communicationsis on the rise:

  • YouTube uploads 300 hours of video every minute.
  • Netflix is 15% of the total downstream bandwidth for the entire internet.
  • Instagram has over 100 million post per day.

Copy remains important but so are assets. Assets are a critical part of any customer experience. Great experiences need both copy and assets.

Managing Content

So, what does this mean for the systems responsible for managing content? Technology enables content authors to effectively manage copy and assets. Interestingly, vendors have also divided their technology solutions along similar content lines. A CMS predominantly manages copy where a DAM focuses on the asset part of the content equation.

Content Management Systems

A CMS is better equipped to manage copy than assets. The majority of CMS solutions target the web. A Web CMS (WCMS) creates copy through a web authoring interface and publishes for desktop, tablet and mobile consumption. The popularity of WCMS increased in line with the ubiquitous spread of the web. Although WCMS solutions purport to be channel agnostic, the web remains the channel of choice them.

WCMS capture copy, mix-in assets, and publish web pages. The strategy is clear. Build just enough asset management capability within the WCMS to enable authors to assemble web site content. WCMS vendors chose to integrate with enterprise DAMs, some made strategic partnership, whilst others built their own web-based DAMs. But for WCMS, treatment of content was:

  • Copy First, Assets Second

Digital Asset Management

Assets are fundamentally different from copy. Assets have different properties, life cycles, audiences, and use cases. As a result, a DAM solution does not manage assets in the same way that a WCMS manages copy.

DAM solutions need to track asset usage with rights management software. Approval processes tend to be more rigorous. The storage and streaming of assets are critical and differentiated by asset types (e.g. video vs sound). Assets need to be channel agnostic and accessible across the enterprise so that same video can be re-purposed at a market level.

DAM solutions are purchased by marketing departments that share assets across e-commerce, outbound communications, social channels, point of sale systems, and of course web sites. However, pure play DAMs no longer meet the needs to marketing departments that need more accessible and available assets at scale to create great experiences. A DAM solutions view on content is:

  • Assets first, Copy second

Marketing Content Hub

Useful and usable content is intelligent. This requires both copy and assets to be:

  • Raw; enables content to be produced in one channel and consumer in another.
  • Self-Describing; enables machines to ask content questions and get meaningful answers back.
  • Modular; enables applications to disassemble and re-assemble content on demand

A marketing content hub treats copy and assets as equals. The hub is based upon a content model that is well-structured and meaningful. The content hub enables marketing to gain fast accessible to highly available copy and assets at scale. The marketing content hub sits at the centre of the content universe, co-ordinating and collaborating with traditional systems of record such as DAM, WCMS, PIM, eCommerce, Point of Sal, and ERP.

Marketing Content Hub

Simple?  Not quite.  It never is when there is revenue on the table.

The above shows DAM vendors moving into the marketing content hub space. WCMS vendors are also trying to keep their products relevant. by adding more sophisticated asset management capabilities to their solutions. Drupal’s Content Hub syndicates content between Drupal sites and Sitecore recently acquired Stylelabs into its WCMS offering.

The marketing content hub is a vendor solution for providing content at a service back into the business. It is just one part of the content engine, but an important part none the less.

Block Days for Getting Things Done

I’m always looking for ways to be more productive. Always. With so many things to get done, I’ve been a long time subscriber to the getting things done philosophy. Over the last couple of years, I’ve been toying with a block system to better structure my work day. Last week, I put block days to work.

The Block

A block is a period of time. Blocks come in various sizes. 30-minute blocks. 20-minute blocks. One hour blocks. You decide.

The goal is to break up your work day into blocks.  Then decide what you want to do in each block. That’s it. The theory is simple, but the execution is a little harder.

Block DaysTime for an example. When I get up and decide its a block day, the first I do is grab a sheet of paper and block out the day. At the top, you see it’s Wednesday and my day runs from 7am to 7pm. I tend to use 30-minute blocks giving me 24 blocks in total to play with.

I work at Cognifide. I’ve assigned 10 blocks (5 hours) to Cognifide, a paper I’m writing has 6 blocks (3 hours) and other stuff I need to do in the day makes up the remaining 8 blocks (4 hours). I capture high-level outputs/outcomes for each of these block areas. For example, I want to complete the research section of a paper I’m writing today using the allocated 6 blocks.  When I’m planning the block day, I make I’ll be happy with the outcomes/outputs.  Then the day is around doing the activities in the blocks to hit those goals.

When I first started blocking out my day I got too fine grained. I had lots of block areas on the left, typically 2-4 blocks, but that didn’t work. So I got more coarse-grained in my planning. I introduced the bottom section to illustrate the activities I’d perform within each block area. This worked well. I tend to add and remove actions in this bottom section as I progress through the day. Always use pencils, and have an eraser nearby.

Finally, as you progress through your block day, mark the blocks off. This is so important. You are rewarding the progress you’re making. Marking off blocks is a great feeling and pushes you towards the end.

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Becoming reMarkable

reMarkableI got myself a reMarkable for Christmas. With a £479 price tag, it wasn’t cheap.  A reMarkable is a paper tablet for people that like paper. I use it to read articles, annotate presentations, capture notes, review books, and most importantly sketch down ideas. Now I’ve had iPads in the past. Microsoft Surfaces.  Tablets running Evernote. And many others. But my reMarkable is just different. Even though the others have better functionality, support for more formats, and generally more widely used, they are not reMarkable. Let me tell you why I’m becoming reMarkable.

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Own Your Owned Media

Owned Media Media TypesSucceeding online used to be about launching web sites. Dot com and done! Fast forward twenty years and web sites are just one of many touch points competing for consumer attention.  In addition to web sites, newsletters, catalogs, blogs, kiosks are also important assets within a brand’s overall owned media portfolio.  Why owned?  Because owned media assets are things directly controlled by the brand.  Nobody else.  However, owned media remains unclear and misunderstood by many. That’s not surprising given the messy, complex and overlapping relationship owned media has with other types of media,  namely paid and earned. But what is becoming increasingly clear is the need to own your owned media to succeed online today. Let’s get a little deeper into this.

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WPP Sitecore Alliance

Last week was big week.  It had nothing to do with hitting Vegas and everything to do with activating the WPP Sitecore Alliance.  What is that?

wpp sitecore alliance logowpp sitecore alliance logo

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Going Frictionless

I recently visited Six Flags in Illinois – a massive and totally awesome theme park. The purchase journey presented a number of options to buy the tickets: Mobile, Print, Collect and Post. Everyone one of them was a pain in the ass option with the exception of mobile. Who prints stuff when they’re on holiday? How many foreign travellers have a US address? Who wants to wait in line to collect tickets? However, I do have a mobile. To me, that was the only relevant option. Going frictionless means making it easy for me, the consumer, to engage with your business. What I’m seeing in the market is large scale failure in going frictionless by the majority and insane levels of success by those that are getting it right. And the gap between leaders and laggards is growing.

Going Frictionless: The Story

We are all consumers. You absolutely must create product and services that are simple, accessible and work to deliver frictionless consumer experiences. It’s the new norm.  Consumers expect companies to have their house in order.  Going frictionless is today’s brand challenge.

Know that there are two important audiences going frictionless needs to cater for:

  • The consumer; we must deliver seamless and consistent engagement across all touch points in the journey.
  • The enterprise; we must design systemic and sustainable business processes that craft consumer journeys from frictionless experiences at every touchpoint.

You need both. There is no point striving for frictionless consumer experiences if the enterprise cannot support them in a sustainable way at scale. Equally, the enterprise needs to craft connected experiences that consumers feel are frictionless. These two audiences are two sides of the same going frictionless coin where one informs and is informed by the other.

Going frictionless coin

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About Cleve Gibbon



I'm Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Wunderman Thompson where we are passionate about digital content.

My sort of up-to-date cv tells you my past, linked in shows you my professional network and on twitter you can find out what I'm currently up to.