Business Model Generation Lessons from Running my Startup

When I look back at the experiences I have had in my career, none was a greater learning experience than running my own startup. Running a small company taught me a ton about business model generation, much of which I have applied in my consulting work since then.

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Open Source as a Strategic Advantage for Business Software

When I started working in digital in 2006, open source software was all the rave. Whether your organization was in need of an enterprise CMS, e-commerce solution, CRM, ERP, or LMS, there was an open source solution that could be customized to meet your needs.  Companies were drawn to open source solutions because their values were in line with those of the open source community, as well as their customization options over proprietary solutions.

Looking at the landscape from the agency/consulting side, I saw many organizations disseminating RFP’s requesting open source software solutions over proprietary ones. Open source, and the value it brought to an organization, was a regular part of conversations from sales through execution of a project. There was an apparent value proposition that open source software offered to organizations, a competitive advantage that many of these systems had over their proprietary counterparts.

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The Problem with Recommendation Engines

I was just reading a blog posts on why brands should build recommendation engines to create better content platforms and improve the overall experience for users. While I tend to agree “pushing” content to users is a better strategy than “pulling” them in to consume content, I don’t think the technology is ready to truly support these type of experiences.

Below is the comment I posted.

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What is digital content?

I worked on a few projects in the past year where the question of “what is content?” came up. To give some more context, we were designing content management systems, and client’s were confused by all the different ways you can create content within the software we were using. To the content editors we were designing the CMS for, a page was not a collection of blocks, views, and nodes, but a series of images, content listings, videos, and calls to action.

Digital content can be simply defined as codified information that is transferred from one entity to another via some digital mechanism, but that has little meaning to content editors. They see content as the components they need to build experiences that engage their site visitors. For your modern-day content editor, that content is the collection of parts that make a whole (videos, embeddable tweets, slideshows, etc.), rather than the whole (a rendered HTML page).

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Content Strategists Are Facilitators of Human Communication

I’ve been working on an article for a trade publication for information scientists that explores how they can use journey mapping to source information from the social interactions of internal stakeholders, turning those interactions into knowledge that can be shared with organizations at large. My general argument is that as information scientists/content strategists/user experience designers, we are facilitators of human communication. Whether we are trying to deliver content to customers to try to get them to buy ski boots, or designing better tools to allow communities of practice to share best practices, our role is to step back and analyze how people within a certain environment communicate, then design systems, processes, and content that brokers the transfer of information between people.

Knowledge sharing is the basis of human communication. When we have conversations with others, we are transferring knowledge from one person to another, that they internalize and may use at some other point in life. The format of the information being shared – verbal, written or visual – doesn’t matter. As content strategists, we make knowledge transfer more efficient and effective.

We too often focus on the minutia of content strategy – data models, user flows, editorial processes, content management systems, etc. But, the core of what we do is facilitate human communication. If we focus more on understanding how people communicate and receive information, we may see more innovation in the content strategy field.