By Arjen van den Akker on Aug 8, 2019

Why is it that so many digital transformation projects fail? Figures from McKinsey suggest only 16% of IT leaders claim their digital transformation efforts have sustained performance improvements. Another 7% report short-term improvements which did not last in the long-term. Could a desire to innovate without disrupting processes be largely to blame? As organizations venture down an unknown path to transformational excellence, there are several hurdles they need to overcome.

Let’s take a look and address some common questions which are being asked by organizations on their transformation journey.

Which Parts of My Business Need to be Digitally Transformed?

It goes without saying that digitizing business processes is critical to any digital transformation project, but which processes hold precedence over others? Can a certain process be ignored completely while another is given top priority? 

It’s important to firstly consider that digital transformation can be initiated from several functional areas and business units, such as — Business Model, Product Development, Marketing, Data, Processes, Knowledge, Self-service and Organizational Culture.

It’s usually not a question of one or the other, but rather a question of which aligns better with the immediate business objectives of the organization. Serving customers with better experiences (CX) impacts the top line directly, whereas addressing internal employee experience (EX) has a direct impact on the bottom line. Hence, to realize maximum impact both CX and EX need to be addressed.

The key to achieving competitive excellence in the era of continuous digital transformation is to focus on both top and bottom line improvements. Customer experience usually has been the sweet spot for organizations to digitize the customer touchpoints since the results directly translate to topline gains, but focusing on it alone isn’t enough. As much as an organization needs to focus on the external customer channels, addressing internal customers (i.e.: employees) is equally important for overall productivity and bottom-line gains.

Related Article: The Intersection of Employee Experience and Customer Experience

What’s the Cost of Getting it Wrong?

Consumers today are drowning in a sea of information but barely find the information that they are looking for. The issue continues inside organizations, with 70% of employees struggling with missing information, costing up to $5.7 million annually in lost productivity according to a recent study by IDC sponsored by my company, SDL. This is an estimation for an organization with 1000 professional workers and it is the cost of poor information discipline.

While organizations have collaboration systems and enterprise content management (ECM) in place, these tools are simply not keeping up with current content demands. How can we address this challenge? The answer lies with content: we need to make content intelligent and responsive.

The Foundation for Future Businesses: Intelligent Content

Intelligent content has the capability to meet the needs of consumers better, both internal and external, since it is readable and usable by both humans and machines. Before we dive into intelligent content further, let’s define the key characteristics of intelligent content:

  • Structured.
  • Stored in topic-specific components.
  • Reusable.
  • Format-free.
  • Enriched with metadata.

Intelligent content forms the basis of the information fabric of an organization that wants to digitally transform itself. A unified approach towards intelligent content across the organization has several benefits, ranging from:

  • Cost savings with content reuse.
  • Information governance with access rights and change tracking.
  • Adaptive delivery of consistent information to any digital channel. 
  • Discovering insights.

Related Article: Get Smart About Intelligent Content

How Do I Create Intelligent Content?

Intelligent content inherently describes its meaning, purpose and relation to other content. It can be created using structured authoring tools. Structured authoring is a concept and way of working: XML is a specification that lets you implement structured authoring.

Structured authoring lets organizations define and enforce the consistent organization of information in smaller, reusable chunks (components) that can then be dynamically assembled into any deliverable. 

Traditionally a lot of companies assemble documents, whether printed or online, but the same content can be reused in mobile apps, chatbots, IoT applications and more. Due to its componentized nature, it’s also easier to translate and to reuse existing translations from translation memory, saving massive costs for global enterprises. In all these benefits lies the power of structured content.

Organizations are adopting structured authoring because it enables them to overhaul and streamline their content processes — it is the foundation of content automation. Intelligent content is created using structured authoring tools, and by enriching the information with the right metadata and classification information such as taxonomy terms.

Related Article: Let’s Have a Smart Conversation About Intelligent Content

How Can an Organization Be Truly Digital to the Core?

A truly digital organization is one that has digitization embedded across all the organizational processes required to transform both customer and employee-facing touch points. One common element to both CX and EX is the content or the knowledge of the organization, which is used to store, communicate, curate and serve the organizational goals. Treating content as a strategic asset is vital to successful digital transformation initiatives.

Agile processes and automation are necessary to augment the skill set of our present workforce to enable them to work together with the machines of tomorrow. In other words, human first and machine augmented is what organizations should strive for. To enable machines to work with human knowledge, the information has to be in a machine-friendly format or it needs to be intelligent content. Intelligent content creation is the first step towards turning any business into a truly digital business.

Organizations need intelligent content, in order to become truly digital. Centralized intelligent content provides several benefits for organizations, namely consistency, reduced information redundancy, adaptive delivery to any channel, reduced desktop publishing costs and improved localization workflows. By itself, knowledge centralization is not enough. We need unified collaboration to make it possible to create consistent and accurate information by bridging departmental silos.

Structured authoring offers the prospect of intelligent content creation and better management of information. It’s a fundamental shift in the mindset is required from an entire organizational perspective on how valuable information is treated, and how to manage and manipulate it for desired transformations (print, digital, embedded in smart devices, etc.). A starting point to adopt such a change is to evaluate existing skillsets and identify new skills that are required, both to implement a structured workflow and to work within it.

Related Article: Tying Strategic Objectives to Information Management Strategies

Unstructured Content

Unstructured content includes emails, documents, videos, photos, presentations, webpages and many other kinds of business documents. These documents have no associated data model and include many different formats.

These types of content often do not have any associated metadata, and if they do, it is often inconsistently applied. This means you cannot access the benefits that structured content provides. 

To Structure Content or Not?

Does this mean every organization needs to structure its content?

A structured content approach makes sense when content is business critical and plays a vital role in digital transformation initiatives.

These digital transformation initiatives can be anything from dynamic content assembly for self-service portals, to intelligent knowledge hubs and product and services documentation. Because structured content enables content reuse, you can eliminate unnecessary duplication of effort and ensure consistency anywhere common content is reused.

Simply stated, structured content improves business agility, provides governance and control and enables findability to both external customers and internal employees. 

When deciding where to start, consider how you want to manage this content on an ongoing basis, and how you are defining your broader content strategy. Early adopters of this approach include manufacturing, financial services, business services and life sciences industries. These industries — traditionally laggards — are leading the way, and are quickly realizing the benefits of a structured approach to content in comparison to document-based management.

About the Author

Arjen van den Akker joined SDL in 2012 and works as Director of Product Marketing for SDL’s digital experience and content management products. He has a background of over 20 years in computer engineering and marketing and has worked at a series of international B2B software vendors, helping them turn technology jargon into clear propositions that relate to business outcomes.

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