Content curation – a response to good questions from APQC

by | Jan 22, 2015 | Information Management, Intranets

Recently Paul Corney and I were asked by APQC to comment on three questions relating to content curation. We have worked together for many years on projects for organisations (many of them law firms) who realise that it is not about ‘content management’ but about ‘information management’ and ‘knowledge management’. Paul gave the closing address to an event on Knowledge & Information Management at Lisboa Business School in December and sparked a friendly but passionate debate when he suggested that you needed an information foundation on which to build the KM structure. In fact he said if you haven’t got the former don’t bother with the latter. Knowledge starts with information and if the information cannot be trusted then building from information to knowledge is building on sand no matter what subject expertise and experience someone may bring to making a business decision. The questions and our collective response are below. Stephen Dale has also commented on the questions, as has Harold Jarche. You should also read Steven’s paper in the December issue of Business Information Review as it sets out a very useful framework for consisting content curation processes and governance.

  1. Our best practices research says great content management systems have content developed around stakeholder needs. Why is this not always the case, and what can companies do to make sure it happens?

Companies rarely understand the importance of information as an asset. So all processes related to content curation are fitted in as a ‘hobby’ around other tasks. This makes the work difficult to prioritise, it may be invisible to a line manager, and when a content author leaves it may not be obvious that this is a role that their replacement needs to take on board. Companies have to adopt good practice in information management and appoint someone at Board level to take responsibility for content creation.

  1. What are the keys to having content that different generations of employees can use and understand?

This is not a sensible question. Content should be readable to anyone with an appropriate command of the language. However they may not always have the knowledge context to understand the value, perhaps because it has been written in a very technical way with far too many acronyms.  Content authors should write for all the potential users of their work, perhaps summarising technical reports for a business audience.

Perhaps more importantly is the need to take into consideration the device through which the content is being initially accessed and how it is going to be shared. Here there are some significant generational differences and where techniques such as gamification have an important role in enhancing value.  Mobile first is the only way to consider content consumption.

  1. A lot of content management systems are filled with content that is no longer relevant or useful. What processes have you seen or used that ensure CMS isn’t cluttered with material of questionable value?

Every item of content should be owned by an employee, not a department. There should be an automatic review of the content after (say) a year, at which time it can be revised, archived or withdrawn as is appropriate. Successive reviews might be either at yearly intervals or gradually at shorter interviews as the content reaches the end of its useful life. This is important work, ensuring that employees can trust the content when taking decisions.

If you have information that does not align with the business and will never be of value in making employees making business decisions that support the development of the company and their own careers then why are you sorting it?  Storage may be cheap but the time taken to work through search results that contain outdated, irrelevant and low quality information to find business-critical information is very expensive. It also takes time to undertake the review process, which leads us back to Q1.

Martin White