“Putting Investors First.” At CFA Institute, a global not-for-profit that sets the standard for professional excellence and credential for investment management professionals, this mantra is more than just the theme of our annual society engagement campaign or advice we give our audience. This phrase demands that we put our audience first instead of ourselves, just as any organization should. CFA Institute’s mission, vision, and strategy reflect our confidence that an ethical service orientation, to clients and to society at large, fosters trust in financial systems and drives fair and sustainable results. Yet, did the user experience we were providing really reflect that mantra and our mission to serve finance professionals?
Recently, our Web Services team received a request to update some of our content to reflect recent product positioning work our colleagues in the Marketing Communications (MarComm) group completed. While we could have just changed some of the wording on our webpages, we saw an opportunity to set our sights on a more aspirational horizon.
Using organizational principles as a foundation, we asked ourselves these four questions. Could we also…
1. Bring clients and their needs into sharp focus, letting their information needs lead and shape our investments in content?
Like many other organizations, we have a tendency to publish web content that serves and reflects internal needs and processes. We realized this needed to change in order to better serve our audience and drive our organization forward.
2. Provide web experiences that delighted clients instead of frustrating them?
We needed to see clients as investors of a different sort: people who are contributing time and energy and expecting fair and sustainable value in return.
3. Understand the right asset mix and balance?
In other words, we needed to define the website’s role in a portfolio that includes a significant social media presence, live world-wide educational events, robust relationships with employers and universities, as well as advertising and email marketing campaigns. It was important for us to keep in mind that we cannot expect the website to carry the full weight of communication—that’s unrealistic and increases risk.
4. Get some practice modeling content and establishing foundations for structured and semantically enriched content (aka “intelligent content”) that can be delivered effectively across devices and channels?
Financial markets are complex adaptive systems, as are enterprise websites and the people, processes, and standards that create, sustain, and define them. That complex and adaptive nature can introduce significant risk within and to the system.
As we embarked on our project to improve our user experience and content strategy, we had to re-evaluate some important systemic considerations. In the past, we followed a distributed model of web publishing in which business units “owned” content that supported the products and services for which they are responsible. So, the web team’s role was basically just to enable publication in the channel. However, we knew it was time to evolve our mental model to one in which both groups act as stewards of content that serve up resources that better meet customer needs.
Another consideration we needed to factor into our decision making was that we serve multiple audiences. Clients of our credentialing business who visit the website might be candidates studying for an exam, or they may be exploring a career in investment management and trying to determine which program is right for them. We needed to ensure our improvements to one user’s experience didn’t come at the expense of another’s.
Through this process, we also realized that over time, our silos had become ultra-efficient for delivering against fairly singular objectives. It was time to make the boundaries between work groups more permeable in order to deliver an omnichannel user experience and content strategy.
With the product positioning artifacts from our MarComm colleagues and a list of desired outcomes in hand, we approached Content Science. Together, we embarked on a project to map the customer journey for clients of our credentialing programs, both prospective and current. The first order of business was to establish project teams that included staff from:
Perhaps because we serve clients who operate in the data-driven world of finance, our staff also have considerable depth and expertise in gathering and analyzing data to inform business decisions. Our Market Intelligence team conducts a significant amount of primary and secondary research on a regular basis, the outcomes of which were invaluable in understanding what we knew—and didn’t know—about clients and their needs.
In keeping with the organization’s call to “put investors first,” the project teams conducted several workshops aimed at understanding the path that clients’ travel, from exploring careers in investment management to earning the CFA charter or another credential. In addition to understanding those paths, we worked to identify the clients’ information needs at each phase of the user journey.
Once we understood the distinct journey phases and client information needs, we turned to look at what we were offering to support. The Web Services team audited our available content and provided the project teams with a list of content assets for each program. Through another series of workshops, the project teams aligned existing assets to each phase of the journey. We discovered that for some phases of each client journey, we were offering a lot of content to answer their questions, help them make decisions, and facilitate actions they wanted to take. For other phases, content was sparse or even nonexistent.
We haven’t reached the end of our own journey through this process yet. At this point, we have completed journeys for each client of our credentialing portfolio, and we have mapped our existing content to those journeys. For one program in particular, we have also identified several opportunities for new content to be developed, and existing content to be revised or retired. We’re working on the same with our other two programs. We’re pleased with our progress to date, and consider the following to be four significantly positive returns on our investments:
#1: New and productive relationships between staff who don’t otherwise have occasion to work together.
#2: A step or two closer to a model of collaborative content stewardship rather than ownership.
#3: Deeper understanding of our clients around the world: what their lives are like, what concerns them, and what information they need.
#4: A greater organizational appreciation of the connection between content and business objectives.
With this progress, we know we are “Putting Investors First” more than ever and will continue to identify and fill gaps with quality, useful content that our audience wants and needs while removing content that only serves internal purposes.
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