Content Operations Maturity Model
Many organizations are daunted by the thought of building an in-depth, well-planned content operation system while keeping up with the never-ending project requests and immediate deadlines they already face.
In enterprise-level organizations, the sheer number of business units, departments, and existing processes makes maturing to an advanced content-marketing model seem out of reach. But there is little doubt it yields immense benefits:
Content strategy, content operations and content marketing disciplines are still immature functions in many b-to-b organizations, and the lack of a strategic and formalized approach to content … must be prioritized in strategy and planning efforts.
Organizations that prioritize content transformation in their digital transformation roadmaps and investments will gain a long-term competitive advantage.
-SiriusDecisions, Content Strategy and Operations Planning Assumptions 2017
Prioritizing your content-marketing transformation starts with knowing your organization’s current capabilities, and then setting goals for how to improve them across all teams, tools, and channels. The problem is most organizations don’t even know where they fall on the spectrum!
This is where Content Operations Maturity comes in.
The Content Operations Maturity Model
Content operations maturity is most easily illustrated as an organization’s current capability within each phase of the content lifecycle (alignment, execution, distribution, analysis) multiplied by scope (how much of the organization has that capability).
Capability x Scope = Maturity
To better visualize maturity, each phase of the content lifecycle is its own XY graph, with capability being the X-axis and scope being the Y. An organization could, for example, improve its alignment phase for the corporate communications, social media, events, and demand generation teams, but still have a long way to go (expanding to other functions, geographies, product lines, etc.). With each scope expansion, the total maturity level within that capability drops and then increases again as processes progress. As capability levels increase across a larger scope within the organization, total maturity increases.
The capability levels and scope within the organization provide an overall benchmark that can be used to set clear expectations and priorities for improvement.
Capability is a measurement of how strong your organization is in each of the four phases of the content lifecycle. Each organization will have different strengths. For example, an organization may have a strong content distribution model but still be lacking in the review processes needed to analyze whether their content is actually effective.
Many companies, whether or not they are new to content marketing, struggle to move beyond the early stages of each capability. They could be having trouble breaking down departmental silos or creating enough quality content. Perhaps they have plenty of content but very little visibility into who is creating what and how it all works together. Regardless of the underlying reason, organizational stagnation can derail even the best content marketing plans.
“At the far end of the spectrum, only 4% of those surveyed are true masters of content marketing. They have a formal editorial oversight and documented processes in place, incorporate customer issues and feedback into their content plans, invest in technology to help cross-functional teams leverage key themes, and can demonstrate the impact that the content creation activity has on their business.”
—Laura Ramos, Benchmark Your B2B Content Marketing Strategy and Maturity, Forrester
Capability: The Path of Progression
Improving your organization’s capabilities is best achieved in a linear sequence that focuses on building a strong foundation for each phase of the content lifecycle. As each phase is built up and improved, it carries over into the next phase. Transforming the chart above onto the content lifecycle, an organization can easily plot where they fall in the range of capabilities.
For example, improvements in the alignment phase will make the practice of execution flow more naturally, as seen in the image below. This is because, with the clear prioritization and visibility that comes from alignment, teams will have more insight into the expected outcomes and how they contribute to the organization’s overall goals and strategies.
Likewise, as the alignment phase continues to improve, advances in the execution, distribution, and analysis phases will follow. This is because having established roles and responsibilities (alignment) as well as workflows and accountability (execution) will help teams know exactly who is responsible for the tagging, publishing, and distributing of the content they create (distribution). As one phase becomes more mature, it positively affects the next phase.
As the final stage of the content lifecycle, analysis is best achieved after alignment, execution, and distribution are mature enough to enable consistent performance measurements.
The key to making Content Operations Maturity work for your organization is ensuring the leadership team first defines the strategies for the alignment phase. Once these initial goals are set, execution quickly follows. From there, teams can then work together to distribute content efficiently. After that (you guessed it!), teams can begin to analyze progress.
While maturity progression often begins with the Align phase, improvements can be made across the entire content lifecycle. For example, establishing a Content Governance Board will certainly increase capability levels across several lifecycle stages (see below). Likewise, an action like building a content scoring process will increase both Analysis and Align, since you can better analyze content through data and reporting, while making more informed decisions on strategies and themes for the next Align phase.
A Content Governance Board clearly communicates priorities to teams in alignment with overall organizational goals
A Content Governance Board defines the roles and responsibilities for each team as well as approve, monitor, and review the initiatives on a regular basis.
A Content Governance Board reviews content performance and sets new priorities to optimize and repurpose content to align with upcoming organization strategic goals.
As mentioned before, maturity is not solely made by increasing capabilities, but also by expanding scope: how much the marketing organization can realistically mature within a defined period across teams (or functions, business units, or geographies), tools, and channels.
Improving a small subset of your content marketing operation will allow for quick wins and will generate momentum. From there, marketing teams can share their established, successful practices with other departments, rather than trying to “boil the ocean” with a full organizational shift. Trying to implement change often fails when the scope is too large or across business units where the executive stakeholder doesn’t have direct authority.
Developing a plan for advancing your organization’s content operation maturity involves clearly defining the scope of the plan. Get started by asking these key questions:
What is the organization’s vision for marketing operations success?
What scope provides the most opportunity for a successful transformation?
What teams, tools, and channels are in scope?
What are the milestones and metrics for measuring success across the capabilities?
What is the timeline for expanding the scope?
Next, it’s vital to acknowledge and understand where your organization stands on the content maturity scale. Only then can you make the right decisions to implement the changes your organization needs to be successful.