With Content Engineering resurging to the forefront of the content discussion, Joe Gollner, of Gnostyx, used the session to bring his perspective on the current Content Engineering landscape. He based his Intelligent Content Conference 2014 talk on his experience of practicing and discussing Content Engineering.

Gollner encouraged the audience to guess at a solid definition of Content Engineering:

The convergence of Editorial, Technology, and Business Requirements? Someone who understands the computability of content?

Gollner’s Definition of Content Engineering

The application of the engineering discipline to the design, acquisition, delivery, management, and use of content and to the technologies deployed to support the full content lifecycle.

Applying Scientific Principles

Where Content Engineering starts to differ from a general Content Strategy is its application of scientific principles. A typical Content Strategy involves strategic planning, editorial advocacy, and governance to enforce a set of rules and requirements for an organization.

Content Engineering places more importance upon observation, hypothesis, experimentation, refinement, and validation. It’s the application of scientific principles to the content discipline to iterate and improve content and the customer experience.

Setting the Stage

Content: A Transaction

Content is potential information. Information is the transaction that contains content.

Publishing transforms content assets into informational products. This creates documents, which is the tangible form and proof of the information transaction.

Intelligent Content Strategy

Intelligent Content is the overlap and acknowledgement of knowledge, technology, and business. How does a business obtain the knowledge that they want, deploy it with the right technology, and meet a key business objective?

Content Strategy to Gollner is the transformation of content into a strategic asset. It’s the relationship between content acquisition, content delivery, content management, and content engagement. It’s iterative with the need to continuously improve the customer experience.

Content metrics measure relevant units of progression for an organization and its content strategy.

With definitions set, Gollner continued to apply an engineering focus to content.

Applying Content Engineering

The Practice of Engineering

It’s more than crazy coding. Content Engineering is a layer over the usual Content Strategy discipline.

Engineering is a discipline and practice. It relies on precedence, standards, and experiments. Engineers don’t just do, they must document and verify decisions and changes.

It’s a world of respecting and verifying precedence. “You can’t just make things up,” said Gollner.

The spirit of engineering brings a respect for precedent, standards, experimentation, verification, and documentation to Content Strategy. It brings new avenues of validation and concrete evidence of improvement to content outside of web and business analytics.

A Case Study

Gollner talked about an integrated health information project he worked on. Usually, content regarding patient confidentiality and healthcare would raise all kinds of legal concern and challenge.

His solution applied:

  • A full-system view for content
  • Considers content from all angles to realize a balanced solution
  • Refusal to cling to one discipline
  • Approaches an objective solution using a documented, formal method
  • Relentless testing (and improvement)

With many stakeholders to satisfy and customer types to communicate with, this strict discipline of following a content precedence network allowed for Gollner to maintain consistency across the client’s content. The team documented all work and changes. Metrics and progress could be easily measured.

Do We Want to be Content Engineers?

Gollner closed his presentation with this question.

My personal answer is that I think I need to do a little more homework.

I appreciate the more rigid approach to content that answers a few of the challenges that content strategists face.

What do you do? Why do I need content strategy?

Borrowing from engineering to apply a structured, scientific discipline (to our structured content recommendations) seems like it adds heft and credibility to the content strategy mission at the buy-in level, while setting up a foundation for an iterative, continuous improvement cycle for the overall strategy.