Three Characteristics of Strategic Content Management

From Gilbane Group's perspective, the key considerations for buyers in the 2010 digital content market distill to three issues:

• Capabilities that enable agile, consistent, and measurable content
• Solution components that can be easily and cost-effectively integrated
• Results that satisfy customers and increase their lifetime value

In Gilbane's 20-plus years of covering content technologies, we have consistently found that global companies succeed when they treat content management as a business practice-not as a technology, but as a formalized, institutionalized business practice tied to strategic business goals and objectives. Leading practitioners recognize the value of content as an enterprise asset, and they proactively manage their content as the asset it is. Their content management practices are designed to drive costs out of value creation while delivering scalability that's critical to the ability to capitalize on business opportunity.

The challenging economic climate of 2009 continues to press global companies to think about content management strategically rather than tactically. Moving into 2010, we believe that attention to three key characteristics of high-value content will keep an organization on the strategic path:

Agility: Although "content agility" is widely overused, it is nevertheless a requirement that content be readily available for use in any context-ideally without additional processes that negatively impact an organization's ability to respond to business opportunity quickly. This means that content can't be dependent upon any one software application, hardware device, business use case, audience, language, or even point in time.

Consistency: In an age in which positive customer experience and strong brand management are essential, companies are at high risk if they can't deliver the same content across all markets, territories, and channels. Today, leading practitioners view consistency as a dimension of quality and have moved beyond wishing for consistency to actually achieving it.

Measurability: Across all functions and departments, managers face unprecedented tension between the need to innovate business practices and the need to act with fiscal responsibility. Companies are prioritizing whatever spending they are doing by looking at the "must-have" investments to remain competitive. As a result, understanding the impact of specific content on businesses becomes fundamental.

Making a business case for solutions that enable companies to create, manage, and deliver such content now requires a two-pronged approach. Bottom-line results are routinely expected-cost savings, process efficiencies, and performance improvements. While essential, however, bottom-line benefits are no longer enough to secure funding. Companies purchasing and deploying content-centric solutions in 2010 and beyond will be challenged to show results on the top line too.

Integration will have bottom-line impact of significant importance in 2010. Process automation and scalability are impossible without integration of the various components comprising a content-centric solution. Manual processes have proven time and again to be costly, time-consuming, and error-prone across all content applications. Buyers can likely identify bottom-line ROI factors by focusing on integration, looking for components that are preintegrated or are easily integrated with other technologies. At a minimum, be sure to conduct a careful and thorough analysis of what integration will cost if it's not available out of the box.

A top-line impact that matters most in 2010 will be the global customer experience. In an economic climate in which every customer interaction counts, engagement and satisfaction are paramount. Results reported in Gilbane's 2009 research on "Multilingual Product Content: Transforming Traditional Practices into Global Content Value Chains" show that global customer satisfaction is a clear strategic and operational business priority, cited by 33% of survey respondents as the top strategic business goal for 2009, outpacing the next most commonly cited driver (revenue from emerging geographies at 20%) by a significant margin. A good bet when making a business case is to show how investments in content practices, technologies, and processes will create competitive advantages with customer experience.

The diversity of companies and solutions on the EContent 100 list illustrates that there is no single path to integrated solutions that satisfy customers with content that's agile, consistent, and measurable. Regardless of application-from technical documentation to web marketing to internal corporate communications-the EContent 100 serves as a guide to proven, viable solutions that will enable companies to derive value from their content in any business climate.