Cleve Gibbon

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

Board Service

One of my personal goals this year was to learn more about board service. Corporations are changing. Governments are relying on and regulating companies more and more each day. As such, the role of a director is complex, yet critical for corporate success. It’s a tough gig.

I’ve spent a large part of my career in management. Specifically designing, developing, and deploying technology solutions that deliver better business outcomes. I continue to have a blast at that.

However, you cannot manage in a vacuum. The adoption of technology into the business requires increasing awareness of the economic, market, geopolitical, regulatory, and digital transformative changes corporations are going through. All within the midst of a pandemic, diversity and inclusive needs, and a purpose-driven agenda for a more sustainable planet for everyone. It is literally all change.

So why board service?

Shareholders elect directors to oversee management. Directors are ultimately accountable for steering the ship. I firmly believe that a great board of directors builds great corporations. And corporations are moving faster and more decisively than governments to deliver the environmental and societal outcomes the human race needs to survive. The role of the director is critical in this ever-changing complex business environment. By the same token, bad directors can result in bad companies. The actions of the few can be devastating to the many, both inside and outside.

NACD Accelerate

I’m a curious fellow. A pragmatic academic. So I decided to go back to school and get certified as a director. I’ve been a board member of private companies that I’d owned in the past, and on various board advisories for big tech companies. However, I needed to know the full breadth of what it means to be a director across all types of companies. Specifically, ones where I was not a majority shareholder.

So, I found NACD Online, or the National Association of Certified Directors. NACD raises the bar for board service. It equips you for directorship in ways I didn’t imagine. You learn very quickly the director’s philosophy of ‘nose in, fingers out’ thinking. Moreover, you get an instant community of like-minded people on similar but unique journeys. And finally, you get access to so many useful and useable resources.

Last week I passed the exam. I’m a certified director with NACD. It was challenging but rewarding.

Next Steps

Consolidate what I’ve learned. Share with others. Keep dreaming. Direct more. The search begins…

Black Leadership

I’m black. Born in England and live in Seattle, Washington.  I turned fifty in 2021.  I’ve three careers – so far – an academic (5 years), a software architect (6 years), and currently a chief technology officer (16 years).  For the last twenty years I’ve head leadership positions where I created and/or part owned those companies I worked within.  Now, given the renewed racial tension and events taking place across America, and building a family, I’ve been asking myself what it means to be a black leader today.

Black Leadership Academy

Enter McKinsey who run a Black Leadership Academy program.  I was fortunate to get a place on it in November 2020 through work. And so, six months I’ve graduated and got my badge. But short story short; it was life changing. 

How so?  After speaking with a few of female colleagues attending women only events, like them, these environments are a welcome space to share and care with peers. Less interruptions, no mansplaining. Similarly, the everyday biases and barriers invisible to the majority, yet ever present to the minority, gone! Instead, we were free to openly discuss key leadership topics around networking, managing personal energy levels, psychological trust, the power of storytelling, and the rising importance of non-executive board directorships.  The focus was resolutely on the work. But don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of occasions of group therapy, bonding, and camaraderie. It that was fun. This added to the sense of freedom we strive to feel within a less diverse environments, or put another way, the world we live in today. 

Back to the work

I graduated from the McKinsey Black Leadership Execution Program – BELP – and made many new friends.  The storytelling session was off the charts, equipping the attendees with essential communication tools.  The importance of networking was brought forward and the need to continuously grow and nurture your personal board of directors focussed on you.  Common sense and extremely powerful when applied in the right way.  

The sessions were human. Highly engaging, and deeply personal at times.  The content is proprietary to McKinsey and private.  Unfortunately, I cannot share it with you.  However, I would highly recommend you sign up for the program.  As I said, life changing!

From Cash Wallets to Digital Wallets

Digital wallets are on the rise.  In year COVID – 2020 – digital wallets surpassed cash as the number one payment at all point-of-sales globally.  That’s a big deal. But what are you and I using now instead of cash?

Cash was King

I’ve got a baby on the way. So my wife and I are changing things up at home.  We’re buying and selling furniture. Nesting if you will.  My wife posted a sofa on Facebook Marketplaces for $3000 and Brian said he wanted it.  

Brian> Cleve, do you mind if I come over at 10:30 am to take a look 

Cleve> Sure, no problem Brian

Brian> Awesome, I’ll see you then!

11:30am and Brian rocks up at all flustered and wet.  It’s raining.  Wife and U-haul in tow.  

Brian> Had an absolute nightmare withdrawing $1,500 from a Bank of America ATM

Cleve> How come?

Brian> Typically, we don’t withdraw this amount of cash.  Fraud checks and all.  Took me an hour on the phone to get the cash.  But here it is.

This was literally my first cash transaction since moving to America back in October 2019.  I was happy for Brian but confused as to why he was using cash. I said nothing.  My wife and I showed them our sofa and they agreed to buy it.  

Brian> Right, the downpayment.  Please count it, I’ll feel better that you do.

Brian stuffed the dollars into my hands and asked me to count them. I did as instructed.

Cleve> Okay, all good!

Brian> Super, where’s the nearest ATM so I can get the remaining cash.

Towards digital wallets

I pointed Brian towards the nearest ATM five minutes up the road, and they were gone!  45 minutes later and still no sign of Brian.  In the meantime, we sold another sofa, paid using Venmo (a digital wallet), the buyers had collected and gone.  Okay, Brian’s back!

Brian> That was a nightmare. We couldn’t get any more cash out.  We’re at the limit for today.

Cleve> Yeah, it doesn’t matter what ATM you go to, the limit is the limit!

Brian> However Cleve, I can use Zelle.  It’s a digital wallet I never knew I had on my phone.

Cleve: Interesting. Zelle works for me.  Do you want my cell number?

Brian> Yeah, that’s it, all you need to give me is your cell number.

So Brian and I stand side by side – we didn’t need to do this but did – and in 60 seconds we’re done.  

Brian> I had no idea I had a digital wallet, literally on me all the time.  Why would anyone go to an ATM?

Why indeed?

The Cashless Future

So going forwards Brian will double down on his new digital wallet.  For me, I have the added challenge of going into the bank branch to deposit Brian’s first cash payment of $1,500.   Today, cash is hard to work with.  However, as more and more people with mobiles unlock their digital wallets, increase the number of transactions through them, the future of banking will truly become decentralized. 

Imagine that. Imagine.  That!

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?

To Video and Beyond

A couple months ago I met Lujza.  She’s into video. Big time.

We all know video is important.  Some already citing video as the most important type of content for truly engaging with consumers.  But what steps can we take to really understand how effective video is at doing that.  Well, that’s where Lujza’s story is really interesting. Over to you.

Lujza Bubanova, Co-founder of YouFirst & Divano

Lujza Bubanova

Lujza Bubanova of Divano and YouFirst – Video

Hi! Before co-founding Divano I was a professional golfer. I got into media tech while studying for a Masters of Digital Marketing at Hult International Business School in San Francisco. As a student, I started a conference called Startupism.  That led to me securing a spot at the Stanford Persuasive Technology Labs as an intern studying behavioural patterns and then media consumption of contemporary viewers. So what did I find?

We can gauge the ability of viewers to consume two sources of entertainment at a time and at the same quality level as if consumed from just one source.  Think TV and mobile.  Not only can be do both but the sum of the two parts is drives superior engagement.  This finding now serves as the fundamental hypothesis for Divano’s value creation model during ad breaks (more on Divano later).

I’m also tapping into the new area of emotion metrics focusing on youtubers and Mulit-Channel Networks (MCNs) allowing them to pre-test content before release.  With YouFirst, you can do what the big movie/tv productions having been doing for years but a fraction of the cost using technology.

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Content Modelling Series – Update

Short update.  It’s been a little bit hectic over here in the content modelling series.  To summarise what we did:

The content modelling reboot got off to a great start and thank you to those of you that shared the articles and contacted me with improvement suggestions.  This month we’re going to hit content packages and design guidelines for content types and attributes.  Then in June we’ll tackle relationships and modules.

Again, if folks have ideas around the content modelling series, get in touch and share them.

 

Content Modelling Series – Rebooted

ShaftShootingI’m currently sitting at home listening to the ‘Theme From Shaft’.  It soothes the soul. More importantly it has helped me make an important decision.   Let me explain.

I’m sitting on a shed load of content modelling material that will most likely never see the light of day.  Not to mention grow old, stagnate and ultimately become completely useless.  Gathered from project work, workshops, presentations, conferences, talking with smart people, and a even a book that I started but had to put down for work commitments.  Instead of taking another year to try and reshape it into something, why not practice what I preach, test and learn, and get some immediate feedback.  So I’m hoping what I share today will be useful to you tomorrow.  I promise to share little and often over the next few months through my content modeling series.  I think that makes sense.

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Content Management: Back to Basics

One of my clients is about to go-live with the first phase of their content management programme this Summer. It’s not called that of course, it never is, but that’s what it really is. I’m made up for them. And after three hard years defining, crafting, and defending their business case, it took only one year to deliver.

My client is a media publisher; content is their business. They engaged us just over two years ago to help nudge their business case over the line and implement the content managed solution. What was supposed to take a couple of weeks ticking contractual boxes and reviewing requirements, ended up taking twelve months of real hard work trying to answer a very simple question:

  • What is content management to you and how do we do it effectively?

Time to ACT.

Here’s the thing, we needed to consider Audience, Content and Technology in that order, to ACT. I can’t remember where I first heard this term, but I believe is was something to do with Deane Barker. In our case:

  1. Audience. Our customers were mobile, digital savvy, and everywhere; yet we were not reaching them.
  2. Content. Our content was great and growing; yet we couldn’t get content everywhere it needed to be fast enough.
  3. Technology. Our home grown content management system (CMS) was mission critical; yet we knew it was no longer fit for purpose.

So we went basic to basics, embraced ACT, and focussed on content management.  We dropped the word ‘system’ from CMS. We also refrained from replacing ‘system’ with ‘strategy’ because we needed to understand and define what management means to the business, before planning to do it effectively. So, all our attention was on management.

We then embarked on a journey of discovery. It wasn’t positioned as that at the time, more like a series of experiments (kaizens) that we  ran one by one, to learn by doing. Easier done than said.  We looked at the strengths and weaknesses across the business, then very quickly separated content management into three distinct areas; production, management and delivery. We also pulled together our collective experience gained working in the content business and concluded:

  • As a publisher, we knew how to produce great content, but were ill equipped for multi-channel delivery.
  • As an business, we were digitally immature but were getting more experience producing (structured authoring) and delivering (responsive design) content.
  • Across the board, we were struggling with content management that was negatively impacting both production and delivery.

Production and delivery systems rely upon a clear content management vision that defines how content is structured and accessed.  With a clear vision, production gets content in, delivery gets content out, and  management lies at the core.  The glue between these systems is not just the content.  In fact, in the first instance, the structure of content proved to be more important than the content itself.

CMS-ProductionManagementDelivery-600

Production.

We needed to get content in, from multiple sources, and to reduce duplication, for similar content to be single-sourced. Multiple content sources included other systems, other people, other companies, that were both internal and external to the business. Also, when referring to a specific piece of content, we needed a master that was always the single source of truth. That is quite a big ask we made of the content production team. However, that’s precisely what we needed to prevent garbage-in, garbage out scenarios arising in content production.

So we equipped our editorial teams with author-assisted tools to support the creation and assembly of structured and meaningful content.  These content production systems used metadata, taxonomies and content models to bake intelligence directly into the structured authoring tools that policed and punished all attempts to create bad content.

Delivery.

We rely on raw, self-describing, and modular content. It’s simply not sustainable for our management system to be tightly coupled to every possible outbound delivery channel. Both new and existing delivery system needed to be able to discover where and what content is available.  The delivery system is ultimately responsible for providing the optimal channel experience that it is supposedly the expert in. That separation of concern, content from format, truly brings focus, and with focus comes scale. Our role within content management is to equip our delivery systems with the means to self-serve well-structured and meaningful content, and then get the hell out of the way and let them do their job.

Management.

In both cases, if we are to effectively manage content, we need to define, design and structure content first. Then make that structure accessible to all.  Production and Delivery rely upon us getting management right.

So, back to the business case. That’s how we approached the problem. We went back to basics on content management. We parked production and delivery to begin with and focussed purely on management.  We defined our content architectures to structure and store content. Hypothesised about future content. Worried (a lot) about how best to store it (this is not the same as management; you don’t have to own what you are responsible for managing). Kept the content raw, self-describing and modular. Created content models, lots of content models. Built APIs to get content in, but just as importantly, to get content out. We had fun.

Then, with a clear content management vision, the originally planned CMS became a web publishing tool within the delivery tier. A decision was made to roll our own structured authoring web-based tool that used all the accessible metadata and structured content. The content itself was not stored in a CMS but elsewhere.  And so many other things fell into place.

Decisions were not as daunting to make now, not with a working understanding content management. That is not to say everything is solved now and the future is set in stone. It’s a works in progress. But content management is a tangible thing now, which goes a long way to getting decisions made and facilitating change.  That really helps.

Onto phase two…

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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.