Cleve Gibbon

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

Content Engine Explained

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Content Engine

What content challenges prevent you from engaging in broader and deeper customer relationships?  Broader with more channels and deeper through personalisation.  It’s 2017 and we continue to fight the good fight to deliver the most basic personalised experiences within a responsive web channel.  Why is that?

Because it’s hard. It’s not easy to create, manage and deliver content in a predictable, repeatable and scalable manner.  However, that’s precisely what we have to do for omni-channel personalised experiences.  So what if we designed a content engine to do just that? What might that look like?  In this three-part blog post series we explore just that.  Starting with the challenges in this post, we move onto a blueprint for a content engine and before operationalising it in the final post.

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Content Modelling Series – Done

KristinaAndCleveIt’s been fun few years, but my content modelling blog post series has come to an end. I started it to amplify what others were saying about structured content, and to make it accessible. When I started, there was gap: everyone knew structured content was important but there weren’t many places to go to show you how to approach it.

Content modelling is important.  It’s about designing content together, as part of a cross-disciplinary team.  Not from the tech up, or from the business down, but as a joined-up, sustainable team across the organisation.  

A content model is a communication vehicle.  Content modelling is the process to facilitate that communication. Value content modelling over the content model.

As I close out this series, I want to review where we’ve been, what we’ve learned and start to think about what comes next.

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Grow Slow or Die Fast – Confab 2014

Remember Blockbusters?  What about Kodak?  Popular dinner time talking points for digital blunders.  Then the ranting starts.  I ain’t going down like that.  Not me. No way.  No how. Not on my watch.  This kind of corporate fear fuels popular grow fast or die slow digital agendas so convincingly that common sense doesn’t get a look in.

I'm speaking at Confab Europe 29 September - 1 October in Barcelona

I’m going to Confab Europe Barcelona in September.  Ahh, beautiful Barcelona, to join content strategists, managers, executives, designers, and others who believe that we have to think hard about content in order for it meet rising digital expectations.  For content to flow seamlessly across multiple channels, formats, and devices, to truly get everywhere it needs to be to engage with YOU, we must think big, but start small. Or, put another way, to grow slow or die fast.

Some things just can’t be rushed.  Baking. The waltz.  A good port.  I’ve seen many try and the majority fail with catastrophic consequences.  We all have our own war stories but our ability as an industry to learn from past mistakes is painful and predictably repeatable.  It would seem that taking a sensible approach to sustainable content is immediately at odds with business expectations to achieve that. What to do?

First of all, book your Confab Europe 2014 tickets and get yourself over to beautiful Barcelona.  All done, good, let’s move on.

It’s the way that you do it.

Remember Fun Boy Three and Banarama? Of course you do. Eighties pop groups that came together to give us this:

It ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do pretty much sums up the problem nicely. I’m a massive fan of starting small and continuously delivering value back into the business. It keeps you honest. For me, growing slowly at the start makes solid business sense.  The strategic tactician in us all should paint the big picture but move quickly to discover, design and deliver the immediate first step from all the competing adjacent possibles.  To focus.  With that step built and firmly down in the ground, it’s time to step up and take in the new landscape.  Check out the new horizon, it will look different.  Your new will give you new capabilities that means you can potentially do things differently.  Then see how this fits into the big picture.  What’s changed?  Shall we pivot or preserve on our current trajectory?  Big picture okay?  No, then fix it.  Done? Good, then make the decision and get one with making the next step.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that but even the mention of this common sense approach doesn’t sit well within some organisations.  It’s just not how they operate.  Some pay lip service to think big, start small, whilst others openly kick it into touch.  And when I say organisations, it’s people in organisations.  People struggle with agility.  Some have been badly burnt. People don’t have the confidence or courage to embrace change.  Or more likely, people don’t have the safety or support to learn from failure or admit they ever failed.  And so we protect ourselves and push to see the return before investing any time, effort or resources.  The fear factor is palpable.   I ain’t going down like that.  Not me. No way. No how.

Come to Confab 2014

In Barcelona we talk through the pros and cons growing slow using examples wherever we can.  Please bring your own. Why? Because building sustainable content and the digital infrastructure around it to get content everywhere is hard.  So let’s put our heads together and figure this stuff out.

See you there.

Fish out of water

Ooooh, it’s all a bit different in here isn’t it? This seems to be a place about managing content yet this post is written by someone whose role isn’t about content management. My role is CONTEXT management.

Let’s explain; Cleve has signed up for a Secret Santa blog post and I’m the post he gets. It’s written by a learning and development (L&D) professional who knows a bit about IT and is interested about other functions which make my job easier. That’s why reading up on content management is such a challenge – there is a whole industry in creating and managing content in the L&D field which is a reason the industry won’t change.

To me, Content Management (CM) is a misnomer outside the world of content management. In the world of L&D, context (as I mentioned previously) matters more. It’s interesting to read through the ‘rules’ of how content management do their jobs and it seems to be more of what L&D is calling curation.

Have a look at this post from Ben Betts, one of the leaders in curation within the L&D field. Now compare and contract with our host’s post from July about getting back to basics. There are a few points worthy of consideration.

I like Cleve’s ACT mnemonic. The idea of building for the audience is an interesting one; in context management (XM) the audience are not passive and will have higher expectations from the content being presented to them. A quick glance at the uptake of MOOCs in the world of L&D demonstrates that it’s not so much about the audience; – if they don’t like the content they’ll soon stop interacting.

The content in Cleve’s ACT mnemonic needs to be a bit different when curated. The ‘obvious’ piece of content may not be the piece that people need to have delivered to them. There’s a surge in gamification in L&D – what about making your user work for the content? In learning terms it’ll be more meaningful.

Lastly, Cleve talks about technology and how his CMS wasn’t fit for purpose. In L&D there’s a seismic shift away from Learning Management Systems – LMS – as a way of delivering content. You can’t count everything that counts and a new way of measuring engagement with content is coming for L&D in the form of the Tin Can Api. I’m not convinced by Tin Can yet for reasons too long to detail here but if you work in CM you need to understand about how it might change your role forever.

Anyway, I need to get back…nice to visit and thanks to Cleve for hosting.

Merry Christmas.

CSForum 2013

So hot off the tails of a couple of amazing Confab conferences in both London and Minneapolis, comes CS Forum 2013.    This year CS Forum comes to Helskini with a Facebook community to boot.

I must confess; I’ve haven’t spent enough time in Helskini.  Always passing through.  Kinda silly really, given that it’s only a couple of hours away.  Time to right that wrong.

This will be my third CS Forum.  So, if you’re interested in content, and I know you are, come join us. It’s always fun and there so many smart folks to meet and learn from.

Get involved and see you there.

The Rise and Rise of Content Junk

The amount content we produced in 2011 alone exceeded the content created in all previous years combined. ALL previous years combined! We more than doubled the size of our digital content universe.

That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if all that content could get everywhere it needed to be today.  It can’t. Instead, it’s trapped in the applications (CMS, DAM,Word) and/or channels (e.g. Web, Email) that created it.  This is not a sustainable business model for many companies that create and publish content to better engage with their customers.

It’s stupid, costly and uncompetitive to create great content and not invest the time and effort to make it structured and meaningful. To make it future friendly. And yet the rate of growth for digital content continues to rise exponentially, more than doubling every couple of years.  It’s time to stop creating more content (junk) and start making content work more.

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technology and content folks are still disconnected

csforum11-badgeLast week at the Content Strategy Forum 2011 in London I gave a presentation on The Strategist and the Executioner. It was my first outing at a content strategy conference. I met some very smart people and got some great “in the corridor” insights from seasoned content strategists. I learnt lots.

I also found that content folks (strategists) and technologists (executioners) are still somewhat disconnected. The resulting gap has seemingly become an acceptable place to commit car crash content projects with all the usual excuses/finger pointing from both camps. We’re in a bit of a mess. However, my newcorridor content friends were acutely aware of these problem(s) and were full of ideas on how we can clean up the mess. However, as a group we seem to be failing to effectively execute on even the basic ideas. And so the CMS remains the problem of executioners and content the problem of strategists. We need to fix this!

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What do content strategists do?

It’s a question being asked a lot these days.  By clients, the industry, fellow colleagues, creatives, technologists; the list goes on. So in June I attended an EConsultancy course on Digital Content Strategy delivered by Catherine Toole, CEO of Sticky Content to find out from a seasoned content strategist.  It was a great one-day overview that provoked a lot of lively discussion.  Then I got the slide that listed just some of the things a content strategist does.  Take a look:

brand strategy
messaging strategy
competitor content audit
format development
tone of voice
content style guide
copy deck
idea generation
editorial calendar
editorial strategy
SEO/PPC strategy
language guidelines
message map
content production schedule
terms of use
page tables
content licensing
sitemap
style guide
taxonomy
content approval workflow
migration strategy
content analysis
content audit
content inventory
content assessment
content gap analysis
content model
editorial workflow
content types
quality assurance tools
metadata strategy
cms architecture
content migration plan
metadata framework

 
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Online CXM Solutions – CMS In The Middle

A recently published Forrester Wave report on Web Content Management for Online Customer Experience evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of some of the leading WCM vendors, observing that:

  1. The WCM market is growing rapidly to accommodate Customer Experience Management needs (CXM).
  2. The most effective way to do this is for WCM to integrate with a large array of CXM technologies.

What is an Online CXM Solution?

online-cxm-solutions

A set of solutions that enable the management and delivery of dynamic, targeted, consistent content, offers, products, and services interactions across digitally enabled consumer touchpoints – Forrester Wave

WCM, Analytics and Commerce are converging. Marketing Automation, Search and Customer Service Management are the latest technologies making up the online CXM ecosystem.  Forrester clearly positions WCM as a key technology that all the others within the CXM ecosystem need to better integrate with.

Earlier this year I gave a presentation on Building a Marketing Technology Platform to Engage with Global Brands at the Adobe Solutions Partner Conference in Barcelona.  It too positioned content management at the centre of any progressive marketing technology platform.

cms-in-the-middleWhy is the CMS in the middle?  Well, people engage with companies through relevant and useful content.  The CMS ties all this together. However, delivering enchanting online customer experiences still presents mind numbing content challenges.  Mind numbing! Today, creating, managing and publishing up-to-date, engaging and relevant content is too much like hard work.  Yet the key to customer loyalty is by making CXM seriously low effort.   That makes CMS both front and centre in online CXM solutions.

Strategy needs Execution (and vice-versa)

Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat. – Sun Tzu

If you fast forward to the end of the presentation I had time for one question.  It came from Ed Van Siclen, VP of Technology and Partner Solutions at Adobe, who asked the following about the CMS-In-The-Middle slide above:

What drops into the middle next?

Ed, six months on here’s my evolution of that slide:
cs-in-the-middle

Content Strategy is the glaring omission.  Content strategy is required both to guide and course correct execution (and execution to validate the strategy).  Whilst all these tectonic shifts are taking place within marketing technology and online CXM solutions, similar kinds and possible even more disruptive forces are at play within the content strategy community.

Aligning both content strategy and online CXM execution is like walking through treacle. Maddening difficult but align them we must. Content strategists are the ones with both hands in your client’s content. Shaping it.  Adapting it.  Managing it. Everyday.  They are an ideal source of requirements (e.g. a content audit tool) for CXM solution professionals.  They are also the early adopters / refuters / seeders for future CXM technologies.

Make, Manage, Mobilise and Measure CXM Solutions

Forrester broke CXM Solutions down into three categories:

  1. Process-based solutions enable businesses users to create experiences (Make).
  2. Delivery solutions bring interactive experiences to customers. (Manage & Mobilise).
  3. Customer intelligence solutions enable businesses to gauge the success of experiences (Measure).

Rob Tarkoff, SVP of Digital Enterprise Solutions, another Adobe guy, described by Ed as wickedly smart, first recognised that we need to:

Make, Manage, Measure and Mobilise CXM solutions.

Forrester’s second category, Delivery, combines both Manage and Mobilise, but these are really two very distinct activities.  Manage focuses upon the curation, staging and governance of content, where Mobilise is more about the execution of planned and ready-to-go marketing activities.  It is not uncommon for Manage and Mobilise to have different yet collaborating teams of people.

So, what lies ahead?

There are number of players in the CXM market at the moment:

  • ECM vendors (Microsoft, IBM, Oracle)
  • CXM Stack Providers (Adobe, Autonomy, IBM)
  • WCM Specialists (Sitecore, Clickability)
  • Open source offerings (Alfresco, Drupal)

Yet, no one player or product has all the online CXM pieces.  Truth be told, neither should there be.  Would you put/transfer all their technology eggs into one vendor basket?  Unlikely.  Instead, the practical route to an online CXM solution lies through integration.

At the moment, the key areas of integration activity are with CRM, Web Analytics and Digital Asset Management.   Which makes sense when you consider that the focus at the moment is to Make, Manage and Measure customer experiences across the enterprise.  When that’s figured out, the Mobilise (Execution) piece and its smart connections with rich marketing automation solutions will be next interesting story to play out.

Content First

big-guySay you’ve been asked to buy a suit for someone you’ve never met. What do you do first?

  1. Buy the suit.
  2. Meet & Measure them.

For design-led projects, we’re buying that suit first. By damn, one way or another that content will well fit into that design and look good! Of course I’m exaggerating a little here. But if have been in a project where the content is delivered at the end and simply doesn’t fit, you never want to go there again.

Now call me odd, but wouldn’t life be that little bit easier if we sized up the content first and then designed the site to fit it. Measure, then fit. I dream of projects where we all work together to determine what information a site needs upfront, organise it, think of ways to be navigate it and then and only then do we create the designs to satisfy those requirements. What typically happens is something that lies between these to extremes depending on when I get involved.

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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!
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