Making a Case for Enabling Assets
Within the context of Global Content Management (GCM), enabling assets are documented information and captured knowledge. Their main purpose is to support content and quality management activities during the global content life cycle.
Examples of enabling assets include language style guides, terminology glossaries, and work instructions. There is no single formula for the right composition. A portfolio of enabling assets should include those items that address your specific challenges and enable your GCM goals. However, keep in mind that some enabling assets are more essential than others. For instance, managing the quality of your content is an enabler of effective GCM practices. This assumes that you implement and utilize authoring guidelines and controlled vocabularies.
We can all agree that establishing enabling assets to support content management activities and quality control is beneficial. And yet, we often feel that we do not have the time or luxury to develop enabling assets. Or we don’t know where to start. So, we find ourselves reacting to real-time conditions to keep things moving along. But even if our situation is less dramatic, it would be challenging to ensure repeatable and robust business practices without enabling assets as our team grows and communication complexity increases.
In addition, we might ignore another business case for enabling assets: Most organizations do not or cannot quantify the cost impact that the lack of enabling assets has on them. As a result, organizations tend to underestimate the added cost control capabilities that enabling assets can provide.
A Business Analogy
To use an analogy, picture a restaurant that has no written recipes. Only the chef knows which ingredients to use for the different dishes and how to prepare each dish. Moreover, only the chef knows where to buy the ingredients and how much they cost. Without much imagination, it is easy to see that this restaurant is doomed should the chef leave, or should the restaurant experience a significant increase in guests. Not only does the chef represent a bottleneck, but she is also a risk to the business. Delegating tasks, distributing the workload, and sharing accountability would be difficult unless relevant information and knowledge is available to affected staff, stakeholders, and suppliers.
This analogy highlights the basic challenge that we face when essential information and key knowledge remain implicit and ambiguous. Depending on the organizational makeup and work environment, the challenges and risks can vary. Overall though, the more complex a situation and the more people are involved (more “cooks in the kitchen”), the more likely we will feel the negative impact of not using enabling assets. Ideally, enabling assets should be part of a GCM strategy. Maintaining enabling assets also represents an ongoing best practice for any work environment regardless of size and complexity. We will always have opportunities for improving core activities and interactions with our internal as well as external contacts.
Benefits of Enabling Assets
Some of the key benefits of enabling assets are listed below. Please note that the list is in no particular order since the importance and relevance can be different for each organization. In addition, some of the benefits are generic while other benefits apply to specific enabling assets. The overall gain will depend on the combination of enabling assets you choose to implement.
Benefits of using enabling assets:
- Centralizes information/knowledge
- Allows effective sharing of information/knowledge
- Establishes consistent requirements, specifications and expectations
- Improves quality management capabilities
- Increases consistency, process repeatability and robustness
- Provides better cost control capabilities
- Helps clarify roles and responsibilities
- Improves process management capabilities
- Reduces operational risk
- Promotes quality mindset and thinking
- Instills sense of personal accountability
- Establishes transparency across teams
- Provides building blocks for tracking and measuring performance
You can probably come up with additional benefits based on your experience and situation. As stated earlier, the scope of enabling assets and deciding which ones are right for you is really a matter of organizational fit.
Where to Start
In general, continuous improvement is an ongoing and disciplined business practice that is never accomplished overnight. Furthermore, developing enabling assets is typically a collaborative and shared effort. The reason is that it involves collective information and knowledge, which rarely reside with one person or within one team.
Although it might seem overwhelming at first to think about the time and effort it could take to develop enabling assets, it can be done in increments and by involving other team members, stakeholders, and external parties as appropriate. Also, it will require your commitment and a consistent routine to make tangible progress. Before deciding on the scope for your enabling assets, you should first understand your current situation and pain points. This would allow you to determine which enabling assets are most relevant and who as well as what they might involve. It also helps you set priorities, especially if you currently do not use any enabling assets.
Starting out with a low-hanging fruit can produce some quick gains and boost morale, which could be initially more important than tackling more complex enabling assets right away. For example, you might find that mapping a basic workflow or creating a QA checklist represents a low-hanging fruit while developing a formal SOP and terminology glossary are more complex goals.
How to Keep Momentum
If you decide to go for bigger fish right away, I highly recommend breaking down each identified enabling asset into smaller milestones, tasks and self-contained deliverables. This approach offers a better sense of progress and establishes an early feeling of success. Early success will give you and your team momentum to continue and not lose sight of the finish line. It also allows you to focus on your primary daily work. Preferably, you should find at least two hours of uninterrupted time per week that you can allocate to developing enabling assets. If you can involve other people, you can allocate more time and distribute the effort accordingly.
As you implement your first enabling asset, you should see an immediate positive impact. Let’s say that you decide to prepare a simple handoff checklist for project activities that you assign to an external party. This would make project handoffs more transparent and establish a common understanding of key requirements and expectations. If you routinely spend time on resolving discrepancies with your external party, this would be a sign that you could benefit from such a checklist. And if you do not see an improvement, then the checklist may not reflect your needs and expectations. Or you are dealing with performance issues, which could be on your end or the external party’s end, or both.
In either case, the handoff checklist will give you insights into your business practices and better control for addressing issues. You will also discover that it is much easier to determine ownership and accountability when things are documented and understood by all team members.
Enabling assets are a collection of documented critical information and key knowledge that together ensure repeatable and better business practices. These in turn will save time, increase quality, reduce cost, and establish needed accountability. Equally important, enabling assets are essential tools and a prerequisite for ensuring transparency and a quality-driven culture.