BOSTON -- Most companies take for granted employee handbooks, monthly marketing reports and other corporate-related digital content, but few realize the sheer volume of content being produced, how much it costs or how effective that content is, according to a speaker at this week's AIIM Conference.
Content analytics, applying business intelligence practices to digital content, can help companies better manage their content lifecycle chains by creating relevant cost and consumption metrics, according to Guy Creese, a Burton Group vice president and research director. With metrics in place, companies can identify which digital content is most cost-effective and adjust their investment accordingly.
"You're probably running a mini-publishing business [as a result of all the digital content being created]," Creese said. "And you ought to be running it like a business."
For example, content analytics could measure the effectiveness of an expensive Flash-based product demo on a corporate website. The resulting metrics might confirm that the costly demo is generating lots of hits but not many sales, prompting the marketing manager to take a new tack, Creese said. Within a company, content analytics could identify an internal RSS feed whose auditing best practices-related content is popular among a team of finance workers. Human resources could then make that feed easily available to new employees within that department.
Most companies simply have no idea of the amount of content they're producing because that knowledge is often siloed within departments, Creese said. A department head probably knows who on the team best creates certain types of content and delegates tasks accordingly, but that knowledge rarely gets shared with the rest of the company. As a result, measuring the cost of content creation throughout the enterprise is difficult.
When it comes to consumption, though most companies gather basic information on who is accessing their digital content, it is often limited in scope. It is one thing to know that a customer enjoys reading articles about sports, Creese said, but quite another to know that he specifically likes to read about Tiger Woods. A company with only limited knowledge of its content consumers probably wastes time creating and updating irrelevant content, like writing articles about college basketball for that reader who is really interested in Woods, or, within a financial services organization, for example, publishing consumer insurance statistics for an agent who covers the retail sector.
Even companies that do collect such detailed information often fail to put it in the hands of the relevant content creators, who could then make adjustments to better suit content consumers, Creese said.
To overcome these and other obstacles, he offered the following suggestions to companies embarking on a content analytics project:
- Find an appropriate home for content analytics depending on your type of business. An e-commerce company would probably want to put a marketing manager in charge of content analytics, for example.
- To get a handle on creation costs, put together a profile for each piece of content -- file type, file name, author, department, creation time -- and then add up labor and other relevant costs.
- Target high-volume, high-value systems like content destined for corporate websites, employee intranets, and SaaS-based collaboration systems like Google Apps.
- Create profiles of content consumers, including name, account number and consumption history for a customer, for example, and name, department and employee function for an internal worker.
- Use tools like RSS analytics and click-through trackers to identify who is accessing your content, how they're accessing it, and how often.
- Break down the results by consumer segment, as the relevance of a piece of content depends on the role of the consumer, be it a customer, partner, supplier or employee.
- Most importantly, make sure the resulting metrics get into the hands of the right people so action can be taken, and in the right form. Marketing managers probably want weekly email reports, while C-level executives probably prefer (or demand) summary dashboards.
Creese also urged companies initiating a content analytics program to educate their employees. Let workers know they're being monitored not for any nefarious, Big Brother-type reasons, but to improve efficiency and eliminate wasted effort. Also, when collecting data on content consumers, especially customers, be sure to follow applicable privacy laws.
One obstacle that can't be immediately overcome, however, is the lack of content analytics tools currently on the market. All the technology pieces for content analytics are there, Creese said, but vendors have yet to pull them together, and he doesn't expect them to do so for at least two years. Companies that undertake content analytics today will instead have to make do with customized processes built on top of existing business intelligence systems.
Conference attendee Mark Livingstone, a senior IT manager at San Diego-based Qualcomm, said his company is just starting to experiment with content analytics, understanding who is accessing its content management system and what content they're downloading. Livingstone said he definitely sees the value in content analytics, "but we're still at least a few years away from getting there."