Increasing Content Production Efficiency With Content Engineering

May 12, 2015

May 2015 Issue

Content is everywhere. It's the lifeblood of business. But creating, managing, and delivering it are much bigger challenges than need be.

That's because the most widely used content production methods are centered on a paper-based publishing paradigm that doesn't serve us as well today. Although we've made incremental changes during the past several decades, those improvements weren't optimized to address the rapid growth in customer touchpoints, distribution channels, devices, platforms, and constantly changing customer expectations.

They also weren't optimized to ensure our content provides maximum business value. Most content improvement projects are aimed at solving an isolated problem, without concern for whether the long-term implications will create additional challenges-and expense-for the organization in the future.

Most C-level executives aren't clued in to the severity of the problem. They have a clouded perception of what needs to change in order for their organizations to meet the content needs of today, never mind the content needs of the future. That's partially because knowledge work isn't as straightforward as product manufacturing. It's hard to spot opportunities for improvement if you aren't able to see the broken things that need fixing.

And what needs fixing, exactly? Pretty much everything. It's time to totally reimagine content production. To get started, we should take a serious look at the discipline of content engineering.

According to content philosopher Joe Gollner, content engineering "is the application of the engineering discipline to the design, acquisition, management, delivery, and use of content and the technologies deployed to support the full content life cycle." Content engineers orchestrate and choreograph the flow of business content and ensure that the content production process is optimized for efficiency. Content production inefficiencies delay time-to-market, introduce unnecessary expenses, and limit our ability to respond to opportunities and threats. They are agility killers.

"A couple of dozen extra keystrokes per day can cost a company of 1,000 workers millions of dollars [in lost productivity] per day," says software development guru David S. Platt, author of Why Software Sucks ... And What You Can Do About It. Platt says detecting bottlenecks is easy if you take a critical, step-by-step look at content production processes. But that's not what's happening today.

Instead, Platt says, we work as we have grown accustomed to, often without noticing the barriers preventing us from achieving greatness. To improve productivity, reduce errors, and leverage the time saved to innovate, we must eliminate all unnecessary manual tasks and streamline and automate the others.

Increasing productivity of knowledge workers represents a major opportunity for organizations looking to create an agile content production factory capable of quickly responding to opportunities and threats. According to the late business management guru, Peter S. Drucker, "Knowledge-worker productivity is the biggest of the 21st-century management challenges. ... It is on their productivity, above all, that the future prosperity-and indeed the future survival-of developed economies will increasingly depend."

It's important to note that re-engineering content production processes alone won't provide the performance improvements prescribed by Drucker. Tools and technologies play a critical supporting role. The right software tools for the job are required. In most instances, we rely on the wrong tools-tools that don't help us perform at maximum efficiency.

Content engineers-content professionals with an understanding of content strategy, content standards, and content technologies-are needed to help us eliminate unnecessary waste from the content production process and streamline the way we create, manage, and deliver content. It's a critically important role that should be added to every content production team regardless of industry sector, vertical market, or organizational structure.