Surprise, surprise. Nearly half of the companies that responded to research by nonprofit knowledge consultancy APQC report their organizations are poor content managers.

While firms are gravitating toward the slickest, newest technologies, nothing can replace a well-developed enterprise content management strategy (ECM), the research found.

Furthermore, less than 20 percent blamed technology. The problem, they concurred, lies with issues around change management, organizational structure and accountability, the report noted.

Using What You Have

Even a quick look through the report, Connecting People to Content, shows most of the technologies needed to manage content in the enterprise have already been deployed. What's missing: better use of existing technologies combined with an effective information management strategy.

There have been numerous reports highlighting and lamenting the lack of coherent enterprise content management strategies. While much of the research focuses either directly or indirectly on the human element in ECM strategies, strategies around the content itself is discussed less often.

Take, for example, the recent Nucleus’ ECM Value Matrix for the second half of 2014, which identifies four market drivers. They are:

  • Simplification: Many vendors are developing their user interfaces (UI) to make their platforms more intuitive and easy to use
  • Automation: Reducing human error by cutting the number of people that touch content by automating the content extraction processes
  • Integration: Developing integration with other ECM platforms, or providing adding functionality when they can’t
  • Mobility and collaboration: These continue to be milestones in the roadmap for vendors

It's noticeable here that all four drivers focus on specific technologies and how they might simplify the management of content. But what about the content itself?

AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) has also been critical of organizational content strategies or the lack thereof. On a number of occasions, it has pointed the finger at the C-Suite, arguing that if an enterprise is missing a content strategy the fault lies at the door of the senior executives responsible for information management.

Focusing On Content

2015-27-January-apqc inefficient content strategies

APQC, however, focuses on the content itself and what enterprises can do to make it more effective. The research found 43 percent of those surveyed are minimally or not managing their content, and trying to paste over the cracks using new technologies.

"We found that a targeted strategy that creates ongoing accountability for content creation and upkeep is a bigger determiner of success. Effective content teams are attuned to the needs of content stakeholders and end users inside their organizations. They understand their audiences and provide tools and processes that align with how people want to contribute, access, share, and reuse organizational knowledge,” Lauren Trees, Knowledge Management research program manager for APQC, said.

Here the emphasis is on people. If technology is an enabler and not to be blamed for its mismanagement in the enterprise, APQC says enterprises need to move in the direction of people and processes that will engage employees, develop content and match people with resources whether they be human, or technological.

But the number of content types is growing through wikis, social media conversations, presentations and video.

There are enormous problems with this including storage, access and discovery, not to mention the universal problem of finding the appropriate content for ongoing tasks. How can people distinguish good content from bad and how can organizations maximize the value of their content and deliver to employees in the context of work? 

APQC’s Research

The report was based on responses to a survey of 500 professionals in early 2014. While there was a wide selection of questions, one of goals was to identify how effective content management systems are in surfacing relevant content and enabling workers find what they need.

The survey found that while 43 percent of respondents said their organizational content management was ineffective, less than 25 percent said it was effective.

Less than 20 percent said that the problem was with technology. Rather, the problems are with issues around change management and organizational structure and accountability, the report notes.

From this earlier survey, APQC was able to conclude that employees weren’t following the processes in place to manage content, or the organizations had not defined sufficient ownership models for the tools and approaches.

Connecting People to Content

The research published earlier this month was a follow from that initial survey. It was designed to identify best practices following an examination of five organizations. In the study, a number of attributes emerged, including one unifying characteristic: best-practice organizations thoroughly understand their target audiences for content.

The result is that their tools and processes align with how people want to contribute, access, share and reuse organizational knowledge. It is on the basis of this that APAQ identified 20 different best practices for best content development and management grouped around five themes.

1. Developing A Content Strategy

Organizations need to develop a content strategy that aligns the creation of content with business goals by connecting how employees interact with content and the overall performance of the business. They also need to distribute accountability between those who own content-related processes and those who own the content. The content strategy should be developed around the needs of those who actually use the content. Best practice organizations clearly identify internal and external audiences and build their content processes, tools and improvements around those audiences.

2. Creating Useful Content

Content creators need to align the type and format of available content for the audience it is for, with best-practice organizations designing it for young, mobile and collaborative workforces. They also need to create roles, or processes, to identify content gaps. The best practice organizations use subject matter experts to this.

3. Content Life-Cycle

Best practice organizations clearly distinguish between vetted and unvetted content with best practice organizations ensuring differentiation between authoritative content and informal content. For content contributors, balance metadata requirements with the need for a streamlined user experience. Best practice organizations recognize that content needs to be tagged so it can be found, but where possible they use auto-populating metadata to improve and speed up the experience. They also maintain strong accountability for content review cycles and get rid of content that is outdated.

4. Ensure Content Is Finable

Best practice organizations create taxonomies and organizing frameworks that reflect how users think about content. User engagement helps build employee buy-in for taxonomies and ensure that terms and relationships represent the way organizations used data in the organizations. Analytics should be used to ensure search results and content recommendations are coordinated, as well as enabling organizations see what users are searching for. APQC says best-practice organizations do not have better search technology, they just use it better. Finally organizations need to integrate content into business applications and processes and also provide mobile apps to connect people to content through smartphones and tablets.

5. Integrating Content and Social Channels

Best practice organizations use communities and social networks to surface needs and incubate content. Combine people and content search in a seamless environment. When social needs arise, best-practice organizations prioritize the creation of content to meet those needs. Search should also be developed to combine content search with expertise location and to make associating the two easy.

6. Managing Change

Organizations need to turn workers into better searchers and consumers of content. Best-practice organization track the health of their content management approaches by measuring how many people are using them. Organizations also need to show Return-On-Investment from content management to demonstrate business impact.

This is only a summary of the 20 recommendations that APCQ makes on creating a content strategy. Definitely worth a look for those looking to change or develop a content strategy that works.