Linda Morone, Data Conversion Laboratory, Inc.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of ‘teamwork’ is “work done by several associates with each doing a part but all subordinating personal prominence to the efficiency of the whole.” In an ideal world, this definition would hold true. Unfortunately, most of us don’t live and work in an ideal world, nor does teamwork exist in its truest sense. Most organizations today are functioning on lean budgets and with even leaner staff. Efficiency is often thrown by the wayside in order to handle the everyday tasks at hand and what is masking as ‘teamwork’ is actually hindering progress. Sound familiar?

For those of you managing critical content and their related processes, this problem is often magnified primarily due to a serious breakdown in communication throughout all departments. It is easy to understand when you think of the demands that are placed on releasing documentation quickly to support everyone’s expectations:

  • Engineering needs to launch new products quickly
  • Technical support needs detailed information to manage customers’ concerns
  • Operations needs repair manuals ready … just in case
  • Marketing wants to do promotion
  • Management wants the job done
  • Senior executives want increased revenues
  • And so on

It is a vicious cycle that forces you to keep doing things the same way regardless of how inefficient the process is. These behaviors, however, create bottlenecks and bad habits that cost organizations millions of dollars each year in operating costs alone. Let’s also not forget that your customers need detailed product information to make buying decisions. The lack of proper documentation WILL cost your company market share. The flip side of course means change must occur, and old habits must be abandoned for the betterment of all concerned. Teams can no longer remain in their silos. Everyone needs to become a stakeholder, and the value of content must be realized across the board. Sounds idealistic? Possibly true to a degree…but can your organization afford not to make the leap?

Suppose your current processes migrated to meet the needs of a common vision. How would the focus change? Let’s identify what got you here in the first place, and then the remedy should become clear. Generally speaking you will most likely find that your company has

  • an overall lack of strategy
  • a limited value placed on content
  • an insufficient understanding of the user experience
  • an insufficient focus on quality
  • limited scalability
  • poor communication across departments

Organizational evolution can only occur when there are few alternatives left and remaining stagnant is not one of them. It is a matter of survival. Understand that customers today have choices and brand loyalty is less important than ever before. Product information that is readily available is taking precedence. Therefore, customers must be considered the unofficial team leaders. Build a strategy for your technical documentation process that meets their needs first and communicate this vision to all the stakeholders. The perceived value of your content will be increased dramatically.

The next step is to standardize and streamline your processes. Eliminating redundancies will not only save your company millions of dollars but will enable you to create better teamwork across departments. You will become more like spokes on the wheel rather than the flat tire that exists now. Your content will become more integrated across the corporation and allow sharing across multiple divisions. And quality will be much easier to control.

Build metrics to determine what works and what doesn’t. The most efficient practices are those that continue to evolve. Measurement removes the mystery as well as helps identify hidden costs and issues, clearing the path for improvements to be made. Ineffective processes can be stopped before they become bad habits. Hence the fear of change for those involved is lessened and in many cases is actually welcomed. Imagine that!

Lastly, communication is the key to effective and efficient teamwork. From the top down, the bottom up and everything in between, there is no better way to create unification throughout an organization. Understanding each other’s perspective and the impact of quality content (or the lack thereof) on each department will create the framework for developing common goals, collaboration, and future innovation. The rewards are huge!

Companies of all sizes, spanning all industries are realizing how broken their content management process is and how critical changing this negative trend is to the organization’s future. The old adage “Don’t fix what isn’t broken” no longer can be the mantra. Every new technology and demand for flexible content creates breaks. Content is a company’s #1 asset and affects every aspect of the business. It is about time that a newly defined emphasis be placed on ‘teamwork’ as the catalyst that promotes its true value.