Elements of Success
When developing a Global Content Management (GCM) strategy, one could certainly argue about the key elements that characterize a good GCM strategy. Over the years, I found the following five elements to be crucial for developing a GCM strategy: (1) Status quo, (2) goals and objectives, (3) timeline, (4) attainability, and (5) finish line. Moreover, these building blocks enable success by helping you frame the essence of your GCM strategy.
The status quo is the context for justifying any improvements. Initiatives that aim to improve current practices should adequately capture the status quo of a work environment. This should include interdependencies across functional areas. Overall, I consider defining the status quo to be the most crucial planning activity. The reason is straightforward: Knowing the status quo defines our strategy and drives everything else that follows.
However, there are many reasons why we might not properly capture the status quo:
- We perceive gathering and analyzing information as a necessary evil. As a result, we tend to rush through this activity because it rarely gives us a sense of progress. And when we add time pressures to the mix, we probably skimp in order to focus on things that we perceive as progress.
- Personal biases and interests can create false priorities or set the wrong focus. For instance, we often put technology in the front row of content management improvement initiatives. Technology is important, but it is also a catalyst for both good and bad practices. By looking at technology as the silver bullet, we may marginalize the potential of other opportunities for improvement. Or we put the cart before the horse by starting with technology before understanding the status quo.
- We may not have full exposure and insights into the existing content ecosystem that we operate in. Therefore, we might not be in a position to see the bigger picture and connect the dots.
Goals and Objectives
This concept is much easier to understand because we know that any strategy should have goals and objectives. We typically define goals and objectives based on our understanding of a situation. Moreover, we can easily see that a well-defined status quo improves the quality and relevance of goals and objectives. However, we should also be aware that objectives have a different purpose than goals. Objectives are milestones that guide us along a defined path and help us track our incremental progress toward specific goals. In other words, objectives tell us how we can achieve our goals and goals describe what we are trying to achieve (the net outcome). Consequently, a good GCM strategy should include one or more sets of objectives that enable corresponding goals.
An initiative without a timeline is like a bottomless pit. We need to know when something starts and ends to avoid chasing a moving target. It also tells us about our progress and when we reach the finish line. Further, a timeline should include meaningful milestones (objectives) so we can measure progress and organize the implementation phase into logical activities. Equally important, the timeline should be realistic under the given conditions. In my experience, a timeline of 12-36 months is a good range for a GCM strategy implementation.
A shorter timeline (less than 12 months) can either indicate that we are too optimistic or the scope of the GCM strategy is too basic (or is incomplete). A timeline longer than 36 months could indicate that we are too aggressive and have defined a scope that might represent a bigger bite than we can handle. Also, change is frequent and ever present in today’s work environments: personnel turnover, budget cuts, mergers/acquisitions, and other organizational events can significantly affect the direction of a GCM strategy that covers a timeline much past 36 months. Therefore, I do not recommend a longer timeline for obvious reasons.
This concept is a bit more abstract, but it offers a good reality check for our GCM strategy. The captured status quo should allow us to understand the maturity level of our current GCM practices. For example, we might determine that, overall, we can consistently carry out key activities through mostly manual processes. We might lack dedicated resources and automation, but we can at least do it consistently. Let’s say we decide to elevate our GCM practices by adding dedicated staff and upgrading our technologies. However, our attainability assessment might reveal that it would take investments (effort and cost) that we cannot make within a reasonable timeframe and under current budget limitations. As a result, we opt for adding staff for the time being and considering technology investments (automation) in the future.
This simplified example illustrates the concept of maturity levels and its relevance for assessing attainability. There are five maturity levels that we can apply: (1) Reactive, (2) Repeatable, (3) Managed, (4) Optimized, and (5) Transparent. Based on my experience, it is very difficult to leapfrog maturity levels because existing conditions and constraints impose natural barriers that we must first overcome. The reason is that maturity requires time for experience and for measuring success, which cannot be accelerated. Once we overcome identified barriers, gain experience with new business practices and gather evidence that we succeeded, we can tackle the next maturity level.
A finish line is a final destination or endpoint that we are trying to reach. One could say that once we achieve all defined goals, we have crossed the finish line. However, this is only part of what a finish line should tell us. A finish line should also provide a clear picture of our improved work environment. There are two parts to a finish line: (1) The initial definition prior to implementation of improvements and (2) a final assessment after implementation. The initial definition is a summary of the identified key improvements and their anticipated impact. The final assessment is a confirmation of whether and to what degree we have achieved the desired outcome. To make the final assessment more tangible, we must also qualify and/or quantify the actual impact to understand the net gain.
A good GCM strategy should contain these basic elements to ensure a robust execution and enable a defined, positive outcome. The suggested five elements are universal and help formulate a GCM strategy that can accommodate any situation regardless of organizational size, type, and need.