Most organizations do not properly understand or manage content. They fail to realize that quality content is now key to productivity, cost effectiveness, sales, and customer satisfaction.Frederick Taylor is regarded by many as the father of modern management. His work at the turn of the 20th century had an extraordinary impact on how factories and offices were managed.
Taylor had a great interest in belts because, before the advent of the electric motor, belts were critical to the factory production process. He recommended that the thickness of the average belt be doubled. This was met by much skepticism. "Practical men" thought this idea was rubbish and a total waste of money.
Taylor was not a man who was cent wise and dollar foolish. What he was doing was "tackling a new problem," according to Robert Kanigel in his excellent biography of Taylor, The One Best Way.
"For him it wasn't how wide and thick a belt must be to transmit so much horsepower but, rather, to transmit it "with the minimum cost for belt repairs, the longest life to the belt, and the smallest loss and inconvenience from stopping the machine while the belt is being tightened or repaired."
"The belts were the same, but Taylor's way of looking at them was new. To him, they weren't so much transmitters of power as potential impediments to production. When the belts broke, the machines stopped, and the factory grew still. And this must not be."
The challenges Taylor addressed with belts are the same challenges we need to address with content. Recently, someone asked me why it was a problem to fill an intranet with PowerPoints and PDFs.
To them, their job was to get content put up as quickly and as cheaply as possible. But that is not the job. Why do we create a PowerPoint? To communicate an idea. To change behavior. PowerPoint is used as an aid to the presenter. It helps the presenter communicate more effectively. Without the presenter, a PowerPoint is like a car without a driver.
So, why would you put up a PowerPoint on an intranet? One good reason would be that another presenter could find that PowerPoint and then use it as part of another presentation. However, if you want to directly communicate ideas to your staff, then a PowerPoint has much less value. It would be much more effective to show a video of the presentation, shifting between images of the presenter and the PowerPoint slides.
On the Web, quality content can make the sale, deliver the service, and build the brand. What do customers want to do? What's the most appropriate content for the job?
Thinner belts were cheaper, but they snapped more often and thus negatively impacted on productivity. Thicker belts were more expensive, but they delivered more in productivity gains than they added in cost.
Low quality content-or content that was created for another purpose (press releases, brochures, PowerPoints)-is cheaper to put up on your website. But this content will not deliver as much value as content specifically created for the Web. In fact, it may destroy value, turning customers away, losing sales, delivering poor service, and hurting the brand.
If you are a manager, you first question must not be: "How much does this content cost?" Rather, it should be: "How much value can this content create?"
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.