Part 1 of a 2 part series


Publishers are investing heavily in content technologies that offer features and functionality that best support their digital transformation strategy, such as single source publishing, semantic metadata, granular content management, and collaborative authoring and review. However, deploying a feature-rich system doesn’t mean that the organization is set up or ready to successfully leverage these features. Yes, digital transformation requires investment in the right technology, but it’s ultimately the people and processes that will successfully implement and sustain the changes.

Stories of Epic Fail in Change Management

Fail #1

In my experience, organizations that undergo digital transformation will often embrace changes at first, but slowly revert to old habits. For example, they rigorously capture good metadata during content migration, but then they slip back to the prior state where metadata was inconsistently captured. This can be just as bad or worse than no metadata strategy, as we explained in the Avoiding Metadata Madness blog post, as it impacts discoverability and the user’s online experience.

Fail #2

I’ve also seen mixed technology adoption within the same company. For example, some editorial teams may embrace real-time collaborative review capabilities, while other editorial teams won’t let go of their paper and red pens. This leads to a lower return on technology investment goals.

Fail #3

Perhaps the biggest issue is when basic content management principles are ignored. For example, when users make an update, they replicate the file rather than use versioning, which takes away the publishing platform’s ability to automatically track a single asset with multiple versions. Seems like no big deal, but when this happens, we see a real impact on all business goals that rely on agile content from a “single source of truth.” The results are increased update costs and delays in delivering real-time content to consumers, which can lead to decreased revenue.

Fail #4

I’ve gone back to clients a year or so after a system is implemented to observe its day-to-day use and to review capabilities with the team. Users often tell me, “I didn’t know it did that!” They may have been trained on the system technology), but not fully understand how to implement it with their new processes, so it didn’t “stick.” When that happens, these great “enabling” platform features get lost and forgotten, and the business benefits are not realized.

Fail #5

In the worst case, highly sophisticated publishing platforms are treated like a “fancy Dropbox” with little to no change management in place to drive process transformation. A publisher VP quoted in this digital transformation journey whitepaper said, “Right now, we are hand-cuffed and can’t generate new products because content is not agile enough.” Many of us immediately jump to the conclusion that the technology is the handcuff, but the people and processes can equally be to blame.

What’s Next?

In this blog, I’ve talked about a few “epic fails” of change management that I’ve seen, but on the positive side, I’ve also worked with a lot of organizations that have undergone huge successful digital transformations. Assuming the successful companies implemented the same technology and focused on the same digital transformation goals for their publishing platform, what was different? In Part 2 of this blog series, I’ll offer nine tips that I’ve seen organizations implement to achieve a successful digital transformation.


Author: Renee Swank

Renee Swank, Senior Director, has 25 years of experience in publishing, content, and knowledge management. She works with customers to define vision and drive business transformation to support new digital-first and content enrichment processes, as well as new ways to search, discover, and analyze content.
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