It started with a content inventory. Our technical documentation department was given the mission of making an inventory of information sources about an AI-based decision management product.

Very soon, what was supposed to be a simple list of documents had become a can of worms. We kept discovering new, exotic content; a simple treasure hunt had turned into a wild adventure through the corporate jungle in search of an understanding of the product content we produced.

In this search for lost content, we became conscious of the unproductivity of silos – how to knock them down and rebuild a scalable and efficient content strategy:

  1. Decipher the organization to understand where content gets created.
  2. Develop a shared understanding of the content model to streamline content creation.
  3. Map the end-to-end content experience to identify opportunities for improvement.
  4. Baseline and measure your content efforts against your strategy to make sure content decisions are strategic.

Decipher the corporate matrix of silos

In a big, multi-brand, multi-product, multi-service organization, content creation processes are entangled even though each group lives with the impression that what they produce is the centerpiece of client experience.

The content in the organization is like roots and vines creeping through the jungle. Each one grows and evolves according to its own incentives, objectives, and standards.

IBM

When we started the inventory, we discovered that almost every part of the organization was playing a role in content creation: marketing, sales, developer communities, technical documentation, training, support, services… We ran into content-related roles and teams we had no idea existed. A lot of the work had to do with finding out who was doing what, and putting them in contact  with each other.

This was an informal, ad-hoc way of busting silos. It was not enough, however, to build a true end-to-end content strategy – we needed teams to align on a shared understanding of the content itself.

Learn new tribal languages

The moment you set foot in unknown content territory, you discover that the way you talk about content, and your whole content culture, isn’t shared. There is no lingua franca. Some talk about leads and conversion rates. Others talk about managing and reusing assets. Some talk about topics and content management.

In all of that, we first had to clarify what we meant by content, as opposed to format, channel, or subject matter. We agreed that what makes content specific is its purpose – the business value it brings in addressing a specific client need: Content ultimately answers a question about what something is, how it works, or how to use it. Content also has an experiential purpose: It aims at having clients feel a certain way as a result of getting an answer to their question.

For example, while some teams speak of video as content, when you look at this content from a purpose perspective, you realize one team’s “video” is another team’s “demo.”

IBM

From there, you can define a common vocabulary, a content model, that all parts of the organization can start using. This shared model highlights how unproductive silos can be. Several teams were making demos, but were calling them by different names. By collectively agreeing that the content could go by the name “demo” for two different teams, we started collaborations between content producers that were effectively creating the same type of content.

Find the X on the map

The content model is a first step in bringing different teams onto the same ground, but it’s not enough to get them to act on content and really have an impact on client experience.

What you then need to do is bridge the worlds of CX, UX, and support into a single view of customer experience. In the corporate jungle these are experience-related silos.

IBM

In this very high-level customer journey map, you describe the experience in terms of what customers do, think, and feel, and the content in terms of channels used and content types.

You can then see where actions need to be taken. You identify content opportunities (the treasure) from there.

For example, we decided to provide more best-practice content early in the journey so that clients would make better architectural choices upfront and avoid having our support team assist clients to recover from poor architectural decisions.

Share the treasure

You find the treasure on the map. You decide to dig deeper in that spot. But then how do you make sure that this was actually the treasure you were looking for?

This is where metrics come into play. One thing about the corporate jungle is that you can’t turn it into the Hundred Acre Wood by magic. You don’t change a big corporation. But it’s the silos you are here to bust, not the organization. You can still bust silos without changing the organization by sharing the strategy so that any individual within the organization can act strategically.

So you need to make sure that all content decisions are strategic – at all levels. So you communicate the strategy, measure it – before and after you dig out content treasures – and share the credit for finding the treasure with those who went digging.

When we identified content purpose across the journey, we defined strategic content missions associated with KPIs. For example, for a content mission to demonstrate how our customers’ business needs can be addressed with our product, we decided to measure likes and sentiment on that content, correlated with number of leads. That way people were free to make the right choices, not just driven by their place in the organization or the channel in which they usually publish – but driven by a specific goal and purpose, and measure for content.

IBM

We are still looking at automating the metrics part, and we know this is key to scaling product content strategy at the corporate level.

In the context of a large organization, when you start looking at content from a client journey and ecosystem perspective, you’re immediately faced with technology, people, process, and culture silos. Busting those silos is essential to defining a real end-to-end customer experience through content.

You do that by deciphering the organization, building a shared mental model for content, mapping the end-to-end customer experience, and finally measuring against content opportunities and missions.

As in all adventure stories, it takes guts to venture into unexplored territory, but only then can you experience the joy of unearthing content treasures!

The Author

Marie Girard is a CX / UX / content strategist, teacher, speaker, and innovation facilitator currently leading the strategy for digital client experience of IBM cloud AI software. She facilitates design thinking activities across silos, runs content audits, and always keeps the focus on user experience. Marie also teaches technical communication at Paris Diderot University, and keeps investigating how everything interrelates through the practice of yoga. Follow her on Twitter at @MarieGirardChop.

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