Content management: drivers of effectiveness
Part 1: Building the strategy and getting the right people involved
These results resonate with all the best practices APQC has uncovered over the past 20 years, which suggest that successful KM depends on articulating a clear strategy aligned with the strategic goals of the enterprise. However, embedding content management in a formal KM strategy also provides other benefits.
First, a comprehensive strategy is likely to be accompanied by vocal support from the C-suite, communication campaigns to raise awareness, training on when and how to use the tools, and rewards for early adopters—in short, all the features that are important to get employees on board and that are lacking in many IT-driven content initiatives. Second, most KM strategies situate content as one tool in a toolkit of approaches designed to connect people to information and expertise. Employees are more likely to see value if they view content as a jumping-off point to access related communities of practice, experts in the field and collaboration approaches.
Where should content management sit?
Because 40 percent of respondents thought their biggest problems related to organizational structure and accountability for content management, we took an in-depth look at the groups in charge of those approaches.
As Figure 3 (page 9, KMWorld Vol 23, Issue 7 or download PDF) shows, there’s no clear pattern in terms of where content management sits inside organizations. A little more than half the respondents assign content management to a central KM, content or IT group, whereas 28 percent allow each function or business unit to come up with its own solution. Sixteen percent said no one was in charge of content management, but aside from very small organizations, we suspect that those respondents either didn’t know who was in charge or felt that the group nominally responsible was not actually doing anything to proactively manage content.
When we compared the data on content management ownership with the overall effectiveness of organizations’ approaches, some themes started to emerge. Firms where central KM teams are responsible for content management rated themselves as most effective, with central content management teams and central IT teams receiving about equal scores in terms of effectiveness. That makes sense given the benefits associated with making content management part of a formal KM strategy.
However, organizations with any form of centralized content management were more than twice as likely to be effective than peers with decentralized solutions handled by functions and business units (see Figure 4, page 10 KMWorld Vol 23, Issue 7 or download PDF). Obviously, a unified approach that standardizes processes and leverages economies of scale carries significant advantages, no matter who administers it.
Not surprisingly, organizations where no one was in charge of content management received the lowest effectiveness ratings, proving that even the wrong owner is better than no owner at all.
Who should be involved?
When talking to organizations about knowledge and content management, one of the most common questions we’re asked is: How big a staff do I need to do this right? Unfortunately, there’s no straight answer, as evidenced by the survey results.
Some baseline staff requirements do appear to exist depending on the size of the work force served by the content management approach. For example, organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees tend to rate their approaches as more effective when they have at least three full-time equivalent (FTE) employees (i.e., 40-hour-per-week roles) for content management. Firms with 1,000 to 10,000 employees see a slight bump in effectiveness when they allocate at least five FTEs. Among organizations with more than 10,000 employees, effectiveness increases when there are 10 or more FTEs dedicated to content management.
However, those relationships between staff size and effectiveness are not consistent, and results vary widely by industry and the specific processes involved. Working directly with organizations, we have seen some achieve great results with a bare-bones staff, and others struggle despite large teams. We encourage organizations with less than effective content management to start by refining their strategies and engaging users, adding headcount only if there is a clear need.
To that end, many more people are involved in content management than the few who directly administer the tools and processes. As part of the survey, we asked people which stakeholders inside their organizations were actively involved in identifying content gaps, assessing the breadth and depth of content, and ensuring it is accurate and up-to-date. The options included both groups—such as KM and content management teams, functions and business units, and communities of practice—and individuals—such as people and project managers, process owners, subject matter experts and employees who submit content.