Content Management 2.0

This blog is excerpted from the Performance Matters Podcast. In this episode hosts Bob Mosher and Conrad Gottfredson discuss what went wrong with Content Management the first go around and how we can harness the needs of today to build correct, and usable, content management processes and systems—that work. 

Bob Mosher (BM): I am incredibly thrilled and excited to be joined by my dear friend and co-host, Dr. Con Gottfredson on a very timely topic.

This is something that goes back in our industry for what seems like forever. We’ve talked about content management as long as I’ve been involved in the business. But particularly, with Covid, the reality is not just the collecting of the content, but also the dissemination, the maintenance, who creates it, who owns it, and what’s your governance around it. All of these things have come to light in a really remarkable way as we try to support learners in a Moment of Need, like never before.

So Con, let’s pull back here a bit and level-set. This—in my opinion—is a word like “performance support”, and others, where the definition is all over the place. So, could you tell us—what is the discipline, in your opinion, that is learning content management?

Conrad Gottfredson (CG): Bob, you’ve said it right. It is a discipline first and foremost. And learning content management is that discipline, or that set of practices, that we follow to manage our content along its entire lifecycle to keep it current, certainly. But more than that, to keep it vibrant and meaningful. We also must manage it in such a way that it doesn’t control us, which is where we’ve  gotten these days as we’ve stepped into the workflow and pushed the horizons in terms of what it is that we need to do to meet the performance requirements of organizations at all The 5 Moments of Need. It has brought us squarely back to days gone by!

We made our first pass at “Learning Content Management 1.0” with reusable learning objects, where we made all the wrong decisions, all the wrong choices, and stepped back from it.

So, content management is everything that we do to manage content through its lifecycle. And a learning content management system (LCMS) is the technology that helps us do that. All of that is different than a learning management system (LMS), which is a system that manages the learning deliverables that we build with that content.

Knowledge management is just a bigger world. Content management is a subset of knowledge management. Learning content management is a subset of content management. We’re just narrowing down in terms of our focus.

BM: Brilliant. And we’ve talked before, Con, the danger of anything like this is methodology or this discipline, in this case, begets technology.

CG: Yeah!

BM: Just because you own or have purchased one of those acronyms doesn’t mean that you’re going to have the discipline that is content management. And one of my favorite expressions is, “If you don’t study history, you’re bound to repeat it.”

So, let’s take a step back Con. You mentioned a moment ago that things went awry a bit in the first go-around. Let’s  balance ourselves as we look forward by understanding where we may have made some mistakes in the first go-around. What do you think are some fundamental lessons learned out of those initial efforts?

CG: Well, one of them is that we didn’t step back and ask the right question up front, “Why are we doing this?” The goal back in Content Management 1.0 was reuse. But we were looking for reuse in all the wrong places. Now, we’re in a better place because we’re talking about supporting people in terms of performance.

And as we take this broader view of our role in insuring that people can perform effectively on the job— providing them with solutions that not only help in the initial learning of things but in that transition to where they need to transfer that information to the Moment of Apply, the Moments of Solve, and into the workflow. That broadens the world to where we can find reuse everywhere.

But it’s not just about reuse. It’s about keeping content current, making sure that the solutions that we have remain vibrant and meaningful. There’s just so much more to the management of content than just finding ways to reuse.

We’re working right now with a global organization on their content management strategy. And they have a lot of pain points in their world of developing content. And certainly, we want to address that, but the real justification for content management isn’t solving the problems within the learning group—it’s solving challenges for the organization.

It’s making sure that the organization has the content that they need, in the form that they need it to be in, to enable their workforce to use it in all the ways that they need it to. It’s when we step back and look at that role, then we can cost-justify that investment.

BM: You touched on this a little bit, but how does designing for The 5 Moments impact the need for content management? How does it broaden it, to your point?

CG: Historically, our view has been just on the Moments of Learn New and Learn More.

But it’s the Moment of Apply when people can perform effectively on the job, if that doesn’t happen, what good have you done? Why even manage anything if you get to the end  and people can’t perform effectively on the job?

BM: You know, it’s interesting too, Con, because I think back to the early days and meta-tagging, which is still an element of this, clearly, was more about role and the knowledge that the content represented and so on. The 5 Moments adds, I think, some important layers around the tagging of that content. For instance, the 5 Moments themselves. Content types and objects can be used for Solve, like an FAQ, very different than an eLearning that is used for a Moment of New.

CG: Oh, yeah!

BM: It’s really interesting to see how we can start adding a new dimension of learner need, learner context, to the way content is managed and tagged versus just my role in the company, my job in the company, the region I live in— these more standard metatags and so on. And of course, the content is about sales, or whatever. Those are all still fundamental, but I think The 5 Moments of Need adds a whole new dimension to that, as to how you look at content.

CG: It sure does. And the focus historically has been those values that you’re talking about—those metadata values that have to do with “Help me find it!”

And if that’s the only thing you’re going at, you’re going to miss it. Because there’s a whole measurement side around how effectively the content supports doing of the work. When you step into The 5 Moments, you step into measurable business impact and that requires unique kinds of metadata beyond that metadata that we use to simply find something.

BM: You know,  I love that, Con. Frankly, an “Aha!” I just had is that it’s one thing to find it. It’s a whole other thing to use it.

For Bob and Con’s full content management discussion, listen to the full episode.

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