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Content management: drivers of effectiveness
Part 1: Building the strategy and getting the right people involved

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Advice on content management is everywhere, but with so many resources provided by vendors and consultants, it can be difficult for organizations to find the information they need to make informed decisions. Earlier this year, member-based nonprofit APQC partnered with KMWorld to uncover the truth about content management inside organizations—which tools are popular, which trends show the most promise and what successful firms are doing to pull ahead of the pack.

Our purpose was to learn:

  • What’s the best strategy for content management and who should be responsible?
  • What does the current landscape look like, and what new technologies are gaining ground?
  • Which tools and enablers work and which don’t?
  • Where are the biggest opportunities for improvement?

To find out, we asked 494 professionals how their organizations store, manage and deliver enterprise content. This article, the first in a two-part series, highlights results related to developing an effective content strategy and defining roles and responsibilities for managing content. Next month, we will share details about the specific tools and approaches firms find most effective for connecting people to content.

Content management: a reality check

One of the most important questions we asked survey participants was about the big picture: How would they rate their organization’s current content management approaches in terms of surfacing content and enabling employees to find and access what they need? We didn’t expect everyone to tell us things were perfect, but at the same time, we weren’t prepared for the dismal picture painted by the responses. Only three percent of participants rated their organization’s content management as very effective, with another 20 percent saying their firms were effective. Thirty-four percent said somewhat effective, and a whopping 43 percent said their organizations were minimally or not effective at managing enterprise content.

Obviously, content and IT teams have a lot of work to do to better structure repositories, provide more targeted search results and make it easier to access information. However, when we asked respondents why their organizations were less than effective at content management, relatively few listed poor technology as the root cause (see Figure 1 at the top of page 9, KMWorld Vol 23, Issue 7 or download PDF). Instead, the vast majority said their biggest challenges had to do with change management (e.g., employees don’t know how to, don’t want to, or think they are too busy to use the tools in place) or organizational structure and accountability (e.g., the wrong group is responsible for content management, or there is not sufficient ownership of the tools and processes). This suggests that many firms are investing in the right tools for content management without building the processes and culture required for the technology to be implemented successfully.

Because so many organizations seem to be struggling with people- and process-oriented elements of content management, we started our investigation there. To that end, we have identified the most effective ways to position content management strategically within the enterprise and the best stakeholders to get involved.

What’s the best strategy?

As part of the survey, we asked participants about their objectives for content management. In short, why did each organization have a process to manage content, and what did it expect to get out of it? The results suggest that purposes vary widely from firm to firm, with no single objective a focus at more than a bare majority. The most common goals were to:

  • help teams organize content for efficient access and retrieval (56 percent);
  • preserve content for historical, legal or archival purposes (48 percent);
  • provide access to content across boundaries (48 percent); and
  • manage customer-facing content (46 percent).

Goals to support the creation of collaborative content (e.g., through document sharing or wikis) and to integrate content into the flow of daily work were slightly less common, with 40 percent and 36 percent respectively citing them as a focus.

The relative lack of interest in those last two objectives may be linked to the change management problems so many organizations are having. Efforts that concentrate exclusively on document management and preservation tend to be technical and legal solutions, most of which do not actively engage employees in contributing, curating, recommending content or in accessing and using information shared by others. Similarly, solutions that bury content in dedicated repositories separate from the processes and applications where employees work are unlikely to achieve broad adoption, even when the content is useful to those who bother to seek it out. Firms might achieve greater success if they incorporated real people doing real work into their objectives, rather than viewing content management as a matter for IT.

Other findings underscored the value of embedding content management in a balanced, strategic solution. When we asked respondents whether their content management approaches were part of formal knowledge management (KM) or knowledge sharing strategies, the results were split down the middle, with 47 percent saying yes and 52 percent saying no. However, when we compared people’s responses on that question to how effective they said their overall content management approaches were, the impact of strategy became clear. More than two-thirds of respondents with connections to formal KM strategies rated their organizations’ content management as effective or very effective, compared to only nine percent of those without such ties. (See Figure 2 in the middle of this page 9, KMWorld Vol 23, Issue 7 or download PDF.)

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