Managing Change in the Digital Age
Culture of Change
The success of content operations, and ultimately your marketing team, is highly dependent on your commitment to a culture of change. Viewing the shift as a culture of change is vastly different from a tactical change or a point solution. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
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A culture of change is a cross-functional commitment to transformation in stages, which is optimized over time. On the contrary, a point solution is exactly how it sounds: a rapid fix to an isolated problem.
The goal of this chapter is to reinforce the importance of change, while also exploring how to cultivate a culture of change in your organization, and build the content operations framework within your marketing team. Do this, and your team will thrive in the seemingly chaotic digital environment.
Why Your Marketing Organization Needs Change Management
Customer-centric, high-quality content will fuel your entire funnel and drive your business forward. Unfocused, ad hoc content will only waste time and valuable resources, creating content that often goes unused.
Content, namely the right content at the right time and for the right person, allows marketers to create the type of best-in-class customer experiences, which determines market winners—and losers. That’s why content is absolutely essential for modern marketing organizations.
Given the digital transformation, where buyers are empowered and content drives messaging, teams must be able to not only develop a process (e.g., framework) that can adapt to this environment, but also develop an ability to quickly adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape.
However, most marketing organizations aren’t there yet. Many leadership teams were not designed to build marketing strategy, where customers and technology change at such a rapid pace. Modern marketing executives have no choice but to feel an immediate sense of urgency to implement change in their organization.
The Role of Content in Change Management
Content is core to a functioning modern marketing department, while also fueling other departments, like sales and product. Changing the way an individual views his or her relationship with, or role in, the creation of content requires effective change management to mitigate fear and uncertainty, provide the required training to facilitate implementation, and achieve the philosophical buy-in required for long-term operational change.
Operationalizing the content model requires a thoughtful plan for internal marketing and change management. At Kapost, we strongly align with The SiriusDecisions Marketing Change Framework, which includes the following three phases:
What is the project about? What are its goals, scope and timeframe? How will this affect the business? How will it affect individuals?
What skills gaps, and missing insights and technology weaknesses exist, and what needs to happen to bridge these gaps? Assess readiness levels and prepare an action plan (e.g. training, enablement, resourcing) to ensure skills and preparedness are facilitators—not obstacles—to project success.
Truly operationalizing the model requires long-term adoption beyond the pilot execution. Ensure ongoing support, governance, and systems are in place to enable and enforce best practices and optimization.
Source: SiriusDecisions, Operationalizing the SiriusDecisions Content Model
The Content Operations Vision Charter
Similar to the content lifecycle, successfully implementing change management in your marketing organization requires a four phase approach:
- Discover and document current process
- Planning for the future
- Implementing strategic changes
- Optimizing the content operation
To help facilitate a structured and successful process for implementing this four phase approach, the marketing organization can implement a Content Operations Vision Charter (COVC). The COVC is a best practice charter documenting the vision and scope for your content operation, along with current opportunities and potential issues. Thus, it is documentation of change process—not change management in and of itself. Leadership approves the document to ensure team-wide alignment.
A well formulated charter can accomplish several necessary steps in classic change management, while avoiding common mistakes outlined by John P. Kotter in his article “Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail.” Namely, a charter helps ensure your organization:
Forms a powerful guiding coalition across all stakeholders
Creates and socializes a shared vision
Empowers internal actors to take tactical action
Benchmarks short-term wins while sticking with a long-term plan
Step #1: Discover and Document Existing Process
The foundation for your COVC is based on understanding the state of your current operations, including established processes, success benchmarks, and internal stakeholders. Doing so allows you not only to mobilize your team, but also to validate current experiences, both good and bad.
Here are a few key tactical questions for guidance:
AUDIT YOUR CURRENT WORKFLOW PROCESS
Are deadlines being met? What process does not have established workflows?
FIGURE OUT YOUR PROCESS FOR DATA AND METRICS
Where are all of your individual reports located?
DETERMINE INTERNAL STAKEHOLDERS
What are their responsibilities?
Step #2: Planning for the Future
All internal marketing stakeholders should be identified to take part in answering the definitive questions in the COVC, outlining answers to every question with a wide scope:
What are you trying to achieve as a team/organization/business?
What reason does the team have for pursuing the vision?
Why is action so important?
What risks could be encountered in the pursuit of change?
Successful organizational change requires leadership sign off—period. This executive buy-in is especially important in the transformation nature of marketing across industry verticals. The digital transformation has changed the way we market. While this is a seemly undisputed fact, the truth is many organizations are not acting accordingly, which is why marketing organizations allow sales and other internal departments to determine how they spend their time.
Over-communication followed by sign off from leadership ensures the team is moving together in the same direction, preventing distractions or cross-team requests from throwing you off. Real change takes commitment to the process and structure. Leadership is an essential requirement to ensuring commitment.
Step #3: Implementing Strategic Change
Once teams have built out strategic plans, execution of those plans can begin, which requires clear communication across and within teams. Opening up lines of communication in the planning stage—from leadership to tactical users—sets teams up for success. However, communication must be continuous and ongoing.
These key tips can help team leaders facilitate the discussion necessary for streamlined execution.
Keep the Content Operations Vision Charter highly visible, as a constant source of reference for internal teams*
Be prepared for pushback during rollout of change, ready to provide clarity to teams
Nevertheless, listen to feedback presented by the team and be willing to adapt when necessary
Focus on both medium and channel—internal communications requires you to be thoughtful about how and where you present content
*Note: Leadership should continue to iterate why the COVC was created, what its intended purpose is, and how to use it
The final point brings an interesting perspective on change management: developing personas for internal consumers. For internal communications teams, this is business as usual. However, leadership teams often neglect to think about who will be consuming their content in the same way they address their market prospects.
If you want your change to succeed, be thoughtful about the type of content you use to support change (documents, presentations, interactive trainings, videos, etc.) as well as the channel they are delivered (email, meetings, company intranet). People learn in vastly different ways. Successful, long-term change requires leadership to be thoughtful, both functionally and socially.
One final, and perhaps most important tip for executives: live the change. Actions speak louder than words. Leadership cannot just talk the talk; they must also walk the walk. This is perhaps one of the most frustrating feelings for front-line marketers.
Implementation is not easy, requiring unity across departments along with clear, ongoing communication. Because change management is a lifecycle, this is not a one and done execution. To ensure long-term success, leadership should prepare to revisit the execution stage to scale ongoing change.
Step #4: Optimizing the Content Operation
The final step in the lifecycle is iteration. As previously stated, the COVC is your foundation for change. Teams must be dedicated to constantly improving, tweaking, and fine-tuning their content operations. The COVC is not a one-time activity—anymore than change is. It’s meant to be a living document that leadership can use to revisit important questions.
Sophisticated marketers will approach change with caution, avoiding “shiny object syndrome.” Viewing change as a long-term process that requires multiple steps can dissuade teams from running after the next best thing—whether it’s a new technique, like ABM, or a new piece of technology, like a Sales Enablement System. When making additional changes in optimizing your content operation, use the change management best practices, doing things like:
Establishing a Content Governance Board
Moving to an initiative focus, vs. random acts of content
Planning and approving at the initiative level
Using data to drive ongoing decisions
Teams, tools, and channels will never stop changing, and prospects will inevitably change with them. A mature content operation requires a nimble, change-ready team, constantly aware of how to adapt to their market to support and thrive in the digital age.