Digital transformation. If your CEO is like most, then it’s a priority for you, in one way or another. What is it, exactly? I like this definition from the highly respected Altimeter Group.

“The realignment of, or new investment in, technology and business models to more effectively engage digital customers at every touchpoint in the customer experience lifecycle.”

Transforming your approach to digital, of course, means transforming your approach to content. It’s more important now than ever to deliver the right content to the right customers in the right touchpoint in the right phase of their lifecycle. The question for most organizations right now is not whether change will happen, but how and who should lead the effort.

Should IT Lead Your Transformation?

It’s tempting to let the information technology (IT) arm of your organization lead this change. On first blush, when talking about buying new technology platforms (content management, digital asset management, and more) and conducting technology integrations, you might think IT should run the show. But, I don’t find that works. Letting information technology conduct your transformation reminds me of the newest addition to our family (and honorary Content Science mascot), Boss.

content science mascot
Boss sits in my office chair. He’s a
classic millennial.

Boss loves people. LOVES them. So, when he sees a new person to greet, he gets very excited. His tail wags so furiously that the rest of his body starts to shake. Sometimes, it appears his five-month-old tail wags him. (And in case you ever meet, he also pees a little bit. You’ve been warned!)

It’s cute for Boss to bring this old adage to life. It’s not so cute for your organization to do so. You risk going through a lot of time, effort, and money without getting the right payoff. It’s not that IT has bad intentions. It’s simply that IT, understandably, focuses on what matters to IT. This myopic view cannot, even with the best of intentions, plan a comprehensive digital transformation that meets your organization’s needs now and for the long haul.

So, how do you know whether your organization is at risk of a misguided-but-well-intentioned IT takeover? Let’s walk through the signs that IT has too much pull in your digital transformation and, consequently, too much control over your content’s future.

3 Signs IT Has Too Much Control Over Your Content’s Future

If you see any of these signs, then your IT department might be derailing your transformation–and unwittingly biting the hand that feeds it.

1. Technology Requirements Are Too Broad or Too Narrow
When it comes to requirements, both of these extremes can devastate your ability to select the right technology for your digital transformation. Not long ago, I worked with a government agency that had released an RFP (request for proposal) for content management technology that included requirements so broad, very few vendors would respond. When you don’t have a robust set of vendors to start your selection process, you likely will not have the right vendor by the end.

As another example, I recently worked with an organization where IT assumed that .NET was a requirement for its new content management and related technology. That requirement led IT to narrow its consideration set to a handful of options. Fortunately, that organization was able to course correct (thanks in part to our help) and expand its requirements.

2. Technology Selection Meetings Don’t Include Business Stakeholders
One reason I like Altimeter’s definition of digital transformation is the scope: technology AND business models. When meetings discussing your future technology don’t include representatives of the business–marketing, sales, product, content, UX, and so on–there is simply no way the selection will support the business. You get out of a technology selection effort what you put into it.

One nonprofit I worked with recently interviewed key business stakeholders to gain their perspective on requirements before even starting the selection process. That’s a great way to set your transformation effort up for success.

3. Technology Selection Skips Proof of Concept and Pilot Steps
With so much at stake in digital transformation, the last thing you want to do is watch a series of demos from technology vendors and then commit to adopting one. Yet, I still see this happen, sometimes because IT thinks they know the technology well enough to determine whether it meets requirements based on demos and discussion alone.

However, if you have a robust set of requirements, a demo will not give you enough information to determine whether the technology really will work for your organization. You need to go through a proof of concept with more than one technology. Try to address some of your most important use cases and requirements. Then, select one or two technologies to conduct a pilot. Try to address more more use cases and requirements during the pilot. After that, you can confidently make a decision about which technology will work for you.

IT steps
If IT skips proof of concept and pilot steps, you will be at risk of problems when you implement new technology.

Involve IT the Right Way

Now, it might seem like I’m picking on your IT department. I’m not. I’m simply saying your CTO, alone, cannot adequately lead this ambitious change. Instead of having IT own the effort, make IT a partner in it. You won’t succeed with only their expertisebut you also won’t succeed without it.

When your organization looks to IT as a valued partner in digital transformation, your effort will be much more likely to plan for a comprehensive set of needs. Consequently, you’ll be much more likely to succeed. Instead of having more content problems, you’ll have fewer. And you’ll have new opportunities to make content work for your customers or users. Now, that’s something to wag your tail about.

The Author

Colleen Jones is the author of The Content Advantage and founder of Content Science, a content intelligence and strategy firm that has advised or trained hundreds of the world’s leading organizations since 2010. She also is the former head of content at MailChimp, the marketing platform recognized by Inc. as 2017 Company of the Year. A passionate entrepreneur, Colleen has led Content Science to develop the  content intelligence software ContentWRX, publish the online magazine Content Science Review, and offer online certifications through Content Science Academy.

Colleen has earned recognition as an instructor on LinkedIn Learning, one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Content Marketing by a TopRank study, a Content Change Agent by Society of Technical Communication’s Intercom Magazine, and one of the Top 50 Most Influential Content Strategists by multiple organizations.

Follow Colleen on Twitter at @leenjones or on LinkedIn.

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