Policies and Content Management
After reading Geoffrey Moore’s Systems of Engagement and the Future of Enterprise IT and William Hart-Davidson’s Content Management: Beyond Single-Sourcing, My only understanding of content management before now was with the idea of a content management system, as in a software program, and I had never really thought about it beyond that scope. It was interesting to read the perspective that the scope of content management is greater than I ever knew before. For example, I never really thought about the internet itself being content management, just because it is so chaotic and there is just so much there, without any real organization or obvious function for much of it.
I am currently working on a project to convert all of my department’s policies into a new format in preparation for relocating them to our organization’s new content management system for policies. This project is the only reason I really had any grasp on content management at all, and unfortunately, my grasp was very limited to what I needed to know in order to complete the project. However, as I look at the history of how our policies have evolved, just in the few years that I have worked in this organization, I can better understand the concepts of content management especially for technical communicators.
It is interesting to think of the changes in how we have managed our library of policies and procedures over the years. When I first started my job, our departmental policies and procedures were contained in a few giant three-ring binders. They were theoretically alphabetized, however there was no rhyme or reason for what word was chosen to represent the policy, so it could be extremely difficult to find the one policy that you needed. Furthermore, those binders only contained the policies for our workgroup, so if you needed to know about a policy for a different workgroup within the department, you would have to go to their work area and locate their binders to find the policy. It was a rather cumbersome process. Hart-Davidson referred to this type of information storage as a “content silo” (p.131) which is an extremely apt image. The content was just dumped in and even though people tried to make it accessible, it really was not.
Eventually, our policies were published electronically on our organization’s intranet site which helped a great deal, however there is only a very remedial search capability which more often than not is unable to locate the document that you need. Because of this, I am ecstatic to be moving policies into a content management system. It will allow all of the information to be in one place, to be searchable, to ensure that it is current. It makes my nerdy little policy-loving heart happy.
This just illustrates Hart-Davidson’s four goals of content management (p. 130). The movement from hard copy to a content management system allowed us to move from restricted access to more public access to the documents. It also subsequently allows people throughout the organization to adapt our policies for their own use. It is interesting, because most of the policies in our organization are written by whoever does the job and as Hart-Davidson pointed out, using a content management system isn’t going to improve the writing (p. 141), but it does at least allow access and for us, the process of reformatting all our policies requires us to look at them more critically than ever before.