Content Matters – But People Matter More!

Content Matters – But People Matter More!

people and technololgyI was recently asked to participate in a KM roundtable event that APQC are organising on the subject of Content Management Systems (CMS).  They wanted to gather some perspectives from KM professionals and thought leaders (their wording, not mine) active on Social Media to answer a few questions on the best way for creating and gathering internal enterprise content, organising and maintaining that content and making it easily accessible to employees and other stakeholders.

The questions and my response as follows:-

1. Our best practices research says great content management systems have content developed around stakeholder needs.  Why is this not always the case, and what can companies do to make sure it happens?

I’m not convinced that many content management implementations make the effort to identify all of the potential stakeholders, or perhaps even understand what a “stakeholder” is. A content management solution must take into account the needs and motivations of the major stakeholders, which will include developers, content contributors, business owners, content administrators and production staff.

Some of the reasons why stakeholder needs are not met – or even ignored:

  1. The development-operational divide: IT/Developers don’t fully understand the business, and will opt for a technical solution that they do understand. This usually means some sort of compromise by operations staff, business users and other stakeholders
  1. Security: access blocked to some external services and websites.
  1. Support costs: need for standard applications and devices (not necessarily the best available).
  1. Accelerating rate of change: organisations are finding it increasingly difficult to keep up with a rapidly changing marketplace. New technologies and new content sources take time to be fully integrated into enterprise production systems.

I regret to say the answer may be too radical for some, but it comes down to having a clear strategy for managing rapid change. This will include using Cloud products and services, e.g. SaaS, PaaS or outsourcing some content production processes. Since it ultimately comes down to cost, any such strategy must be accompanied by rapid decommissioning of legacy production processes and technology.

2. What are the keys to having content that different generations of employees can use and understand?

As a first step, recognising that the organisation has employees with different needs, and not just age demographic. But focusing here on the need for more effective knowledge sharing:-

The organisation should strive to ensure that:-

  • Knowledge management efforts are aligned with the organisation’s strategic objectives.
  • Knowledge management activities (learning and sharing) are integrated into every individuals’ daily work activities.
  • More time is available for employee personal development (PKM)  and less on formal (e.g. classroom) training.
  • The use of and growth of personal networks is encouraged – both inside and outside of the organisation. This includes social media.

3. A lot of content management systems are filled with content that is no longer relevant or useful. What processes have you seen or used that ensure CMS isn’t cluttered with material of questionable value?

Any organisation that values the quality of its information assets (and the people who manage them) should have an information governance policy, with compliance owned and monitored by a senior executive or board member (e.g. CIO).

The policy should set out the organisation’s information standards and how compliance with these standards will be measured and reviewed. The policy would typically include:

  • The identification of information assets and the classification into those of importance that merit special attention and those that do not.
  • The quality and quantity of information for effective operation ensuring that, at every level, the information provided is necessary, sufficient, timely, reliable and accurate.
  • The proper use of information in accordance with relevant legal, regulatory, operational and ethical standards, and the roles and responsibilities for the creation, safekeeping, access, change and destruction of information.
  • The competence, suitability and training of people to safeguard and enhance information assets.
  • The protection of information from theft, loss, unauthorised access, abuse and misuse, including information which is the property of others.
  • The harnessing of information assets and their proper use for the benefit of the organisation, including legally protecting, licensing, re-using, combining, re-presenting, publishing and destroying.
  • The strategy for information systems (manual and digital) with particular reference to the costs, benefits and risks arising.

I think this response goes beyond what was asked in the question, but the key point I wanted to get across is that of the importance of information governance. In my experience, few organisations realise the value of their information assets, or recognise the importance of the IM/KM profession in managing these assets. The consequences of losing information, information gaps or using wrong information can range from reputational risk to costly litigation. To be absolutely clear – it’s a management and not a technical or process problem.

Addendum

1. Harold Jarche was also invited to respond to the same APQC questions. His blog post comes at this from a slightly different angle from mine, but still very relevant. In particular I fully endorse his last sentence:

While good content management cannot be done without technology, it’s not about the technology. It’s 90% people.

2. Martin White and Paul Corney have also responded to the APQC Questions at Intranet Focus

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