Many organizations have attempted to migrate to structured content. While some organizations have migrated successfully, others have encountered unexpected costs and difficulties, or worse, simply failed. Consider the following facts to make your migration more successful:
- Writers and reviewers do not own content. They collaborate on content.
Content that we develop and manage for the organizations that employ us is work for hire. The employer owns the intellectual property rights to the content. We often discuss the question of “who owns content”. This is a discussion about the ultimate responsibility for the development, management, and quality of the content, not about intellectual property rights. Regardless of who writes the content, whether it is the newest technical writer, marketing intern, or a senior executive whose title includes the letter “C”, the content does not belong to that individual; the content belongs to the organization. The needs of the organization dictate how the content is created, reviewed, and managed.
- Structured content is a fundamentally different approach to content than traditional or familiar approaches to developing and managing content.
Structured content is based on a defined content model. It is defined as components rather than monolithic documents. These components must be written so they can be re-used effectively. Finally, structured content is usually semantic rather than presentational. Presentation is applied automatically during a transformation or publishing process.
- A content strategy based on structured content is not only a technical change. It is also a cultural change.
Authors that are not used to working within a content model must adjust to this paradigm and must also adjust to writing content for re-use. Both practices require adjustment. Reviewers also must adjust to the structured paradigm, especially to the lack of control over presentation.
- Technical change is easy, but cultural change is hard.
Technical problems have technical solutions, which are relatively easy to implement. Cultural change requires people to change, yet people commonly resist change. While change must always be managed, cultural change in particular should be managed more actively.
- Success in a structured content project depends on engaging leadership at all levels of the organization.
You must engage formal leadership (managers and executives), but that is not sufficient to maximize the chances of success. You must also engage informal, internal leaders. These leaders exercise influence directly on the team and are more crucial to your success than formal leadership.
- Resistance increases when people feel like they do not have control.
Professionals like to have control over their work. To experienced authors, structured content models can feel like some control is being taken away. This feeling is notably true if the project is imposed from the top rather than growing from the team.
Find ways to engage your team members in the project, either as a participant or in a capacity that allows them to feel like they can affect the direction and outcome. You want your team members to feel like “it’s my ship.”
- Some team members might have trouble with grasping structured, component content.
Some individuals disagree with the structured content paradigm. Others simply cannot wrap their heads around it. In my experience, about one in six authors does not successfully transition to structured, component content.
- Turnover is likely to occur.
Some writers see structured authoring as taking away creativity. Some writers are unwilling to give up the control over presentations available in unstructured environments. Some writers see this lack of control as a serious quality issue in structured content. These objections are the most common reasons for turnover when a team transitions to structured content.
Have you decided to implement structured content for your organization? Do you want to maximize the likelihood of success? Tahzoo’s Content Strategy team has the experience to help you face and surmount these challenges. Reach out to us today!