In a corporate environment there’s a wide and varied amount of content stored in many places. This can be in wikis, document repositories, ticket management systems, emails, or various scattered file systems (personal or otherwise). What is the value of this content as it relates to the method of distribution?
In software architecture we have the concept of non-functional requirements. That is, requirements focused on the expected state of a system (what it is) to support its functionality (what it does). We generate a lot of valuable content in our day to day work, so identifying non-functional content requirements can help us better determine how we should use it.
Borrowing a page from The 7 Software “-ilities” You Need to Know, below are 7 “-ilities” for content generated in a corporate world.
Good content must be easy for people at all levels to consume and understand. Consider that, in a corporate world, you have executives, management, and a broad array of subject matter experts. While this is a bit over-simplified, the idea is that each type of person may, at some point, come across your content. Will they be able to understand it?
Content does not have to be simplistic, however, whatever system is used to share it must be able to present the information in an understandable way. There’s an onus on the author of the content to structure their content in digestible chunks.
Making content readable, and using the right tool to do so, will allow it to reach a broader audience and make a bigger impact. Here are some ideas:
- Make paragraphs digestible by keeping them 3 to 4 sentences
- Separate paragraphs by a full blank line
- Make liberal use of heading formatting (H1, H2, H3, etc)
- Use bullet points to simplify your message
Content is meant to be shared. Otherwise, what’s the reason of generating it? We create content via emails, word document, chat systems, wikis, and so on. How easy is it to share this with others? How easy is it for those others to share it?
Shareability is what makes our current landscape of social media work. The easier it is to share your content, the broader the reach. To that end, make use of you corporate collaboration tool by doing the following:
- Post content in one place, and share the links in other places
- Convert helpful emails to collaborative documents
- Use the collaboration tools “share” features to draw others into the system
- Cross-link other content with your own to attract new audiences
Once your content has been created, how easy will it be to find later? More importantly, how many people will be able to find it? Consider the difference between a file on your computer, and content stored on a wiki. Which will be more findable?
Placing content somewhere it can easily be found by other members of your organization instantly makes it more valuable. As with shareability, using a centralized tool can provide the following features:
- Content tagging
- Centralized searching
- Related content references (many tools provide this functionality)
- Content organization (projects, groups, teams, etc)
After creating this content, can it be easily edited? Can other edit or contribute to it? In a corporate world, being able to collaborate on content is essential to enhancing its quality. Without the ability to edit and update content over time, it can easily become stale and less valuable.
How long will this content last in your organization? Does it live somewhere it can be retained? Will it be here three years later? Five? Longevity deals with the life of your content. Not everything will stand the test of time, but those pieces of content that do inherently have more value to everyone with access to them.
Software engineers understand the benefit of maintaining continuity of their code. They use source control systems that allow them to track back code to its inception, which is a useful capability. Content is no different. Having the ability to track the history of content allows for a deeper understanding of how it has grown and changed.
Consider how, in a corporate world, you are inundated with “reply-all” email threads. Sharing emails creates a copy, and fragments the content further. This makes is overall less valuable.
Continuity of content can be increased by placing it in a centralized system designed to retain history and provide some level of versioning.
Does the person reading your content believe you know what you’re talking about? Credibility can come in many forms — from author credentials, to citations, to expert references. Not certain if your content is credible enough? Checkout this exciting article by an expert blogger!
The more credibility you can build with your content, the more receptive others will be to your message. But make no mistake, you can’t build credibility if your content is living in an obscure location.
Making the Most of Your Corporate Content
Are you spending more than 15 minutes writing an email to a group? Are you creating word documents on your local machine, then sending them as attachments? Are you hitting “reply all” to long-running email threads? This is where the “-ilities” come into play.
- Make your content readable so it’s easier to consume
- Put your content in a shareable system to broaden its reach
- Use the centralized system to ensure your content is findable
- Collaborate on content in an editable place to strengthen it
- Keep your content centralized to ensure it has longevity
- Use a single source with versioning to maintain continuity
- Make your content credible by citing sources, and seeking expertise of others
Your company may already make use of tools like Confluence or Jive Software to help organize corporate content. Driving your valuable content to these systems may help improve your content “-ilities” and its reach within your organization.