Points of View - Inner
Five Methods to Keep Content Relevant in the Organization
Most IT departments these days find issues with supplying and maintaining relevant content to the rest of their organization. The most typical reason for this is that IT will tend to see their role as selecting, maintaining, and upgrading Content Management Systems (e.g. SharePoint, Confluence, etc.) without engaging the rest of the organization much outside of those events. The results of taking a systems/technology only approach to content management is dissatisfied stakeholders exhibiting an increased likelihood to abandon IT’s solution in search of their own. The prevalence of so many content and knowledge management systems available for both on premise and in the cloud places pressure on CIOs to take an increased role in facilitating good content management practices to safe guard the organization’s investments already made.
While it is recommended to reassess the organization’s overall knowledge management strategy every few years or when standing up a new content/knowledge management solution, this paper focuses on providing five highly effective methods suitable for most technological solutions to keep content within the organization relevant, refined, and ready for consumption.
The adoption of a Content Management System within an organization works similar to that of a new technology or product in the market place – at some point there is a gap that must be overcome for the adoption to increase. Figure 1 – Content Management System Adoption and Lifecycle, depicts five stages of a CMS Lifecycle. This paper focuses on objectives and methodologies to help overcome the “CMS Adoption Gap” through the continuous improvement of content within the platform.
Figure 1 – Content Management System Adoption and Lifecycle
This gap generally exists from the system/technology only approach taken by IT. IT generally selects and stands up a system based on demand by a set of users. Eventually other groups within the organization try out the new platform on their own with little or no guidance from IT using a series of bad practices which in part causes the adoption gap to exist.
In order to facilitate the improvement of content in an organization, and to improve the quality of investment in Content Management Systems (CMS), an IT department should seek to implement the following five objectives:
- Improve the Quality of Results in Search
- Ensure Optimal Implementation of CMS Features
- Improve the Consistency of CMS User Interface
- Decrease Complexity of Content Library Organization
- Reduce the Occurrence of Irrelevant Content
Implementing these five objectives will substantially improve the quality of content in an organization over time by addressing the most common issues that occur with CMS systems. This paper provides a methodology for each objective and steps to implement, which is summarized in Table 1 – Five Methods to Keep Content Relevant.
Implementing the five objectives suggested within this paper will allow an IT department to greatly improve the chances of crossing the “CMS Adoption Gap” and increasing the potential for reaching a full return on the expected investment of a content management system.
Table 1 – Five Methods to Keep Content Relevant
Improving the Quality of Results in Search
Users expect search to be a single source to find most content within the platform. Most content management systems give users insufficient search results if no customization is performed. This is caused by not making use of the built in features for making search effective. To avoid this issue, an organization should create a search improvement and analytics group. This group keeps track of the effectiveness of search within the CMS and makes adjustments to search Configuration Items (CI’s) in accordance with noted deficiencies. At a minimum this group should meet monthly to perform its duties.
Typical Issues if Not Performed
- Users unable to find expected content – Users expect certain materials to be easily located via search (e.g. HR policies, holiday schedules, department overviews, etc.). If these searches do not yield at the top of results sets for keywords the user expected to give success, the user gets frustrated. Over time the user loses confidence in search and sometimes abandons regular use of the platform.
- Less important results near the top of the search ranking – Users must sort through several pages of results when running searches for terms they expect to be common in an organization. As a result they get frustrated having to spend time looking at multiple pages of results for items.
- Important materials have insufficient visibility – Internal campaigns and important materials do not get seen by all users when looking for related content (e.g. user searches for benefits but does not get information about upcoming benefits changes HR need to tell staff about), creating a missed opportunity to inform users.
Methodology Implementation Steps
- Create an appropriate cross functional group – The monthly search improvement and analytics group should consist of appropriate analysts from IT with knowledge of the configurations items available within the search function, individuals from a group that is responsible for internal communications (or staff that are very knowledgeable about all parts of the business and how each part needs to interface internally), and an owner of the CMS or change management process for the CMS to decide on changes to configuration items in the platform.
- Review search statistics for problematic search terms – The group should review reports on the most common failed search terms, and test these out to see what the current results look like. If there is obvious reordering of the search results that should occur to promote more relevant results, the group should create an action to reorder the results for the keywords under review using the CI’s responsible for ranking/results ordering.
- Custom tailor first results for most common search terms – The group should review the most common search terms and custom tailor the first result or make use of highlighted keywords or other capabilities the CMS offers. Having the most common search terms return very directed results will increase the usefulness of the CMS significantly.
- Help facilitate creation of content missing based on search trends – As trends emerge for content that does not yet exist in the platform the group can work with the appropriate areas of the business to let them know users are wanting content their department might own.
Review sites with heavy usage and invest extra effort in making them feature rich – The group should review internal usage reports to find out which workspaces/sites have the largest amount of user traffic and occasionally staff IT resources to support enhancing these sites to use the most appropriate CMS features based on use cases. Doing this to the most heavily used sites will ensure the most positive user experience by a large audience.
- Leverage user ranking of content features – Where possible the group should seek to ensure heavily used sites also leverage newer technologies or features to assist with improved tagging, meta-data management, ranking docs usefulness to improve search results. Most CMS’s which support these will use these to add refinement to search results and improve the relevancy of indexed content.
Ensuring Optimal Implementation of CMS Features
Users often run into problems using the workspaces/sites in a CMS since, in many instances, Content Owners set them up incorrectly and inconsistently. If the CMS Team does not know the platform’s Content Owners and do not ensure that they understand the platform’s capabilities, it is unlikely they will have time to learn this on their own. In order for the CMS Team to ensure optimal implementation of CMS features they must establish a community of Content Owners with regular training and resources. Once Content Owners are capable of effective setup of workspaces/sites users will be more likely to adopt and use the CMS with frequency.
Typical Issues if Not Performed
- Erroneous interpretation of platform capabilities – Users get a false interpretation of what the CMS is capable of since Content Owners set up their workspaces/sites incorrectly. If Content Owners use features incorrectly or do not apply the correct features for their use cases, then the CMS will appear to be the incorrect solution to manage content for these users and they will not want to adopt it.
- Platform underutilized and investment reduced – When new features are setup or purchased most Content Owners will be unaware of the new capabilities. This results in a limited return on the new technology being added/updated. In addition, if the new features are applied ubiquitously throughout the CMS without foreknowledge by Content Owners, they may not be prepared to deal with managing the new features in their workspaces/sites.
- Competing alternative CMS solutions are implemented by other parts of the organization – When Content Owners do not understand what the CMS is capable of, they will seek out alternative solutions for their use cases, leading to duplicative investments in technology, and a loss of governance and control for IT Security groups. In some cases if these new CMS solutions gain momentum, the IT department may be forced to inherit them in a configuration that is not sustainable or scalable to the rest of the organization.
Methodology Implementation Steps
- Identify Content Owners in each department – The CMS Team will need to construct and upkeep a list of all the Content Owners maintaining workspaces/sites within the CMS. Without this it is not easy to determine who must be engaged within the platform on training, upcoming changes, etc. Most of the communications about the CMS should be made to this group of individuals rather than using companywide broadcasts.
- Teach best practices on features use – The CMS Team should facilitate the training (or enlist the support of external training resources) all Content Owners within the organization on the proper use of features, and content organization and standards to be used. It is recommended for the IT department to work with Human Resources to establish the Content Owner role as part of job description and annual performance reviews so that the role of Content Owner is more formal. To assist internal certifications or proficiencies can be formalized to help track and monitor training progress.
Keep Content Owners knowledgeable on platform changes and roadmaps – Content Owners should be informed on all approved changes to the platform along with its approved long range strategic direction. This ensures that there are no surprises which Content Owners are not aware of, and allows for them to raise potential issues before they might occur for their users.
- Establish Content Owners as local end user support resource/platform advocate – Establish Content Owners as local contacts with their end users to improve resolution of issues with quality and access. Having Content Owners to work as local support resources to their own users on upcoming changes and planned outages, and basic issues, reduces the burden on the IT department’s support and outreach resources. It also improves user satisfaction by having quicker response times, and follow up that is more likely to be correct for an individual users issues. CMS’s are large and complex, making a standard service desk model less effective in quickly and effectively resolving the individual support needs of most user requests.
- Collect Content Owner feedback on CMS usability/experience – Create a user community for feedback on CMS usability/experience to identify UI or functionality enhancements to improve usability. By collecting and incorporating requirements from Content Owners, it is less likely that rouge CMS solutions will be created which duplicate functionality. The IT department will also have improved accuracy of the content needs for each department within the organization.
Improving the Consistency of User Interface
Users often run into the problem with consistency of how individual sites are laid out across a CMS, and with the way navigation works. This lack of consistency across the CMS makes it difficult for users to know where certain types of standard information will appear inside sites and workspaces, or what the behavior of navigation menus will produce. While training Content Owners does help support improvement to consistency it may still be necessary to create a role focused on maintaining configuration items and navigation look/feel. This Configuration Manager helps to audit existing workspaces/sites, propose and set standards for layout/look and feel, and determines the standards for how navigation is presented/behaves for the users of the platform.
Typical Issues if Not Performed
- Features work inconsistently across the platform – Features that the end users expect to work consistently across the CMS platform (e.g. search behavior and scope, workflows, etc.) differ as new workspaces and sites are provisioned or updated. This leads to issues where new or modified spaces lose functionality or work inconsistently from the rest of the CMS. Users will mistakenly assume the platform has bugs and carry a negative opinion about the choice the IT department has made.
- Users cannot easily navigate the platform – Most CMS’s have an issue with inconsistent navigation across different areas. Both the style and types of destinations will differ. As a result users get lost as the navigation is inconsistent across each area of the CMS. This leads to an overall impression of the platform being disorganized, and contributes to a negative opinion of it.
- Users excessively forced to make access requests for materials – Taxonomies generally are not set in a way that allows easy inheritance of permissions for sub-workspaces/sites. As a result users constantly find they are stuck waiting on permission requests to materials they would expect to have access to. This problem is generally compounded by having a mixture of organization wide viewable sites with team sites having unique permissions in the same area. As users wait too much for permission to materials, they will look for alternative CMS solutions and duplicate investments made by the organization.
Methodology Implementation Steps
- Keep a list of Configuration Items that should be maintained ubiquitously throughout the platform – The Configuration Manager should keep track of all CI’s which are supposed to be standard across the platform, and within certain types of sites.
- Create methodology for effectively finding incorrect Configuration Items – On a regular interval, the Configuration Manager should iterate through the platform, or develop scripts which check to ensure CI’s are not incorrect. Special emphasis should be given to new workspaces/sites created since the last review.
- Review navigation for inconsistency in style and structure – On a regular interval the Configuration Manager should iterate through workspaces/sites in the platform to ensure that navigation is consistent from a look and feel standpoint and adheres to the structure approved by the CMS Taxonomy Group.
- Ensure permissions applied to workspaces/sites conform to best practices – The Configuration Manager should review parts of the platform which should be viewable by the entire organization to ensure there are not any private areas. In addition, they should review private areas to make sure permission inheritance is appropriate, and that permissions are applied using best practices (i.e. for many CMS’s, workspaces should use Active Directory Security Groups or some form of supported Security Group that users can be added to).
- Take action with Content Owners failing to adhere to best practice – The Configuration Manager should take note of Content Owners who appear to be having difficulty adhering to best practices and refer them to the CMS Team for additional training and support.
Decrease Complexity of Content Library Organization
Over time the original taxonomy created for a CMS becomes out-of-sync with the way the organization evolves in part because there is no person or group maintaining it. While the Configuration Manager does own the way taxonomy is presented in navigation they do not maintain the actual taxonomy structure. In order to keep the CMS taxonomy accurate IT should seek to create a working body that owns the core business taxonomy. Having a CMS Taxonomy Group maintain the taxonomy will ensure that it always makes sense to the users of the platform and reduces any issues they might run into from a disorganized taxonomy.
Typical Issues if Not Performed
- Inconsistent duplicated content across departments – Content that can be attributed to more than one department gets duplicated since there is not a clear taxonomy and ownership of various content types. This results in conflicts for versions of the same content, and users getting frustrated from determining which sources are authoritative.
- Orphaned areas after reorganization – It is common for a business to have content that is orphaned or out of place after reorganization activities. Without any group to help facilitate a functional taxonomy more resilient to reorganization or moves of content when necessary, content gets orphaned in areas that no longer make sense. This leads to potential permissions issues and users getting lost when following the taxonomy. It also contributes to an overall feel of disorganization by users in the CMS.
- Poor/difficult to navigate content structure within workspaces – Most CMS’s have too generic templates for new workspaces/sites, have few standards on where certain types of content will appear, and lack structure for meta data used to tag and categorize content. This means that Content Owners build out workspaces/sites with different metadata for the same types of content and with similar types of content in different areas of the workspace. This leads to users getting confused on how to refine their searches or how to sort content to locate what they want.
- Sensitive materials accidentally exposed – Most CMS’s do not have dedicated areas where all organization wide viewable content should reside separate from private workspaces. As a result it is common for sensitive materials to show up accidentally (e.g. department budget plans, performance reviews, etc.) as users mistaking place things in places they expected to be private, but which might inherit global view permissions.
Methodology Implementation Steps
- Establish a CMS Taxonomy Group – Create a group that is led by IT leadership and the CMS Team, but with open participation by all department leads which has the objective of deciding on the functional taxonomy to be used within the CMS. The entire group should meet on a quarterly basis to make adjustments on taxonomy. A smaller subset (usually only members from IT) focused on more technical details of the taxonomy (e.g. Metadata structure, workspace templates, etc.) should meet as needed based on actions from the quarterly meetings.
- Make taxonomy flat and functional rather than departmental – Make taxonomy as flat as possible and based on functional items rather than departmental. As reorganizations occur some business functions may fall under sales, then marketing, or even another area. The function does not change, but the departmental ownership might so a functional taxonomy will require less upkeep over time.
- Adjust taxonomy of content when organization changes occur – After reorganization, check to make sure that affected areas of the CMS are still appropriate to avoid orphaned workspaces. When content needs to be moved task the CMS Team with content migration activities to keep the platform representative of what users will expect.
- Develop common metadata terms for use in content libraries – The CMS Taxonomy Group should establish certain metadata terms as standard throughout the CMS. In addition the CMS Team should ensure Content Owners are using metadata to tag content rather than using cumbersome folder structures.
- Keep organization wide viewable content in one area – The CMS Taxonomy Group should ensure that there is a clear delineation in the taxonomy for public viewable workspaces from private ones. Doing so will ensure that permissions are easier to manage, and that there is a lower risk of sensitive information exposed to the whole organization.
- Create templates for consistent placement of information and structure of workspace sub-taxonomies – Create 5 to 7 standardized templates for new site/workspace layouts which have consistent placement of information and a standardized approach for how sub-workspaces/sites are allowed to be made. This will make sure users always know where to look in a workspace for certain types of common information (e.g. key contacts, document libraries, internal and global navigation links, etc.) once Content Owners are trained to use the correct templates.
Reducing the Occurrence of Irrelevant Content
Most CMS’s run into the issue of having a large amount of irrelevant and out of date content, either from Content Owners not keeping their workspaces/sites up to date or from organizational turnover creating orphaned content. In order to prevent this from causing users to get frustrated from their searches getting cluttered, or from accessing content that is not current, it is recommended to create retention polices for stale content.
Typical Issues if Not Performed
- Old/outdated documents appear first in search – Search results become cluttered with out of date information making it harder to find relevant content. Users eventually get frustrated with the results and feel the platform is not current and seek other alternatives for finding the content they require.
- Navigation of taxonomy to irrelevant or out of date areas – Navigation cannot take up much space and thus needs to be concise to be useful. Over time taxonomies become hard to navigate as old content areas with no activity take up valuable navigation space. The result is users do not find new more relevant workspaces through the navigation.
- Important legal and financial records accidentally deleted – Most CMS platforms do not have retention policies for certain types of content. As a result it is possible for Content Owners to accidently delete content that should be preserved. This can lead to issues for audits or lost information needed for important legal disputes.
Methodology Implementation Steps
- Develop retention policies for records, departmental, project, and personal content – The CMS Team should work with, Legal, HR, and Finance governance leads to determine retention policies for certain types of information. A CMS Content Type Retention Policy should then be made available to Content Owners making it clear what types of retention requirements exist for each content type.
- Create method to regularly scan the platform for stale content – On at least a monthly basis, the CMS Team should either develop procedures for finding stale content or make use of automated reporting tools to do so.
- Create process for reaching out to Content Owners with stale content – The CMS Team should have a process for how to engage Content Owners over stale content that allows sufficient time for the Content Owner to take actions with the content if they need to.
- Create method to forcibly limit visibility or remove stale content – A set of guidelines should be created by the CMS Team outlining the actions to take on stale content. At a minimum stale content should be restricted from showing up in search results if possible. Other methods for stale content are to add “Archive” metadata tags, or place stale content in a separate repository that is less visible. In some cases the appropriate action may be to remove stale content from the CMS if it is completely irrelevant and does not meet any retention policies.
- Develop automation reporting, and scripts for taking action – Over time the amount of effort required to upkeep policies over stale content will increase. As a result if becomes increasingly important to purchase or develop automation for running reports on stale content and taking appropriate actions scheduled in batches where possible without risk.
Implementing all five methodologies in this whitepaper will assist with overcoming the CMS Adoption Gap, during the Adoption Campaign phase of the CMS lifecycle shown in Figure 1 – Content Management System Adoption and Lifecycle. Most of the methods put in place involve making the first level of support to users closer and more relevant to the user base, standardizing appearances and templates, applying intuitive structure to content organization, and reducing the visibility of low value content. Implementing these methods will expose the most capability of the CMS possible to users in a way they will adopt them for the least resource investment possible.
It is important to remember that the IT department should not limit the organization to only one CMS as some CMS’s are weak in various use cases. The role of IT is to ensure they limit overlaps between CMS’s where possible and provide guidance to Content Owners and users on the strengths and weaknesses of each individual CMS to be used along with the preferred methods of use.
About the Author
Brent Weigel is a Manager with Kenny & Company. He leads and supports the defining, analysis, planning, implementation and overall execution of client engagements. In addition, Brent provides thought leadership and leads the development of the Cloud Computing Strategy & Consulting Services offering for Kenny & Company. Brent has more than 13 years experience in IT Consulting, software, startups and manufacturing with Booz Allen Hamilton, Standard Register and Stage Logic. He has a BS in Electrical Engineering with Computer Science Minor and a MS in Engineering Management from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology along with a variety of certifications in areas such as Six Sigma, ITIL v3, and Microsoft technologies.
About Kenny & Company
Kenny & Company is a management consulting firm offering Strategy, Operations and Technology services to our clients.
We exist because we love to do the work. After management consulting for 20+ years at some of the largest consulting companies globally, our partners realized that when it comes to consulting, bigger doesn’t always mean better. Instead, we’ve created a place where our ideas and opinions are grounded in experience, analysis and facts, leading to real problem solving and real solutions – a truly collaborative experience with our clients making their business our business.
We focus on getting the work done and prefer to let our work speak for itself. When we do speak, we don’t talk about ourselves, but rather about what we do for our clients. We’re proud of the strong character our entire team brings, the high intensity in which we thrive, and above all, doing great work.
- In the case of SharePoint this is accomplished using custom keyword descriptions, or search “Best Bets”.
- This group should already exist in some form for IT Security teams to be able to establish Active Directory Security Groups for use by most IT systems.
- Accomplished by making the root level of the URL path is different (cms.xcorp.com/public/ vs. cms.xcorp.com/private/) or the domain name prefix is different (intranet.xcorp.com vs. workspaces.xcorp.com)
- Content that has not been viewed or edited by anyone in a long period (i.e. 24 months) is considered stale.
This article was first published on www.michaelskenny.com on December 31, 2013. The views and opinions expressed in this article are provided by Kenny & Company to provide general business information on a particular topic and do not constitute professional advice with respect to your business.
Setting the Foundation for Long Range Strategic Portfolio Planning by Brent Weigel, Kenny & Company is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.