Last week I took on the fool’s errand of trying to define Content, in relation to Data and Information. While there are many discussions to be had before any real consensus is reached, assuming that it is even possible, the key point that few people disagreed with was that Context was critical.
Content is Information that requires Context in order to derive its full meaning and value.
I want to extend this discussion into what it takes to be a Content Professional. After all, to work with Content we have to understand it. In order to understand Content, we MUST understand the Context, and world, in which it lives.
Our Past Failures
I’m not going to put forth any defense of the Content Profession. Projects are too difficult and prone to failure. There is more unstructured Content every month and many organizations are still seeing an increase in Paper.
After two decades, we are barely making progress. Most Content Management Systems (CMS) are merely replacements for previously deployed CMSs that never lived up to their potential. It isn’t the fault of the software as CMS software does exactly what they are told to do.
Where is the disconnect?
It is us. We have failed to understand what it is that we’ve been trying to accomplish.
Be The Business
Everyone talks about the Chief Information Officer needing to understand the business in order to be effective. The CIO needs to be an ally, partner, and solution provider. What is the Content Professional but a someone performing the exact same role, but on a smaller scale.
It isn’t enough to simply provide a CMS in isolation to the business. It isn’t enough to configure or customize it to meet their “needs”. We’ve been delivering CMSs to try and reduce the silos of Information, which Created a Silo of Content!
As Content Professionals, we need to stop worrying about Content. We need to focus on the people who use the Content. We need to look at the business needs to be solved for those people and understand how Content is part of those needs.
Remember, Content is how we do business. Content is not why we do business.
If we take the time to understand how business is done, we can actually solve the needs of the business and the Content that is the life blood of the business. That will make us allies and not that Content person that just won’t go away.
Time for a Change
See that list of requirements on the desk next to you? Burn them. Go down the hall, downstairs, upstairs, next door, or wherever the PEOPLE you are trying to help are working. Sit with them. Take some time to understand exactly they are trying to accomplish. Watch them. Learn from them.
Ask them what would make their lives simpler. What would make it easier to do their job? Can you remove steps, give them a one-stop place for them to do each aspect of their job?
Ask them how they think their job will be done five years from now when there are no limits.
Then go build that solution.