Digital transformation for content workflows

Content workflows remain a manually intensive process. Content staff face the burden of deciding what to do and who should do it. How can workflow tools evolve to reduce burdens and improve outcomes? 

Content operations are arguably one of the most backward areas of enterprise business operations. They have been largely untouched by enterprise digital transformation. They haven’t “change[d] the conditions under which business is done, in ways that change the expectations of customers, partners, and employees” – even though business operations increasingly rely on online content to function. Compared with other enterprise functions, such as HR or supply chain management, content operations rely little on process automation or big data. Content operations depend on content workflow tools that haven’t modernized significantly.  Content workflow has become a barrier to digital transformation.

The missing flow 

Water flows seamlessly around any obstacle, downward toward a destination below.  Content, in contrast, doesn’t flow on its own. Content items get stuck or bounce around in no apparent direction. Content development can resemble a game of tag, where individuals run in various directions without a clear sense of the final destination.  Workflow exists to provide direction to content development.

Developing content is becoming more complex, but content workflow capabilities remain rudimentary. Workflow functionality has limited awareness of what’s happened previously or what should (or could) happen later. They require users to perform actions and decisions manually. They don’t add value.

Workflow functionality has largely stayed the same over the years, whether in a CMS or a separate content workflow tool. Vendors are far removed from the daily issues the content creators face managing content that’s in development. All offer similar generic workflow functionality. They don’t understand the problem space.  

Vendors consider workflow problems to be people problems, not software problems. Because people are prone to be “messy” (as one vendor puts it), the problem the software aims to solve is to track people more closely. 

To the extent workflow functionality has changed in the past decade, it has mainly focused on “collaboration.” The vendor’s solution is to make the workflow resemble the time-sucking chats of social media, which persistently demand one’s attention. By promoting open discussion of any task, tools encourage the relitigation of routine decisions rather than facilitating their seamless implementation. Tagging people for input is often a sign that the workflow isn’t clear. Waiting on responses from tagged individuals delays tasks. 

End users find workflow tools kludgy. Workflows trigger loads of notifications, which result in notification fatigue and notification blindness. Individuals can be overwhelmed by the lists and messages that workflow tools generate. 

Authors seek ways to compensate for tool limitations. Teams often supplement CMS workflow tools with project management tools or spreadsheets. Many end users skirt the built-in CMS workflow by avoiding optional features. 

Workflow optimization—making content workflows faster and easier—is immature in most organizations. Ironically, writers are often more likely to write about improving other people’s workflows (such as those of their customers or their firm’s products and services) than to dedicate time to improving their own content workflows.  

Content workflows must step up to address growing demands.  The workflow of yesterday needs reimagining.

Deane Barker wrote in his 2016 book on content management: “Workflow is the single most overpurchased aspect of any CMS…I fully believe that 95% of content approvals are simple, serial workflows, and 95% of those have a single step.”

Today, workflow is not limited to churning out simple static web pages. Content operations must coordinate supply chains of assets and copy, provide services on demand, create variants to test and optimize, plan delivery across multiple channels, and produce complex, rich media. 

Content also requires greater coordination across organizational divisions. Workflows could stay simple when limited to a small team. But as enterprises work to reduce silos and improve internal integration, workflows have needed to become more sophisticated. Workflows must sometimes connect people in different business functions, business units, or geographic regions. 

Current content workflows are hindered by:

Limited capabilities, missing features, and closed architectures that preclude extensions

Unutilized functionality that suffers from poor usability or misalignment with work practices

Broken workflows breed cynicism. Because workflow tools are cumbersome and avoided by content staff, some observers conclude workflow doesn’t matter. The opposite is true: workflows are more consequential than ever and must work better. 

While content workflow tools have stagnated, other kinds of software have introduced innovations to workflow management. They address the new normal: teams that are not co-located but need to coordinate distinct responsibilities. Modern workflow tools include IT service management workflows and sophisticated media production toolchains that coordinate the preproduction, production, and postproduction of rich media.

What is the purpose of a content workflow?

Workflow isn’t email. Existing workflow tools don’t solve the right problems. They are tactical solutions focused on managing indicators rather than substance. They reflect a belief that if everyone achieves a “zero inbox” with no outstanding tasks, then the workflow is successful.  But a workflow queue shouldn’t resemble an email box stuffed with junk mail, unsolicited requests, and extraneous notices, with a few high-priority action items buried within the pile. Workflows should play a role in deciding what’s important for people to work on.

Don’t believe the myth that having a workflow is all that’s needed. Workflow problems stem from the failure to understand why a workflow is necessary. Vendors position the issue as a choice of whether or not to have a workflow instead of what kind of workflow enterprises should have.  

Most workflow tools focus on tracking content items by offering a fancy checklist. The UI covers up an unsightly sausage-making process without improving it. 

Many tools prioritize date tracking. They equate content success with being on time. While content should be timely, its success depends on far more than the publication date and time. 

A workflow in itself doesn’t ensure content quality. A poorly implemented workflow can even detract from quality, for example, by specifying the wrong parties or steps. A robust workflow, in contrast, will promote consistency in applying best practices.  It will help all involved with doing things correctly and making sound decisions.  

As we shall see, workflow can support the development of high-quality content if it:

Validates the content for correctness

Supports sound governance

A workflow won’t necessarily make content development more productive. Workflows can be needlessly complex, time-consuming, or confusing. They are often not empowering and don’t allow individuals to make the best choices because they constrain people in counterproductive ways.  

Contrary to common belief, the primary goal of workflow should not be to track the status of content items. If all a workflow does is shout in red that many tasks are overdue, it doesn’t help. They behave like airport arrival and departure boards that tell you flights are delayed without revealing why.  

Status-centric workflow tools simply present an endless queue of tasks with no opportunity to make the workload more manageable. 

Workflows should improve content quality and productivity.  Workflow tools contribute value to the extent they make the content more valuable. Quality and productivity drive content’s value. 

Yet few CMS workflow tools can seriously claim they significantly impact either the quality or productivity of the content development process. Administratively focused tools don’t add value.

Workflow tools should support people and goals –  the dimensions that ultimately shape the quality of outcomes. Yet workflow tools typically delegate all responsibility to people to ensure the workflow succeeds. Administratively focused workflows don’t offer genuine support. 

A workflow will enhance productivity – making content more valuable relative to the effort applied – only if it: 

Makes planning more precise

Accelerates the completion of tasks

Focuses on goals, not just activities

Generic workflows presume generic tasks

Workflow tools fail to be “fit for purpose” when they don’t distinguish activities according to their purpose. They treat all activities as similar and equally important. Everything is a generic task: the company lawyer’s compliance review is no different than an intern’s review of broken links.  

Workflows track and forward tasks in a pass-the-batton relay. Each task involves a chain of dependencies. Tasks are assigned to one or more persons. Each task has a status, which determines the follow-on task.

CMS workflow tools focus on configuring a few variables:

Stage in the process

Task(s) associated with a stage

Steps involved with a task

Assigned employees required to do a step or task

Status after completing a task

The subsequent task or stage

From a coding perspective, workflow tools implement a series of simple procedural loops. The workflow engine resembles a hampster wheel. 

Like a hamster wheel, content workflow “engines” require manual pushing. Image: Wikimedia

A simple procedural loop would be adequate if all workflow tasks were similar. However, generic tasks don’t reflect the diversity of content work.

Content workflow tasks vary in multiple dimensions, involving differing priorities and hierarchies. Simple workflow tools flatten out these differences by designing for generic tasks rather than concrete ones. 

Variability within content workflows

Workflows vary because they involve different kinds of tasks.  Content tasks can be:

Cognitive (applying judgment)

Procedural (applying rules)

Clerical (manipulating resources) 

Tasks differ in the thought required to complete them.  Workflow tools commonly treat tasks as forms for users to complete.  They highlight discrete fields or content sections that require attention. They don’t distinguish between:

Reflexive tasks (click, tap, or type)

Reflective tasks (pause and think)

The user’s goal for reflexive tasks is to “Just do it” or “Don’t make me think.” They want these tasks streamlined as much as possible.  

In contrast, their goal for reflective tasks is to provide the most value when performing the task. They want more options to make the best decision. 

Workflows vary in their predictability. Some factors (people, budget, resources, priorities) are known ahead of time, while others will be unknown. Workflows should plan for the knowns and anticipate the unknowns.

Generic workflows are a poor way to compensate for uncertainty or a lack of clarity about how content should proceed. Workflows should be specific the content and associated business and technical requirements.  

Many specific workflows are repeatable. Workflows can be classified into three categories according to their frequency of use:

Routine workflows 

Ad hoc, reusable workflows

Ad hoc, one-off workflows 

Routine workflows recur frequently. Once set, they don’t need adjustment. Because tasks are repeated often, routine workflows offer many opportunities to optimize, meaning they can be streamlined, automated, or integrated with related tasks. 

Ad hoc workflows are not predefined. Teams need to decide how to shape the workflow based on the specific requirements of a content type, subject matter, and ownership. 

Ad hoc workflows can be reusable. In some cases, teams might modify an existing workflow to address additional needs, either adding or eliminating tasks or changing who is responsible. Once defined, the new workflow is ready for immediate use. But while not routinely used, it may be useful again in the future, especially if it addresses occasional or rare but important requirements.  

Even when a content item is an outlier and doesn’t fit any existing workflow, it still requires oversight.  Workflow tools should make it easy to create one-off workflows. Ideally, generative AI could help employees state in general terms what tasks need to be done and who should be involved, and a bot could define the workflow tasks and assignments.

Workflows vary in the timing and discretion of decisions.  Some are preset, and some are decided at the spur of the moment.  

Consider deadlines, which can apply to intermediate tasks in addition to the final act of publishing.  Workflow software could suggest the timing of tasks – when a task should be completed – according to the operational requirements. It might assign task due dates:

Ahead of time, based on when actions must be completed to meet a mandatory publication deadline. 

Dynamically, based on the availability of people or resources.

Similarly, decisions associated with tasks have different requirements. Content task decisions could be 

Rules-driven, where rules predetermine the decision   

Discretionary and dependent on the decisionmaker’s judgment.

Workflows for individual items don’t happen in isolation. Most workflows assume a discrete content item. But workflows can also apply to groups of related items.  

Two common situations exist where multiple content items will have similar workflows:

Campaigns of related items, where items are processed together

A series of related items, where items are processed serially

In many cases, the workflow for related items should follow the same process and involve the same people.  Tools should enable employees to reuse the same workflow for related items so that the same team is involved.

Does the workflow validate the content for correctness?

Content quality starts with preventing errors. Workflows can and should prevent errors from happening.  

Workflows should check for multiple dimensions of content correctness, such as whether the content is:

Accurate – the workflow draws on checks that dates, numbers, prices, addresses, and other details are valid.

Complete – the workflow checks that all required fields, assets, or statements are included.

Specific – the workflow accesses the most relevant specific details to include.

Up-to-date – the workflow validates that the data is the most recent available.

Conforming – the workflow checks that terminology and phrasing conform to approved usage.

Compliant – the workflow checks that disclaimers, warranties, commitments, and other statements meet legal and regulatory obligations.

Because performing these checks is not trivial, they are often not explicitly included in the workflow.  It’s more expeditious to place the responsibility for these dimensions entirely on an individual.  

Leverage machines to unburden users. Workflows should prevent obvious errors without requiring people to check themselves if an error is present. They should scrutinize text entry tasks to prevent input errors by including default or conditional values and auto-checking the formatting of inputs. In more ambiguous situations, they can flag potential errors that require an individual to look at. But they should never act too aggressively, where they generate errors through over-correction.

Error preemption is becoming easier as API integrations and AI tools become more prevalent. Many checks can be partially or fully automated by:

Applying logic rules and parameter-testing decision trees

Pulling information from other systems

Using AI pattern-matching capabilities 

Workflows must be self-aware. Workflows require hindsight and foresight. Error checking should be both reactive and proactive.  They must be capable of recognizing and remediating problems.

One of the biggest drivers of workflow problems is delays. Many delays are caused by people or contributions being unavailable because:

Contributors are overbooked or are away

Inputs are missing because they were never requested

Workflows should be able to anticipate problems stemming from resource non-availability.  Workflow tools can connect to enterprise calendars to know when essential people are unavailable to meet a deadline.  In such situations, it could invoke a fallback. The task could be reassigned, or the content’s publication could be a provisional release, pending final input from the unavailable stakeholder.

Workflows should be able to perform quality checks that transcend the responsibilities of a single individual to ensure these issues are not so dependent on one person. Before publication, it can monitor and check what’s missing, late, or incompatible. 

Automation promises to compress workflows but also carries risks. Workflows should check automation tasks in a staging environment to ensure they will perform as expected. Before making automation functionality generally available, the workflow staging will monitor discrete automation tasks and run batch tests on the automation of multiple items. Teams don’t want to discover that the automation they depend on doesn’t work when they have a deadline to meet. 

Does the workflow support sound governance?

Governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) are growing concerns for online publishers, particularly as regulators introduce more privacy, transparency, and online safety requirements. 

Governance provides reusable guidelines for performing tasks. It promotes consistency in quality and execution. It enables workflows to run faster and more smoothly by avoiding repeated questions about how to do things.  It ensures compliance with regulatory requirements and reduces reputation, legal, and commercial risks arising from a failure to vet content adequately.  

Workflow tools should promote three objectives:

Accountability (who is supposed to do what)

Transparency (what is happening compared to what’s supposed to happen)

Explainability (why tasks should be done in a certain way)

These qualities are absent from most content workflow functionality.

Defining responsibilities is not enough. At the most elemental level, a generic workflow specifies roles, responsibilities, and permissions. It controls access to content and actions, determining who is involved with a task and what they are permitted to do.  This kind of governance can prevent the wrong actors from messing up work, but they don’t help people responsible for the work from making unintended mistakes.

Assigned team members need support. The workflow should make it easier for them to make the correct decisions.  

Workflows should operationalize governance policies. However, if guidance is too intrusive, autocorrecting too aggressively, or making wrong assumptions, team members will try to short-circuit intrusive it.  

Discretionary decisions need guardrails, not enforcement. When a decision is discretionary, the goal should be to guide employees to make the most appropriate decision, not enforce a simple rule.  

Unfortunately, most governance guidance exists in documentation that is separated from workflow tools. Workflows fail to reveal pertinent guidance when it is needed. 

Incorporate governance into workflows at the point of decision. Bring guidance to the task so employees don’t need to seesaw between governance documents and workflow applications.  

Workflows can incorporate governance guidance in multiple ways by providing:

Guided decisions incorporating decision trees

Screen overlays highlighting areas to assess or check

Hints in the use interface

Coaching prompts from chatbots

When governance guidance isn’t specific enough for employees to make a clear decision, the workflow should provide a pathway to resolve the issue for the future. Workflows can include Issue management that triggers tasks to review and develop additional guidelines.

Does the workflow make planning more precise?

Bad plans are a common source of workflow problems.  Workflow planning tools can make tasks difficult to execute.

Planning acts like a steering wheel for a workflow, indicating the direction to go. 

Planning functionality is loosely integrated with workflow functionality, if at all. Some workflow tools don’t include planning, while those that do commonly detach the workflow from the planning.  

Planning and doing are symbiotic activities.  Planning functionality is commonly a calendar to set end dates, which the workflow should align with. 

But calendars don’t care about the resources necessary to develop the content. They expect that by choosing dates, the needed resources will be available.

Calendars are prevalent because content planning doesn’t follow a standardized process. How you plan will depend on what you know. Teams know some issues in advance, but other issues are unknown.  

Individuals will have differing expectations about what content planning comprises.  Content planning has two essential dimensions:

Task planning that emphasizes what tasks are required

Date planning that emphasizes deadlines

While tasks and dates are interrelated, workflow tools rarely give them equal billing.  Planning tools favor one perspective over the other.  

Task plans focus on lists of activities that need doing. The plan may have no dates associated with discrete tasks or have fungible dates that change.  One can track tasks, but there’s limited ability to manage the plan. Many workflows provide no scheduling or visibility into when tasks will happen.  At most, they show a Kanban board showing progress tracking.  They focus on if a task is done rather than when it should be done.

Design systems won’t solve workflow problems. Source: Utah design system

Date plans emphasize calendars. Individuals must schedule when various tasks are due. In many cases, those assigned to perform a task are notified in real time when they should do something. The due date drives a RAG (red-amber-green) traffic light indicator, where tasks are color-coded as on-track, delayed, or overdue based on dates entered in the calendar.

Manually selecting tasks and dates doesn’t provide insights into how the process will happen in practice.  Manual planning lacks a preplanning capability, where the software can help to decide in advance what tasks will be completed at specific times based on a forecast of when these can be done. 

Workflow planning capabilities typically focus on setting deadlines. Individuals are responsible for setting the publication deadline and may optionally set intermediate deadlines for tasks leading to the final deadline. This approach is both labor-intensive and prone to inaccuracies. The deadlines reflect wishes rather than realistic estimates of how long the process will take to complete. 

Teams need to be able to estimate the resources required for each task. Preplanning requires the workflow to: 

Know all activities and resources that will be required  

Schedule them when they are expected to happen.  

The software should set task dates based on end dates or SLAs. Content planning should resemble a project planning tool, estimating effort based on task times and sequencing—it will provide a baseline against which to judge performance.

For preplanning to be realistic, dates must be changeable. This requires the workflow to adjust dates dynamically based on changing circumstances. Replanning workflows will assess deadlines and reallocate priorities or assignments.

Does the workflow accelerate the completion of tasks?

Workflows are supposed to ensure work gets done on schedule. But apart from notifying individuals about pending dates, how much does the workflow tool help people complete work more quickly?  In practice, very little because the workflow is primarily a reminder system.  It may prevent delays caused by people forgetting to do a task without helping people complete tasks faster. 

Help employees start tasks faster with task recommendations. As content grows in volume, locating what needs attention becomes more difficult. Notifications can indicate what items need action but don’t necessarily highlight what specific sections need attention. For self-initiated tasks, such as evaluating groups of items or identifying problem spots, the onus is on the employee to search and locate the right items. Workflows should incorporate recommendations on tasks to prioritize.

Recommendations are a common feature in consumer content delivery. But they aren’t common in enterprise content workflows. Task recommendations can help employees address the expanding atomization of content and proliferation of content variants more effectively by highlighting which items are most likely relevant to an employee based on their responsibilities, recent activities, or organizational planning priorities.

Facilitate workflow streamlining. When workflows push manual activities from one person to another, they don’t reduce the total effort required by a team. A more data-driven workflow that utilizes semantic task tagging, by contrast, can reduce the number of steps necessary to perform tasks by:

Reducing the actions and actors needed 

Allowing multiple tasks to be done at the same time 

Compress the amount of time necessary to complete work. Most current content workflows are serial, where people must wait on others before being told to complete their assigned tasks. 

Workflows should shorten the path to completion by expanding the integration of: 

Tasks related to an item and groups of related items

IT systems and platforms that interface with the content management system

Compression is achieved through a multi-pronged approach:

Simplifying required steps by scrutinizing low-value, manually intensive steps

Eliminating repetition of activities through modularization and batch operations  

Involving fewer people by democratizing expertise and promoting self-service

Bringing together relevant background information needed to make a decision.

Synchronize tasks using semantically tagged workflows. Tasks, like other content types, need tags that indicate their purpose and how they fit within a larger model. Tags give workflows understanding, revealing what tasks are dependent on each other.  

Semantic tags provide information that can allow multiple tasks to be done at the same time. Tags can inform workflows:

Bulk tasks that can be done as batch operations

Tasks without cross-dependencies that can be done concurrently

Inter-related items be worked on concurrently

Automate assignments based on awareness of workloads. It’s a burden on staff to figure out to whom to assign a task. Often, task assignments are directed to the wrong individual, wasting time to reassign the task. Otherwise, the task is assigned to a generic queue, where the person who will do it may not immediately see it.  The disconnection between the assignment and the allocation of time to complete the task leads to delays.

The software should make assignments based on:

Job roles (responsibilities and experience) 

Employee availability (looking at assignments, vacation schedules, etc.) 

Tasks such as sourcing assets or translation should be assigned based on workload capacity. Content workflows need to integrate with other enterprise systems, such as employee calendars and reporting systems, to be aware of how busy people are and how is available.

Workload allocation can integrate rule-based prioritization that’s used in customer service queues. It’s common for tasks to back up due to temporary capacity constraints. Rule-based prioritization avoids finger-pointing. If the staff has too many requests to fulfill, there is an order of priority for requests in the backlog.  Items in backlog move up in priority according to their score, which reflects their predefined criticality and the amount of time they’ve been in the backlog. 

Automate routine actions and augment more complex ones. Most content workflow tools implement a description of processes rather than execute a workflow model, limiting the potential for automation. The system doesn’t know what actions to take without an underlying model.

A workflow model will specify automatic steps within content workflows, where the system takes action on tasks without human prompting. For example, the software can automate many approvals by checking that the submission matches the defined criteria. 

Linking task decisions to rules is a necessary capability. The tool can support event-driven workflows by including the parameters that drive the decision.

Help staff make the right decisions. Not all decisions can be boiled down to concrete rules. In such cases, the workflow should augment the decision-making process. It should accelerate judgment calls by making it easier for questions to be answered quickly.  Open questions can be tagged according to the issue so they can be cross-referenced with knowledge bases and routed to the appropriate subject matter expert.

Content workflow automation depends on deep integration with tools outside the CMS.  The content workflow must be aware of data and status information from other systems. Unfortunately, such deep integration, while increasingly feasible with APIs and microservices, remains rare. Most workflow tools opt for clunky plugins or rely on webhooks.  Not only is the integration superficial, but it is often counterproductive, where trigger-happy webhooks push tasks elsewhere without enabling true automation.

Does the workflow focus on goals, not just activities?

Workflow tools should improve the maturity of content operations. They should produce better work, not just get work done faster. 

Tracking is an administrative task. Workflow tracking capabilities focus on task completion rather than operational performance. With their administrative focus, workflows act like shadow mid-level managers who shuffle paper. Workflows concentrate on low-level task management, such as assignments and dates.

Workflows can automate low-level task activities; they shouldn’t force people to track them.   

Plug workflows’ memory hole. Workflows generally lack memory of past actions and don’t learn for the future. At most, they act like habit trackers (did I remember to take my vitamin pill today?) rather than performance trackers (how did my workout performance today compare with the rest of the week?)

Workflow should learn over time. It should prioritize tracking trends, not low-level tasks.

Highlight performance to improve maturity. While many teams measure the outcomes that content delivers, few have analytic tools that allow them to measure the performance of their work. 

Workflow analytics can answer: 

Is the organization getting more efficient at producing content at each stage? 

Is end-to-end execution improving?  

Workflow analytics can monitor and record past performance and compare it to current performance. They can reveal if content production is moving toward:

Fewer revisions

Less time needed by stakeholders

Fewer steps and redundant checks

Benchmark task performance. Workflows can measure and monitor tasks and flows, observing the relationships between processes and performance. Looking at historical data, workflow tools can benchmark the average task performance.

The most basic factor workflows should measure is the resources required. Each task requires people and time, which are critical KPIs relating to content production, 

Analytics can:

Measure the total time to complete tasks

Reveal which people are involved in tasks and the time they take.

Historic data can be used to forecast the time and people needed, which is useful for workflow planning. This data will also help determine if operations are improving.  

Spot invisible issues and provide actionable remediation.  It can be difficult for staff to notice systemic problems in complex content systems with multiple workflows. But a workflow system can utilize item data to spot recurring issues that need fixing.  

Bottlenecks are a prevalent problem. Workflows that are defined without the benefit of analytics are prone to develop bottlenecks that recur under certain circumstances. Solving these problems requires the ability to view the behavior of many similar items. 

Analytics can parse historical data to reveal if bottlenecks tend to involve certain stages or people. 

Historical workflow data can provide insights into the causes of bottlenecks, such as tasks that frequently involve:

Waiting on others

Abnormal levels of rework

Approval escalations

The data can also suggest ways to unblock dependencies through smart allocation of resources.  Changes could include:

Proactive notifications of forecast bottlenecks


Sifting tasks to an alternative platform that is more conducive

Utilize analytics for process optimization. Workflow tools supporting other kinds of business operations are beginning to take advantage of process mining and root cause analysis.  Content workflows should explore these opportunities.

Reinventing workflow to address the content tsunami

Workflow solutions can’t be postponed.  AI is making content easier to produce: a short prompt generates volumes of text, graphics, and video. The problem is that this content still needs management.  It needs quality control and organization. Otherwise, enterprises will be buried under petabytes of content debt.

Our twentieth-century-era content workflows are ill-equipped to respond to the building tsunami. They require human intervention in every micro decision, from setting due dates to approving wording changes. Manual workflows aren’t working now and won’t be sustainable as content volumes grow.

Workflow tools must help content professionals focus on what’s important. We find some hints of this evolution in the category of “marketing resource management” tools that integrate asset, work, and performance management. Such tools recognize the interrelationships between various content items and are expected to do.  

The emergence of no-code workflow tools, such as robotic process automation (RPA) tools, also points to a productive direction for content workflows. Existing content workflows are generic because that’s how they try to be flexible enough to handle different situations. They can’t be more specific because the barriers to customizing them are too high: developers must code each decision, and these decisions are difficult to change later. 

No code solutions give the content staff, who understand their needs firsthand, the ability to implement decisions about workflows themselves without help from IT. Enterprises can build a more efficient and flexible solution by empowering content staff to customize workflows.

Many content professionals advocate the goal of providing Content as a Service (CaaS).  The content strategist Sarah O’Keefe says, “Content as a Service (CaaS) means that you make information available on request.” Customers demand specific information at the exact moment they need it.  But for CaaS to become a reality, enterprises must ensure that the information that customers request is available in their repositories. 

Systematic challenges require systemic solutions. As workflow evolves to handle more involved scenarios and provide information on demand, it will need orchestration.  While individuals need to shape the edges of the system, the larger system needs a nervous system that can coordinate the activities of individuals.  Workflow orchestration can provide that coordination.

Orchestration is the configuration of multiple tasks (some may be automated) into one complete end-to-end process or job. Orchestration software also needs to react to events or activities throughout the process and make decisions based on outputs from one automated task to determine and coordinate the next tasks.”  

Orchestration is typically viewed as a way to decide what content to provide to customers through content orchestration (how content is assembled) and journey orchestration (how it is delivered).  But the same concepts can apply to the content teams developing and managing the content that must be ready for customers.  The workflows of other kinds of business operations embrace orchestration. Content workflows must do the same. 

Content teams can’t pause technological change; they must shape it.  A common view holds that content operations are immature because of organizational issues. Enterprises need to sort out the problems of how they want to manage their people and processes before they worry about technology. 

We are well past the point where we can expect technology to be put on hold while sorting out organizational issues. These issues must be addressed together. Other areas of digital transformation demonstrate that new technology is usually the catalyst that drives the restructuring of business processes and job roles. Without embracing the best technology can offer, content operations won’t experience the change it needs.

– Michael Andrews

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