The great physicist Niels Bohr said that an expert in any field is “someone who has made all the mistakes which can be made.” I’ve always liked his definition, because understanding what didn’t work can help you avoid making similar mistakes, and save you a lot of time, money and wasted effort. This article features three mistakes that can lead to disaster for the content standard you’re working so hard to develop and implement.
Mistake #1: Don’t involve users
Capturing the content and creating the documentation are your job, not theirs. Users can’t be expected to know much about document design or the tools you’re working with, so there’s no reason why you should involve them. You can gather the content you need from existing documents or from subject matter experts in other areas. Besides, the users don’t work for you. Their bosses probably wouldn’t appreciate it if you interrupted their work with questions or asked them to review what you’re writing.
Mistake #2: Leave the technology to the techies
You’re the content expert, so leave the technology issues to the IT people. It’s up to them to think about how the content you develop will be stored and conveyed to users. You shouldn’t be concerned about whether access will be via a printout, a laptop, or a mobile device. If a CMS is involved, the techies can work with the vendor to adapt it to your content standard.
Mistake #3: Don’t sell, just tell
You’ve gotten management support for implementing your new standard. That’s great, because now you don’t need to explain why the change is necessary or what the benefits will be. There’s no reason to seek acceptance from different areas within your organization. The bosses are on board, and it’s already clear that everyone is expected to adopt your standard. If they’re unhappy about changing the way they manage their content, let them grumble.
How to avoid a train wreck
Some people may see these three mistakes as obvious and easily avoided. I’d agree—but they’re still surprisingly common. And making even one of them greatly increases the odds that the rollout of your new content standard will end in disaster. As you design your standard, avoid a train wreck by paying very close attention to users’ needs and to your content storage and delivery technologies. As you introduce the new standard, be prepared to work hard to get buy-in from across the enterprise, not just from management—it’s almost impossible to overstate the importance of this key part of the process.
In addition to his famous definition of what it means to be an expert, Niels Bohr also told us that “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” (No, Yogi Berra didn’t say it first.) Far be it from me to argue with a Nobel laureate, but I predict that avoiding these three mistakes will help you ensure successful implementation of your new corporate content standard.
Have you ever witnessed a content standard train wreck? What caused the train to go off the rails? Were there other mistakes involved that you’d like to share with us?