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Scott Abel, The Content Wrangler

I’ve got a challenge for you. Take a look at the way you create, manage and deliver content. No, really. Take a close look. Conduct a systematic, fair, scientific survey of your content production lifecycle. Get professional help if you need to. Look at each and every step in your process and ask yourself, “Is this the best we can do, or is it just the way we’ve been doing it for so long that we believe it is the correct — and only — way to work?”

What I’m certain you will find is that your organization utilizes an assortment of outdated processes weaved together into an unnecessarily time-consuming content production cycle riddled with inefficiencies. Chances are you rely heavily on time-sucking manual tasks, many of which fail to provide any measurable value to customers. If you’re like most organizations, you have absolutely no idea what it costs you to work as inefficiently as you do because you don’t measure anything that’s actually important.

Sound familiar? Don’t fret, you’re not alone.

Recent research by Crimson Research indicates that manufacturers of life-saving medical devices spend nearly one percent of their revenues — a whopping one billion dollars a year — creating, updating, and translating their content. And that’s a conservative cost estimate based on straight salary calculations that fails to take into account such things as employee benefits, overhead, lost opportunity costs, and time-to-market savings, among other things. As such, this estimate is believed by some to drastically understates actual costs.

But the medical device industry is just the tip of the iceberg. Most organizations have never examined the way they create, manage, and deliver content. It’s always been a cost of doing business. A necessary evil that costs what it costs. When an organization looks to cut expenditures, seldom do they look at their content production lifecycle as a source of savings. Instead, they cut staff content production staff and outsource content work. While these efforts can have an immediate financial impact, they are short-sighted and provide only temporary benefit.

How have we managed to get into such a big mess?

Fairly easily, actually.

First, we mistakenly view those who create content as different from those who build products. For example, we expect the people who manufacture cars, computers, and coffeemakers — even cappuccino machines — to do so in the absolutely most efficient way possible. Their processes are clearly defined, consistently followed, efficiently managed, diligently measured, and systematically repeatable. In short, their workflow is optimized; every unnecessary step is shaved away. But we don’t demand the same of those who create all of the content necessary to build, market, sell, and support our products.

Second, we nurture a culture of process immaturity. We fail to train our content creators (and their management) to constantly optimize and fine tune their processes. We fail to support them with the tools, technologies, and financial resources they need, and we don’t reward them for spotting and fixing inefficiencies.

Many workers undoubtedly sense that they could work more efficiently, but for a variety of reasons, they learn to accept inefficiencies as part of the way their organization works. Even when they identify specific process problems, they may opt not to share them with management, and instead devise creative “workarounds” that make the problem less challenging for themselves. By stepping outside the official process, workers introduce unintentional consequences that have negative impacts on those downstream from them in the content production lifecycle.

Forward-thinking companies, especially those in ultra-competitive markets, have found that optimizing content production lifecycles can reduce expenses and increase sales. The productivity improvements made help organizations become more efficient and lead to fewer errors. The time saved is funneled into innovation and projects designed to improve customer satisfaction and increase sales.

So, are you ready to accept my challenge?

Let me know what you discover.

If you’ve already undertaken such an exercise, share with us what you learned — and what you did — to fine-tune your processes and become more efficient.