Prioritizing Enterprise Content Programs: Where to Begin?

I just returned from a working session with a large retail client, during which we discussed ways to begin the next phase of their content strategy. This phase will make tangible and specific the outputs from the prior phases of work, which focused on design, governance, and organizational structure. We have been working on an enterprise taxonomy program that will impact every aspect of the company’s core content processes, product data, product content, support and services information, and internal knowledge processes that support the customer experience. 

In this post I share the five steps to deciding which project to focus your energies on first.

  1. Get stakeholder buy-in
  2. Choose a problem
  3. Determine selection criteria
  4. Score the options
  5. Choose a winner

Get stakeholder buy-in

The approach the company took to developing its enterprise and product taxonomies has also helped it prepare for a coming initiative in Master Data Management (MDM).  The initiative, received buy in, support, and resourcing from virtually every department.  Dozens of processes and hundreds of applications wee reviewed, and deep analysis conducted of 80 systems that support the company’s omni-channel capabilities.

Choose a problem to solve

The challenge with a program of this scope and scale is deciding where to focus efforts and what specific problems to solve next.  Our method was to engage a group of employees in a prioritization exercise that examined specific processes, content repositories, audiences, and types of information along multiple decision criteria.  Each dimension can be weighted according to the elements that are important to the organization, department or initiative.  This prioritization exercise can be accomplished with different process or problem scopes. 

Determine selection criteria

Let’s begin with selection criteria. The criteria should identify what is important to the organization with regard to its content project:  Is it the span of the initiative?  The cost or complexity?  Amount of content to be managed?  Number of audiences?  Number of processes that the content supports?  What Is the expected impact  on revenue generation or cost control?  The answer of course is that all of these are important.  They will vary in importance in subtle ways when compared across different content areas, processes, or capabilities. 

If we start with a content source point of view, we can list the repositories where our content resides, which  in the case of this client, included a proposal library, a marketing site, a collection of case studies, sales training materials, a product catalog, and a SharePoint content repository.

Scoring the options

We can then start considering the various factors that might impact how difficult  the project would be to execute, the size and span of the audience, the amount of content, the processes that the content supports, degree of integration, etc.  Each factor can be given a score of 1 - 3, with the more favorable factor given a higher score.   The goal is to identify the project or process with the highest score, and begin with that one. 

The criteria and scoring will vary depending on a number of factors unique to the organization, team, and process.  For example, a highly confident project team may want to have a big impact for its initial project, so a large audience would receive a 3, whereas a small audience would receive a 1.  If the team was less sure of the technology or approach and wanted to learn from the exercise, they would reverse this scoring – a small audience would receive a 3 because in this case it is more desirable. 

Here are some example criteria:

  • Size of the repository.   In some projects, developers may wish to start small; in others , a broader impact might be more desirable.
  • The number of processes supported.  The content may support a single process or multiple processes.  Depending on the organization, either of these may be preferred depending on the drivers.  A project involving only a few processes is easier to deal with, but one that encompasses more processes may be easier to justify.
  • Breadth of application. Is the application departmental , or does it cut across the enterprise? Is it politically important to have greater visibility?  On the other hand, if this is an initial project, learning from the experience may be more important.  
  • Calculated value of the investment. Can a clear return on Investment (ROI) be calculated? or is the project considered a cost of doing business (CDB) that does not have an easily calculated ROI?
  • Project difficulty. This criterion may be based on an overall perception, or it could be dependent on highly paid experts whose time is scarce. 
  • Measurement of impact. How easy or difficult it is to measure the impact? The ROI may be there, but the project may lack baseline measures or a complex attribution model. 
  • Customer-facing versus internal. Is the content customer-facing? Impacting customer-facing content was important to this company, but it may not be to yours. 

In each case, the scoring needs to be established based on how the factor impacts the organization. 

Choose a winner

Based on this scoring, the proposal library is the best place to start.  The high score does not mean it is most important to the organization (one might argue that sales training is most important though it received the lowest score).  It means that based on a variety of factors, the proposal library is a good place to start.  Many more factors may be important, or they may be weighted differently or the business owner may decide on another priority.  However, using t his matrix is a good way to get stakeholders to think through some of the considerations and provides a sanity check for where the organization will be focusing time, resources and attention. 

Another perspective

We can view prioritization another way, also, by examining a specific process.  Let’s take the example of “sales resources.”  Imagine that all of the repositories we listed above are considered sales resources.   The organization would like to make information used by sales and marketing people accessible to a wider range of employees, and also make it reusable.  The functions could be broken out as capabilities and listed.  For example, in sales processes, the following functions apply:

  • Managers want to standardize proposal reuse and management;
  • Sales staff want to prepare for sales calls by finding materials by similar customer, vertical and product offering;
  • Marketing managers refresh collateral by campaign (conference, demand gen, email) and type (proposal, case study, reference, etc.)
  • Sales managers need to find content for internal training and marketing coordinators for the web site (segment collateral by internal and external audience)
  • Access  content by target audience – Public, prospect, customer, partner, agency and role – C level, influencer, process owner, technical, business, etc.
  • Find up to date content and revise out-of-date materials

A view of capabilities allows for use case and scenario-driven prioritization.  Use cases can be grouped into capability themes or can be defined as standalone processes and evaluated according to a similar approach.  It quickly becomes apparent that some of the criteria need to change or are no longer applicable.  We can remove, for example, the number of processes supported and whether it is enterprise or department-oriented because these criteria are no longer meaningful for these capabilities. (They will either score the same, or in this organization’s case it is not relevant for comparison purposes) 

If appropriate, some of the other parameters can be changed to more clearly reflect the issues that will impact the project.  For example, having a large number of applications or content sources is no longer a positive –having fewer will make the implementation easier to implement. (A larger number was important in the prior example when the team wanted to have more of an impact).   The strategic importance of the process was rated (this scoring is possible in the case of a process or capability versus a repository) and weighted by multiplying by 2 in order to reflect the importance of that criteria over others. 

Ensure that content fits the big picture

The important message is that there are multiple ways to evaluate content and content processes.  Content and knowledge flow through an ecosystem of information and process, and by viewing content from multiple perspectives, the organization will understand tradeoffs at a more nuanced level.  Tuning content for particular purposes requires an understanding of target processes, supporting processes, and content flow.  It requires an understanding of sources, uses, audiences, tasks, scenarios, as well as content curation and enrichment requirements.  This prioritization approach can help to uncover related support processes that are not always evident to business stakeholders. At a minimum, it will help with business user engagement and buy-in. It will also broaden the understanding of business drivers and content challenges for both business and technical stakeholders.

Seth Earley

Seth Earley is the Founder & CEO of Earley Information Science and the author of the award winning book The AI-Powered Enterprise: Harness the Power of Ontologies to Make Your Business Smarter, Faster, and More Profitable. An expert with 20+ years experience in Knowledge Strategy, Data and Information Architecture, Search-based Applications and Information Findability solutions. He has worked with a diverse roster of Fortune 1000 companies helping them to achieve higher levels of operating performance.