There’s no denying that personalized, quality content is a key factor of good customer experience. Especially in technical communications, it enables users to learn how to get the most out of products and services, and how use them properly. Content is a central factor of their level of satisfaction, and in some cases a warrant of their safety – more reasons for organizations to make their strategy a priority.
Governance is at the core of any robust content strategy. It constitutes a framework for teams to efficiently collaborate and manage their content lifecycle.
However, despite its being an essential part of long-term success, governance is frequently misunderstood, and too often under-valued and under-resourced.
In this blog, we’ll discuss facets and benefits of governance for content operations, how to implement it, and pitfalls to avoid.
What do we mean by governance and why do you need it?
To be successful, a content strategy requires structure. Organizations need to design relevant processes and resources to properly implement it.
Governance, with the key facets that define it – business, information architecture, technology, and process – helps streamlining content operations, while significantly improving collaboration amongst stakeholders. Let’s look at these facets and what they imply to achieve a sustainable model.
As they craft their governance model, organizations should analyze and acknowledge their vulnerabilities, especially in terms of efficiency, validation, and automation. Building rigour and governance around those will help mitigating these risks.
For instance, when content creation involves a lot of manual efforts, including copy-pasting from one system to another, and no validation process or changes tracking method, this translates into a threat to introduce human errors. Besides, unnecessary manual intervention means a waste of time of resources that could be dedicated to more meaningful tasks. In this example, investing to automate this process would prevent manual intervention, errors, and free up resources.
Organizations should also very carefully design intersection points between systems, teams, and functional groups. This means clearly define roles, responsibilities, and ownership. Governance takes ongoing commitment, planning, and change management to overcome corporate culture barriers.
Information Architecture (IA)
Behind good governance, there’s a solid information architecture. To this end, it’s important to know the stakeholders and their requirements. Next, these requirements should be consistently documented, communicated to stakeholders, and reviewed with them to ensure understanding, alignment, and compliance.
This IA analysis and design process is meant to be repeated regularly, and evolve over time to address specific business objectives, particularly as new content is being reviewed, as the business changes, and new groups onboard.
Having full time information architects is not an obligation. This can be a shared assignment between several IAs, so long as the organization allocates competent resources that work together with stakeholders to meet their needs.
A unified content model is essential for the management IA and will allow making consistent information architecture decisions. This model should be straightforward, guaranteeing its being successfully implemented and observed.
Centralized reuse and enforced harmonized element usage will provide further guidance to ensure users understand and follow rules. As groups of teams and different business units share content, and learn to use elements consistently, this will result in significant time and cost savings – especially for localization – and an optimized allocation of resources.
Owning a tool such as a Component Content Management System (CCMS) to manage content operations isn’t sufficient. Creating a governance model will guarantee the tool and toolchain are properly leveraged.
To achieve this model, organizations should conduct an exhaustive and realistic assessment of system capabilities and limitations. The tool is neither the content strategy nor the governance model, but the medium to apply them.
With a harmonized model, teams can efficiently manage content and leverage CCMS features to support processes. Business logic is no longer reliant on written policies and good behavior. Instead, it is enforced using the system’s functionalities and capabilities. Teams benefit from increased efficiency, lower maintenance burden, and significantly reduced content cycle time. Furthermore, they can reinvest the time recovered into other initiatives such as content quality or product offerings enhancements.
On the other hand, if a tool chain and solution architecture are bound to processes that no longer work for the users and the business overall, there will no longer be alignment in how stakeholders complete their tasks. The tool becomes a constraint rather than a solution to improve operations.
Therefore, the scalability and sustainability of solution designs should be validated beforehand and re-validated periodically as changes occur.
Processes exist to support stakeholders in doing their work and should tie to their needs. It is crucial that they are actively involved and consulted in implementing processes. Recognizing existing processes and identifying where there is room for improvement is the way to proceed.
Stakeholders must be given the opportunity to explain their constraints. Processes should be realistic, flexible as needed, and account for those constrictions. Clearly defining roles and identifying collaboration points will keep stakeholders in synch and empower them to complete their tasks in confidence. When introducing a tool to govern content, organizations must also forge a migration path to help onboarding new groups.
Processes should also include a remediation plan in case any issue arises. This will allow to mitigate consequences early on and turn these issues into opportunities to adjust the process and prevent this to happen again.
The most important thing to acknowledge when designing a governance model is that it entails commitment and alignment at all levels of the organization. Change management is also central so that stakeholders do not feel left out or end up pushing back. However, completing your content strategy with a sustainable governance model will undeniably improve your business content operations making it easier for all people involved to do their job.
This blog was originally presented as an IXIAtalks webinar by Rob Kimm from IXIASOFT and Amber Swope from DITA Strategies Inc. Check out the webinar recording to hear use cases of governance implementations our experts were involved in, and lessons they drew from it.
Marketing Coordinator at IXIASOFT
Information Architect at DITA Strategies Inc
Amber is an internationally recognized expert on the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA). She specializes in helping teams develop their information architecture and implement DITA. With over 20 years of experience in the information development field and 15 years of DITA expertise, Amber helps teams design and optimize their environments to improve efficiency and reduce costs. When she’s not busy changing the world with XML, she can be found diving and enjoying her hometown of Portland.
DITA Specialist at IXIASOFT
Rob Kimm has been a DITA architect, user and evangelist since 2006. Prior to joining IXIASOFT, Rob worked as a technical writer, and information architect at several Fortune 500 companies in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area. He then worked at Medtronic, Inc. the largest medical device manufacturer in the world, where he led his team’s DITA adoption. Rob is based in St Paul, Minnesota and is a regular conference speaker on DITA, information architecture, and industry best practices.
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