A solid enterprise content strategy makes all the difference in whether your intranet succeeds or fails. Your workers need to be able to create, manage, share, and find the knowledge necessary to keep your organization competitive. Content strategy is a well-established field developed primarily in customer-facing applications. DEG Enterprise Collaboration specializes in applying these fundamental principles to your intranet, in particular to SharePoint applications.
This four-part blog series discusses the key elements for developing an enterprise content strategy – content assessment, user research, strategic analysis, design and planning, tips on workflows for creating and revising portal copy, and how to establish governance processes.
In Part I, we cover the first critical step – content assessment and user research.
Before jumping into the deep end of content strategy, first you need to put together a baseline analysis of your existing content and evaluate how users are interacting with it. This assessment includes a content audit and a technical audit.
A content audit inventories all your content, noting details such as file type, date created, date updated, location, etc. A full audit should track content from all your repositories. (Here’s a sample content audit spreadsheet, which is also shown below. Customize as needed.) If you have analytics, hopefully they will help you identify most (and least) popular content. Analytics can also help reveal major content cycles, such as seasonal spikes and other usage patterns.
Yes, you can automate portions of a content audit. However, this analysis is not just about the numbers. You also need to make qualitative assessments, noting whether this content is up to date, needs revision, or should be archived. Moving to responsive design can also create unforeseen problems, because content that looked okay in web layout five years ago can look very different today on a tablet or a smartphone. If you make it to the implementation step before realizing you need a copywriter to revise content for mobile, then you will be a sad project manager. In some industries, significant revisions to intranet content might also trigger internal reviews.
A content audit looks at what content is. A technical audit considers the bigger picture mechanics. It assesses the technical landscape of where and how the content exists within your system, and provides the basis for decisions ranging from server configuration to security and permissions. For example, not all employees are allowed to access all content. Certain content repositories might also need to be configured in order to meet compliance and regulatory standards. (Pretty soon we will be posting a blog on “Strategic Multi-Tenancy Solutions for Sharepoint Environments,” so check back for that one.)
A technical audit is critical in satisfying user expectations for intranet performance. Think about it – all content lives out on a server somewhere. When an employee searches for that content, the system has to retrieve it. That retrieval really should occur in a timely fashion. Poor system-wide response times can have a big negative impact on overall productivity (not to mention, your employees will gripe at you). In a technical audit, an engineer evaluates your system and whether it has the capacity to meet user demand.
Content audits and technical audits help you figure out exactly what content you are dealing with, as well as the basic system requirements for storing it and making it readily available. Next, user research helps you understand the behaviors and workflows influencing how your employees access this content. Especially when you are deciding which SharePoint features to implement and how to configure them, user research can offer invaluable insights.
Do not blow this step. Good content strategy begins and ends with user experience. A satisfying user experience is based on solid user research, a fundamental tenet of the human-centered design process. Human-centered design means building systems that take into account how different people REALLY work. Believe us, this is often very different than building systems based on how bosses think employees SHOULD work. (Here’s a recent review of common themes we are currently seeing across all of our portal user research.)
Since the goal of user research is to capture behavior patterns, user interviews are critical. Field observation studies, surveys, analytics, and even secondary data can also help.
After the research is gathered, here are the next steps:
- Personas. Your content strategist will use the user data to develop personas. Personas are composite models of major behavioral traits or tendencies. They represent key findings that will shape your content strategy, such as how your employees use technology in their work, plus their goals, expectations, and frustrations.
- Context scenarios and use cases. Personas then serve as the basis for context scenarios and use cases. Context scenarios help brainstorm future situations in which a persona will turn to a system to solve problems or carry out tasks. Use cases outline specifics for how these personas will use system features in doing their work.
- User testing and usability audits. A user research program will indeed capture feedback regarding your current business content and portal structure. However, there is no substitute for user testing and usability audits. User testing involves observing how users progress through a series of steps, and the usability audit contains a detailed user experience analysis. These tools help reveal how people find your content – and where they get hung up.
So now you’ve gathered the key data for developing an enterprise content strategy. The next step is your strategic analysis, which covered in Part II of our series.
When carrying out your assessment, what sort of content did you find on your existing portal? Was all of it critical to your business processes? Were your users able to locate key content quickly? Tell us about your experiences.