As the Father of two teenage sons, I am recently reminded of the difficult maturation process we all struggle through in our youth. Of course, there are defining moments in life that mark a person’s maturity that often have nothing to do with our age: marriage, buying a house, parenthood, retirement. These moments separate distinct phases. I’m coming up quickly on one myself, the empty nest. I still have a couple of years to go, but I can already tell that it will become one of those defining moments when I send them both off to wherever their newly adult lives will lead them.
It may seem like a stretch, but I believe this pattern holds true for many business processes as well. It’s why I wrote a white paper about the structured content maturity model. I wanted to document the pattern of maturity I have witnessed with several of our customers over the years. Like life, these phases don’t always happen in exactly the same order every time, but generally speaking, they do follow a basic flow. The paper describes them in detail, but here’s a quick synopsis for you.
Phase One (Aware): Houston, we have a problem
Every transition begins with the realization that change must happen. Hopefully this blog article, or the whitepaper I’m talking about here will begin that process for you and your organization. And while I wouldn’t exactly equate bad content with an addiction, their solutions do share the same first step: admitting you have a problem. Unstructured content cannot scale to meet the modern demands of contextualization, findability, and omnichannel presence. I know it sounds dramatic, but structure is the only answer.
Phase Two (Structured): Embracing the freedom of limitations
So, I have to admit, I’m a word nerd. I’ve consistently read and written poems since grade school. Early on I developed a love for poetic forms (e.g. sonnets, sestinas, cinquains). I found that the limitations of the form actually drove me to be more creative and more selective with my word choices. The same is true for writing structured content, yet many writers struggle with this initially. Yet once you embrace structure you gain the freedom of easy content re-use, automated publishing, and omnichannel deliverables.
Phase Three (Collaborative): We’re in this boat together
A lot of people like to talk about the problem with siloed departments. And it’s true, silos do get in the way of creating good content. Too often the stakeholders needed to author a useful, relevant, and engaging document are scattered across the organization in different departments. The reality though is that this will never change. The business organization exists for reasons that are far more important than content creation. That said, we don’t have to let these silos get in our way. With the right technology and process in place, true cross-department collaboration is possible.
Phase Four (Transformative): Emerge from the chrysalis
Admittedly, this phase sounds like something you’d see in a self-help book, but I promise you it’s a fair label for what happens once an organization has reached this level of maturity with their content. This is where you start to reap the customer experience rewards of your labors. You’re creating consistent, high quality reusable content throughout the organization. Departments are collaborating easily and effectively with each other. You’re delivering that content across all channels to any device, in any language. Basically, you’re content has transformed from the fuzzy caterpillar to the beautiful butterfly.
Phase Five (Engaging): Engage!
I love Star Trek. I’m a fan of the original series and The Next Generation. So of course I was sad when I learned of Leonard Nimoy’s passing (#LLAP). But because I’m a Trekkie, I also can’t help but think of Captain Picard for this final phase of structured content maturity. This is what it’s all about, exploring new worlds and seeking out new life…
No, wait. I mean engaging your customers directly with structured content by personalizing and contextualizing output so that it is essentially customized to each reader’s preferences. I mean grabbing their attention with riveting multimedia that’s directly integrated into the rest of your content. I mean publishing your content to social media channels for the under-30 crowd. Marketing departments have been doing this manually for years, and recently in more automated ways. It’s time for everyone else to catch up. Customer engagement is the end goal and every customer-facing piece of content should contribute. So in the spirit of Star Trek, boldly go forth… and engage!
Let me know how this maturity model works for you, where do you see yourself fit into the stages?
Seedling image: CIFOR