Getting familiar with content processes
Processes help content teams operate efficiently to create consistent, impactful content. This series presents an introduction to processes and how they are constructed.
Processes make sure everyone knows what to do
The practice of content strategy has always benefitted from the expertise of other fields. Where would we be without the work of tech writers, journalists, editors, and technologists?
Business analysts also have something to share. Process discovery and design, which is a tool used by analysts to configure and streamline business operations, helps content teams to be efficient in their content operations.
Processes are end-to-end (and are not procedures)
A process describes, end-to-end, the steps taken to do something. A process is initiated by a triggering event and results in one or more outcomes. In between the trigger and the outcome are actions and decision points.
Many processes occur in the kitchen. I’ve got a process for making a peanut butter sandwich for my kids, for example. That process can be triggered by my routine of making lunches every day or when I’m asked for an afterschool snack. Actions include getting out the bread, peanut butter, and knife and then making the sandwich, tidying up, and serving the sandwich. Decision points might include asking if my kids want jelly, or honey, or banana along with the peanut butter.
A process is not the same as a procedure, which provides instructions for a single task. I have a procedure for getting peanut butter out of the jar, but a process for making the sandwich. A process is much bigger, is often cross-functional, and can be made up of a collection of procedures. More importantly, a process is end-to-end.
A simple content process to create a blog post might look like this:
Within any business there are multiple processes in place. The processes are often linked, with the outcome of one process becoming the trigger for the next. Publishing an article, for example, can trigger a process to develop and post social media content.
Content processes are an essential part of content governance
Content governance provides the framework by which we manage content, and processes are a key part of that framework. Without formal processes, it’s impossible to get consistent structure and messaging across multiple content developers and teams. Processes also help align the efforts of cross-functional teams because they make explicit what needs to happen.While companies tend to be organized around functional areas, processes work across these areas and encourage more communication and collaboration
A content planning process, for example, should involve stakeholders from across all impacted departments. Product managers will know what release cycles are, marketing teams bring details about larger campaigns and initiatives to be considered, government relations can provide information about how the regulatory environment may change, and the legal team can advise on things to be avoided.
Don’t confuse functions with process
Often, organizations make the mistake of assuming that the things people have been hired to do are the same as the processes that drive their business. A person may be hired as a writer, but in a content process they may be creating content, or editing it, or reviewing it. Perhaps they have a role in maintaining content or evaluating it.
Focusing on what people do, and not who does a task or when it happens, is one way to clarify processes, and distinguish them from organizational or reporting structure. After your content processes have been defined – and refined – you can layer on the who and when to create swim lane workflow diagrams.
Coming up with names for these processes is another way to figuring out where they begin and end. As with so many things in content strategy, verbs are critical. That’s in my next article.