How and Why You Should Establish Your Content Collection as a Portfolio

A “portfolio” can have several different meanings – financial, intellectual, artistic.  What brings these uses of the term together is the concept that there is an ideal group of assets that represent the strategic needs and goals of the entity.

Information managers should think of content purchasing similarly. When a content portfolio represents an organization’s information needs in an appropriately balanced manner, rather than as separate unrelated purchases, there is a better story about the value of the content investment.

In fast paced environments, decision makers want to be able to react to changes, but also anticipate what will happen next. Managing a content portfolio is no different.

Consider the benefits of creating a content portfolio with some specific steps to get started:

Establish your content collection as a portfolio

To understand the content collection as a portfolio, the first step is to take a full inventory of what has already been purchased. A spreadsheet is a great way to begin recording this list. Describe the content in as much detail as possible, including content title, vendor/publisher information, cost, access methodology, etc.  Once you’ve organized your assets, moving from a simple descriptive inventory to a managed portfolio requires a bit more analysis.

Related Reading: Looking for Competitive Advantage? Talk to Your Information Manager

Begin by describing the content collection in terms of attributes that are meaningful to the organization. These attributes can be associated with the content itself, how it is funded, cost stratification level, and usage. Here are a few examples of how content can be organized:

  • Categorize by the information need it addresses: Is it technical information, company information, patent data, etc.?
  • Price stratification and type of purchase: Provide a grouping of three or more levels of cost categories, with high cost content purchases being identified separately from lower cost investments. Identify if the content purchase type is a subscription, a token-based content platform, or a one-off investment. Is the content available as an enterprise-wide subscription or is it limited to certain groups or people? What language or geographic characteristics are available within the content?

Doing this descriptive exercise (which essentially applies taxonomies to the content portfolio) allows the information team to prioritize what content needs attention. For example, content investments over a certain dollar amount might take precedence in being tracked, maintained and justified.

Once categorizing and describing the portfolio has occurred, it’s time to compare the portfolio content to strategic initiatives, usage patterns or other business needs.  This allows a more granular understanding of how the content represents the organization’s interests.

  • Example #1: Analyze the usage of the high-dollar content spend category. It’s a subset of the overall portfolio, but if the usage is very high for the costs, that can justify the spend.
  • Example #2: Is the organization expanding into new geographies and markets? If so, how does the portfolio support that in relation to language and geographic content coverage? By aligning more granular views of the data to organizational initiatives the information manager can better describe why the content is needed.

Finally, as data is collected, you can begin to show patterns over time. This is terrific information for showing increased demand and usage trends. It also lays the groundwork to show that the content portfolio is a dynamic asset that is responsive and agile in the face of changing organizational needs.

Recommend investment, divestment and rebalancing

The content portfolio should never be static. Information that was deemed critical two years ago may or may not be relevant in the present or future. Actively managing what gets purchased, what gets dropped and the overall makeup of the spend creates a strong information asset that supports strategic direction. Having good data to support purchasing decisions will allow information managers to deliver confident direction on the content investment that will be appreciated by finance and budget teams, as well as providing clear reasons for any changes made to the content portfolio.

Look carefully at how content gets purchased. Most information organizations will deploy a variety of access methods to create cost savings and support the information needs of a global employee base. They may have broad subscriptions to content that gets used widely, deposit or token accounts for access to less widely used content and document delivery for one-off purchasing and individualized information needs. Cost efficiencies can be achieved if the information manager can track these changes.

If demand can be tracked in relation to spending, it can create opportunities for rebalancing the portfolio. For instance, if content is repeatedly accessed through document delivery from a specific journal or group of similar journals, it may be time to consider moving towards a subscription for that content. Likewise, when the demand for an enterprise-wide subscription drops, tracking the drop and knowing the delta for when the cost will exceed the benefits of the subscription allows the information manager to change how that content is purchased for significant cost savings.

Forecast needs, future investment opportunities and budget alignment

In fast paced environments, decision makers want to be able to react to changes, but also anticipate what will happen next. Managing a content portfolio is no different. If the information manager can confidently anticipate information requirements, he can clearly communicate the proactive need when budget planning.

To anticipate or forecast content demand, the information manager needs to look at data over a historical period. A simple historical analysis can create valuable insight.

  • Evaluate increasing or decreasing demand year over year. Tracking this demand on a graph can provide a realistic anticipation of demand for the near future.
  • As a second step, add in more information to create further confidence in content demand predictions. Employee growth rate, potential acquisitions or divestitures, seasonal demand, and geographic office changes are all great data points to begin to include in the analysis if they are accessible.

Developing a dynamic content portfolio with trackable attributes creates a well-managed content strategy that is easily communicated to decision makers. It allows information managers to react appropriately and quickly to changes in employee information needs and organizational strategy as well as anticipating future information requirements.

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Author: Britt Mueller

Britt Mueller is Principal of the consulting organization, InfoLiquidity LLC, which seeks to optimize the flow and financial return on information for content creators, consumers and organizations. Before she established InfoLiquidity, Britt was Sr. Director of the Global Information & Library Services department for Qualcomm, Inc. She is a long-time member of the Special Libraries Association and has served as the President of the SLA San Diego Chapter twice. Britt has participated on numerous advisory councils and is a former member of the ITIMG (Industrial Technical Information Managers Group). Most recently Britt has joined Iron Mountain’s new Library Services Business helping libraries discover new ways to manage their content offsite, and deliver digital surrogates for increased scholarly access.
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