knot in the rope
PHOTO: Robert Zunikoff

We previously examined how a well-executed information management strategy can have a direct impact on an organization’s ability to reach business objectives. Now, let's dig a little deeper into the core aspects of content — quality, type and management methods — and, more importantly, how these elements impact the overall productivity of an enterprise in an increasingly connected digital world.

Related Article: Tying Your Most Valuable Information to Business Objectives

Role of Content in a Data-Driven Economy

When it comes to measurement and analytics, brands tend to automatically think of data as just numbers. But what they should be thinking about is how they can use this data to make better decisions, and how it can drive business goals. Ultimately, data can help deliver relevant content, but it is the actual content that completes the picture painted by the numbers.

Together, data and content work to provide the information vital to growing and driving businesses towards success. Content maturity, and an efficient content supply chain, are key to a digital-first organization and should be part of the strategic business objectives of any ambitious brand.

Just like data values, there are various kinds of content. Depending on the type of content, an organization may manage the content differently to get the most value out of it. But first, we need to consider, what constitutes good content?

What Is Good Content?

There are several ways to define what makes good content, but the following are the minimum requirements:

  • Accuracy and Clarity: Information corresponds with reality and is verifiable.
  • Integrity: Information meets user expectations and does not have gaps.
  • Timeliness: Information is updated frequently to meet business requirements.
  • Findability: Time spent on search and retrieval of information is minimized.
  • Applicability: Business process(es) and/or individuals can understand and use the information.
  • Governed: Information can be traced and monitored to meet business objectives.
  • Uniqueness: There is only one correct version, in other words, a single source of truth.

Types of Content: Structured, Semi-Structured, Unstructured

It’s important to map the right type of content to the various situations in your organization to ensure it addresses your business needs in the long run.

Structured Content

Here are some typical characteristics of structured content:

  • Organized predictably.
  • Classified by metadata.
  • Often componentized.
  • Stored in a centralized repository.
  • Maximizes the opportunity for reuse, dynamic assembly and can be published in many different formats (web, print, etc.).

Metadata provides information about other data, making it useful for machines or AI services to utilize the information. Structured content also can ensure consistent tagging, accurate search results, compliance and data governance, security and tracking.

Related Article: Looking for Structure in the Dollar Menu

Semi-Structured Content

The characteristics of semi-structured information include:

  • Unstructured information with semantic tags.
  • May be defined by different attributes.
  • May use tagging applied by workflows.
  • More searchable than generic unstructured information.

A good example of semi-structured data is HTML code, which doesn't restrict the amount of information you want to collect in a document, but still enforces hierarchy via semantic elements.

Unstructured Content

Unstructured content includes emails, documents, videos, photos, presentations and many other kinds of business documents. These documents have no associated data model and include many different formats.

These types of content often do not have any associated metadata, and if they do, it is often inconsistently applied. This means you cannot access the benefits that structured content provides.

Related Article: Get Smart About Intelligent Content

To Structure or Not to Structure Content?

So, does every organization need to use structured content?

A structured content approach makes sense for certain use cases where content plays a vital role in digital transformation initiatives.

These digital transformation initiatives can be anything from dynamic content assembly for self-service portals, to intelligent knowledge hubs and product and services documentation. Because structured content enables content reuse, you can eliminate unnecessary duplication of effort and ensure consistency anywhere common content is reused.

Simply stated, structured content improves business agility, provides governance and control and enables findability to both external customers and internal employees. 

When deciding where to start, consider how you want to manage this content and how you are defining your broader content strategy. Early adopters of a structured content approach include manufacturing, high-tech, financial services and life sciences. If these industries are quickly recognizing the benefits of a structured approach to content management in comparison to traditional document-based management, shouldn’t all industries be doing the same?