Cleve Gibbon

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

Delivering Content is Hard – Where’s my Content Strategy?

There are projects, and then there are content management projects. The latter are the ones that keep me awake at night. The challenges seem to have no bounds. There don’t seem to be any knowledge ceilings in sight. You are constantly learning (which is good), sharpening your tools and/or adding new ones to your content toolbox to successfully deliver these kinds of projects. So why are content management projects so damned hard then?

Now I agree with the folks back at CMS Myth when they say:

“CMS is a technology, while content management is a discipline.”

And the discipline starts with creating a content strategy that is aligned with a pre-defined vision. What do you want (vision) and how can you get there (strategy). The CMS is just one of a number of parts for executing on the continually evolving strategy. Now I’m not best positioned to talk about what is content strategy and by what measures we can sort the good from the bad. However, as somoeone responsible for executing on a strategy, no strategy means crap delivery. It is shocking just how many companies are prepared to jump head first into execution with little regard for strategy and with their vision impaired.

So, I am forced to move upstream to assist, validate and verify (web,mobile) content strategies. But content strategy is a complex, multi-facetted, multidisciplinary, space. This is hardly surprising given that both vendors and content strategists alike believe everything is content. And as we’ve all probably experienced, when everything is content, everybody and the kitchen just have to get involved.

The Content Life Cycle

Putting to one side everything is content, let’s just try and understand what’s it’s like being content. I wish I could post up a flowchart for the life cycle of content. Sorry, no such luck. Your content and how you intend to use it dictate that. However, every piece of content does have a life cycle. It is created, used and eventually destroyed (if you plan for it to be destroyed that is). Content can have multiple owners that change throughout its life. Understanding how ownership is transferred is key, yet seldom done. Stepping through in meticulous detail the transformations content undergoes during its life and the roles it plays in producing new content and/or consuming existing content is a project “nice have”. However, this modelling of content is critical in the same way that the modelling objects/components are to application design, and the modelling of proteins/cells are to biochemistry.

For example, Julie starts work on a text document, that is formatted by Colin into a word document, and branded by Derek before Sarah presents it as part of her keynote proposal to the Board of Directors on Monday morning. After that meeting that document has both legal and regulatory requirements and should be managed going forward as a record in the organisation’s record management system. That is a simple content flow with multiple owners. Another example is where a high resolution image now needs to be classified, indexed, versioned, secured, stored, possibly reformatted or canonicalized. The image is no longer just content, but a visible, valuable and managed company digital asset.

But things are getting harder

Now with introduction of social and semantic web, just how do you build that into your web content strategy?

Well, what’s clear to me is that without a content strategy, delivering content management projects is so much harder. Even with a strategy, you can be sure that there are going to be gaps and inconsistencies. That’s not a big deal. But with a strategy, we have a means and process by which to bring about change. Because, when all is said and done, once you know what needs to be delivered, delivering it is easy. The vast majority of project waste is (re)delivering the unknown, the unclear, and the undefined. By taking the first steps towards creating a content strategy, companies can drastically eliminate project waste by removing the un from undefined, unclear and unknnown from content management projects. That doesn’t mean that they will not continue to be challenging. But at least we are taking steps to making things better than what we have today.

Category: cms, content strategy

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About Cleve Gibbon



I'm Cleve Gibbon, CTO at Cognifide 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 doing.

This year I plan attend a number of events. Hopefully I'll see you there. I'm easy to find as I'm always laughing. Find out more about me and get in touch!