Columns November/December 2020

The Content Services Organization: Powering the Information-Enabled Enterprise

Intelligent content starts with new organizational structures and effective content supply chains

 

By Cruce Saunders

An Evolving Landscape

The steady evolution toward information-enabled enterprises continues without pause. As modular knowledge assets shape all customer and internal experiences, the processes surrounding that knowledge and its expressions as content continue to change and adapt.

Static content artifacts created with document or web “page”-oriented methods are no longer flexible enough to respond to modern customers’ needs across channels. Now, all clients have unique combinations of platforms and architectures running content across departments and channels. Technical diversity is natural, and there is yet no magic-bullet tool to make content modular and ready to serve customers.

Dealing with content through software can be both a solution and a silo unto itself. In the face of constant change, lasting stability only emerges when content and processes work in and around technology. Content only becomes intelligent enough to create an information-enabled enterprise through specific disciplines and processes built around that content. Therefore, content requires a real organization responsible for it.

[A], in practice with clients, has built a sustainable management approach we call the Content Services Organization (CSO). The CSO organizational model is briefly described here and in depth in the “[A] Guide to the Content Services Organization.”

The CSO is in development and operation with some of the most complex enterprise publishers in the world. Today, CSOs are in development and in active practice in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, banking, nonprofit, software, and technology firms. [A] models client Content Intelligence Teams and our own organization structure in alignment with the CSO framework. Because the CSO approach is so straightforward, we believe any organization, of any size, can learn from adopting it in some form.

What Is a Content Services Organization?

The CSO is a chartered function within an enterprise that has the ultimate responsibility for the content supply chain. The CSO contains content practice leadership, including strategy, engineering, and operations. The CSO organizes content and content processes to support publishing groups to build and deliver intelligent content.

The CSO has three functional practices that exist together, within a permanent, chartered function, as shown in Figure 1.

Content strategy is an essential planning activity that identifies the content an organization should acquire, manage, and leverage. It also sets the stage for how that content is intended to be used across platforms, audiences, and devices. Content strategy organizes vision. We can think of content strategy as the CEO of content, setting direction, measuring success, and optimizing for shareholder needs and market conditions.

Content engineering is the application of engineering discipline to the design, acquisition, management, delivery, and use of content and content technologies used to support the full content lifecycle. Content engineers and related semantics experts organize the shape, structure, and application of content by handling structure and semantics, the Core Content Model, taxonomies, and tagging standards.

We can think of content engineering as the CTO of content, managing all the data-level details that help the content parts of the business run smoothly and making it possible to deliver modular Content-as-a-Service (CaaS).

Content operations is the organizational practice that performs the day-to-day business of acquiring, managing, and leveraging content. Content operations collaborates directly with content strategy and content engineering, facilitating the day-to-day application of the Content Orchestration Model across authoring, localization, content management, and related teams.

We can think of content operations as the COO of content, running the day-to-day business of content, managing standards, working with IT, facilitating interactions with stakeholder groups, and making sure that the people, process, and technology pieces all come together.

Why Intelligent Content Matters

Content originates from virtually every function within an organization, spanning pre-sales to post-sales. It is the basis for all customer experience.

For most of us, content is just plain hard. It’s manual. It’s unorganized. Major effort is involved in moving content manually from system to system, silo to silo, language to language, channel to channel, and server to server.

How do we evolve? How do we embrace the new age of intelligent content?

Whether content is internal or external facing, it is a durable asset with real value. Implementing a CSO enables us to get intentional about content. We need to make sure our content workflows are efficient and effective. Many of us need to move away from document management to flowing, dynamic content elements. We need to architect and manage a real content supply chain. We do this by bringing together the content strategy, engineering, and operations practices. This enables us to produce next-generation intelligent customer experiences.

Intelligent customer experiences are based on intelligent content, which has been previously structured and contextualized so that it can flow efficiently and effectively between people and applications, deliver individually optimized customer experiences at scale, and maximize the return on the investment made in its acquisition and management.

How the Content Services Organization Produces Value

Content intelligence is a core organizational capability that emerges when an organization modernizes the methods it uses to acquire, manage, and leverage intelligent content. An organization with content intelligence will have the ability to broadly scale its delivery of next-generation customer experiences, learn about its market and customers based on how its content is used, and adapt in real time to what it has learned.

The enablement of an organization to realize, sustain, and evolve its content intelligence through a CSO makes many benefits possible:

  • Scalability. Development of intelligent, responsive content empowers enterprises to meet the demands of expanding content channels, formats, and platforms.
  • Context and personalization. The coordination of content strategy and engineering produces intelligent content with metadata that makes it easier to find and helps identify the context necessary for on-demand personalization.
  • Cost reduction. Modular content becomes far more flexible for reuse and can be discovered in entirely new ways. These benefits are shared across authoring teams.
  • Increased customer retention. The CSO reduces friction in the content supply chain. This ultimately touches everything else across the customer journey, and leads to increased customer satisfaction and retention.

Since customers now begin their journey on almost any touchpoint (and from almost any device), modular and component-based content is essential. Building structured content modules and working with content more like data objects enables content to be dynamically assembled in many ways, meeting the customer’s needs in real time.

Scalability and Scope of the Content Services Organization

The CSO can function at any scale: It can start and run at the department level, or it can be built out at an enterprise-wide scope. The more scope it has, the more valuable it is because more connections are created and duplicated content is further reduced.

The enterprise usually builds up a cross-functional CSO over time, starting with an empowered team focused on improving content production. With a CSO in place, content from different groups can finally become an integrated whole, delivering shared core content to the rest of the enterprise, within product, and to partners and customers. Through content intelligence, customer experiences can start to evolve from ad hoc, functional interactions to real, holistic relationships.

A Coordinated Solution for an Information-Driven Enterprise

Content is a durable enterprise asset. It’s the intellectual property that runs all interactions between an enterprise and the world. Thus, it needs to be treated as an important asset. That is why the people in these practices work in tandem to streamline all the internal costs and effort around content. They also work to power context-ready, modular, and intelligent content elements that are assembled into consumable content to reduce customer effort. Content models, architectures, tags, ontologies, and knowledge graphs alone won’t move content without smart people working well together. The people make the content.

The CSO plays a critical role in maintaining shared standards and shared content resources. Once it has good operating rhythms in place, the CSO can facilitate content quality across the portfolio of assets, ensuring that current content meets business goals and that older content gets retired or updated. It can facilitate cross-team practices around privacy, accessibility, and regulatory and legal compliance. The CSO connects and helps unify diverse teams and ways of working.

Today, more senior leaders are investing in cross-functional content organizations because the CSO addresses systemic problems and opportunities in a systematic way. Instituting a CSO goes beyond publishing: It’s an excellent way to upgrade the overall intelligence and coherence of an organization built on knowledge—and aren’t all organizations intelligence-enabled and knowledge-driven?

Conclusion

Wherever it is located in an enterprise, the CSO fills a vital need for creating and maintaining an information-enabled enterprise by aggregating content assets into a common shape and semantically rich form.

These shared core content assets—defined within a common, unified content model—become available through CaaS endpoints that fuel the various consumption channels, functions, and customer experiences. Enterprise content then can be expressed efficiently to address diverse needs across publishing environments.

What we see at [A] is how much progress organizations make when we work together on the long journey toward integrated knowledge sets and focus on empowering global enterprise customer experiences from a single, orchestrated content set.

When publishing functions and content sets exist across many departments, systems, platforms, and people, the CSO acts as the vital facilitation layer to give birth to true content intelligence and intelligent customer experiences.

How will we recognize an information-enabled enterprise? We will recognize them through the fruits of their intelligent customer experiences: unique, assembled, contextually aware, self-learning, evolving, and integrated across diverse content types.

 

 

Publishers face many challenges creating a new operating model and orchestration approach for dynamic omnichannel content. This column addresses the changing content ecosystem and the evolving dynamics in the space. Questions, suggestions, or feedback? Email editorial@simplea.com.

 

 

References

[A]. n.d. “The Content Order.” Accessed 23 January 2021. https://simplea.com/Treasury/The-Content-Order.

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