Week 9: Content Management is Never Done

(Post 2 of 2)

Content management is one of those things that we don’t really think about when it’s done well, but can make us very crabby when it’s not.  We’ve all experienced the frustration of not being able to find something we need, especially if the need is urgent.  Until I began the Tech Comm program here at Stout, I hadn’t thought of it in the least.  Now I’ve had two classes in it, and I realize how much effort goes into the initial design of a content management system.

(Forgive me for the following big ol’ reference to quality management-I’m responsible for our quality system at work and we have a big audit coming up in November, so I’m armpit-deep in that subject right now.) One of the basic tenets of a quality management system is continual improvement.  In the quality world, this means that once procedures are put into place, they are not set in stone.  We should always be looking for a better way to do things, usually through inputs from our own employees and customers.  The problem with continual improvement is that people in general don’t like change.  The original writers of the procedures can feel dejected or insulted because it can seem others don’t think their work was good enough.  Users of the procedures can be annoyed with having to learn how to do the same job a different way.  Neither of these reactions is helpful.  Everyone must buy in to the idea that they are all members of the company “team,” with a common goal of the business’s success.

I suppose continual improvement is a big part of both information design and content management.  It’s not possible to please all of the users all of the time.  Changes are bound to be suggested, even if we do all of the research beforehand, with usability studies and such.  Not all problems can arise during testing stages, and the corrective actions are one of the forms continual improvement takes.  Changes to information design concepts discussed in Spilka’s Chapter 4 are limitless, as there is no one correct answer to design issues.  Content managers do their best with usability data they can accumulate and with skills and understanding of concepts of mapping, signposting and general use of space, but they need to stay open to suggestions for bettering their project.  A teamwork attitude has to just be part of their personality in order for them to be successful, and pride can only hold the project and the company back from improvement.  Their job is never really done – they make it the best it can currently be, but tomorrow a change might come along that makes it better.

Posted on October 27, 2012, in Society, Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Laura,
    I can relate to a lot of what you’ve written, but from a different direction. Education, naturally. Sorry if I keep going back to that, but it’s what I know. The concept of continual improvement is important in education. I rarely do the same thing twice from year to year. Even the units and lessons that I like and that I think went well in the past are going to look a little different the next time around. I just want them to be better. Instead of feedback from customers, I get feedback from my students, their parents, fellow teachers, administrators, and testing results.

    Our whole English department is pretty open to change. We love to experiment, to push, to try, to see how we might better reach the needs of our students. It’s a lot of work, but it’s never boring.

    I have, though, worked with people who were very resistant to change. It can be comfortable to do what’s familiar, and in teaching, there is often conflicting evidence of just what is the best practice.

    At any rate, even though it’s a real challenge, I’m all for continual improvement.

    • Rob, basically you are running a quality system within your education department! Everything you said about what you try to do with your curriculum is what we try to do for our product realization process. Your customers are your students, your units and lessons are your procedures, and your students’ resultant knowledge is your product. I guess we’re all doing the same thing, in essence!

      • Both of you are surely experiencing “turf wars” in a way. Whether or not folks want to move in new directions or stay in the past, there’s usually great reasons for both. I would think Laura’s company may have more dollar figures to include in their arguments while the education side of things may be more subjective…

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