Simplifying Enterprise Content Chaos

Content strategists who work inside the enterprise face the unique challenge of transforming overwhelming, ungoverned employee-facing content environments into Digital Employee Experiences that feel simple, relevant, and useful. While the strategic mandate for enterprise content is unique, emerging content strategy trends in the consumer space offer new opportunities to simplify content inside large global organizations.

Enterprise content poses challenges that we typically don’t see in consumer-facing content: it is very high in volume (often, we’re talking tens of thousands of pages and hundreds of thousands of assets), bound by legal and compliance considerations, and captured primarily in unstructured documents (like scanned PDFs). At the same time, this content is an enormous asset for businesses. It manifests the collective knowledge and memory of the organization. Often with limited resources and few devoted content owners, large organizations must deliver the consumer-grade content experiences that employees need and expect.

How can businesses overcome these daunting obstacles? Sometimes, the answer lies in emerging technologies and trends, which are motivating content strategists across fields and disciplines to reconsider how we practice our craft. In other cases, it’s about focused application of established best practices. These are our key principles to simplify content design inside the enterprise.

Reduce noise.

For any single employee, a small portion of enterprise content is relevant at any given time; everything else is noise. Yet, assuming proper governance is being enforced, every piece of that noisy content is necessary and valuable.

The key is to anticipate what the employee will need, and then surface that content proactively, without limiting access to the wealth of information available in your ecosystem. Machine learning enables systems to “understand” contexts of use and suggest information accordingly. Hyper-personalization, often driven by adaptive content, reduces clicks by serving up individually targeted information based on user attributes, devices, channels, and business priorities. By using new technologies to select what an employee is likely searching for, we can create simplicity through smarter content – not less.

Increase findability.

Remember that simplifying a user’s view of content exposes any solution to risk: what if I don’t find what I need on the home page, don’t know where else to look, and give up my pursuit of the information? If content isn’t findable, it doesn’t exist for your employees. For this reason, a robust, extensible information architecture continues to be essential.

We are moving away from page-based designs and into pageless information architecture in which content is dynamically assembled based on metadata, user attributes, and defined contexts in the solution. This requires solid taxonomies, targeting, and structured content. Likewise, smart search can go a long way to simplifying employees’ experiences of the voluminous, often unstructured content that makes up the bulk of enterprise assets (like policies, work collateral, and historical documentation).

Consider the context of use.

Define and address contexts within the solution – the scenarios, situations, user profiles, and business priorities that frame user intents and outcomes. Doing so goes a long way to reducing noise and increasing findability. What device is the employee using to access the information? Is the employee in her usual place of work or somewhere else (geolocation can tell us)? What time of day, month, or year is it? What other information do we know about the user that can help us discern intent? All these insights help us target information more effectively and simplify the experience of the user.

Consider a view of an employees’ health benefits, targeted for two scenarios. Your data shows that on the desktop, employees are more likely to be completing a complex task: researching plans, for example, or uploading documents to process a complicated claim. They rarely use their mobile phones for those activities, but would be likely to check their coverage while in line at the doctor’s office. Use adaptive content to provide an abbreviated view of coverage to mobile devices, and you’ve probably created a simpler – and more useful – content experience for a specific context of use.

Many of the technologies I’ve discussed here are still emerging, especially inside the enterprise. But core content strategy best practices are flexible, and they bear updating to help us incorporate new capabilities to keep pace with employees’ changing expectations as consumers, as workers, and as influential citizens of your organization.