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.

Posted on October 27, 2013, in Workplace. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Thanks for sharing your ideas. I also considered the internet a chaotic mess. However, it makes sense that there should be some order to it. The information we look up on the internet is obviously stored somewhere. I agree — using electronic content management systems present more options to employers and allow people to easily share information.

  2. evelynmartens13

    I enjoyed “It makes my nerdy little policy-loving heart happy,” because I like order and rationality to policy making and enforcement, too. Up until a couple of years ago, many of our campus HR policies were somehwat “haphazrdly” organized and stored (all in hard copy), which made it difficult to be consistent when trying to organize and manage a Search and Screen committee, for example.

    Information design, management, storage, navigability, etc. has such an impact on so many other aspects of an organization’ essential functions. I’m not sure many people really understand that.

  3. I can relate to your example of using three ring binders for policy storage. In a former position, I had the same experience and had the job of updating our binders. It was definitely cumbersome.

    And I think you really said much here: ** It will allow all of the information to be in one place, to be searchable, to ensure that it is current. **

    These three benefits, for me, really make a strong case to use digital storage for company policies. Having information stored in one place that allows its users to easily search and know that the info is current is a best practice for companies.

    • I worked at a bank right out of college and remember also having to “update the binder.” It was awful! We had updates to it every week.

    • You are right. For us it is especially important because hospitals are subject to a lot of regulations that other organizations wouldn’t be subject to, so having an automatic review cycle is a huge benefit because it makes certain that everything is meeting regulations which makes things safer for patients.

  4. Being able to search for information is huge! We don’t have an official CMS for our corporate documents or policies (they are just Word files on the shared server), but they are still electronic so all you have to do is a search by keyword. I couldn’t imagine having to rifle through filing cabinets to find something that I used a year ago. Who knows where it could be?!

  5. I also enjoyed the analogy of the “content silo.” It really does provide a great image and representation of how you feel when looking for a document in a mountain of unorganized information. One of my previous employers also kept all policy information in giant 3 ring binders with arbitrary policy names, and I also found that extremely frustrating. I found it incredibly refreshing to join a software company where everything is contained in a desktop content management software and sorted by concept rather than arbitrary title.

  6. This week’s readings seem to have inspired a lot of reflection upon workplace scenarios and, like Jessica, I think describing the moves your department is making would be a great topic for a final paper, especially since it seems you doing the work toward the conversion. Perhaps finding more research on CMS and information design and access can extend your discussion? Let me know if this is something you might want to pursue!

  7. I love that Dilbert cartoon!

    I think it’s funny you mention how your polices were in a binder. I think a lot of companies did that years ago and with the technology we have today it’s funny to think anyone would have done anything with paper! People just graduating college and joining the workforce will never understand that we did have to sort through papers and there was nothing to search to find what you needed quickly.

    • Yeah, I totally understand what you mean, but at the same time, especially with bigger corporations, specifically hospitals, letting go of the paper process can be a difficult thing. At the time we also had a full record room of paper-based charts, so the fact that the policies were on paper was just par for the course. Our department pushed to move away from paper for a long time before we were allowed to do it and that has only really occurred over the last 4 years. For hospitals, we are actually ahead of the game (which is sad, but true).

      I am glad to say that we can still make new employees suffer as we did, at least for a little while longer before everything is swallowed up in our electronic world :).

  8. When I started with this company (about 6 years ago), each new hire was provided 2 large binders of infomation. One was a copy of CMS guidance, which was updated each year, and the other was filled with corporate policies. Now both are available on the companies intranet, which definately saves paper and allows people to be able to access the most up to date information. The problem, is that the search is very picky, so you often need to know exactly what you are looking for and what it is called, or you will need to navigate through several pages or results. Having the information available is nice, but it would be nicer if it was easier to find.

  9. Hi Amy. Dr. Pignetti sent me the link to this post. I am also in the MSTPC program and writing a final research paper on formats of process documentation. I am wondering what format your company’s documents are in? Do they use Microsoft Word or HTML? Are they converting to a new format?

    • Our current system is to load the Word documents to our intranet site. The new system that we are switching to requires us to template our policies in Word and then when we check them into the content management system, it converts them to HTML.

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