Your Website’s Fountain of Youth Part 4: Roles and Workflow

December 18, 2014

As Brain Traffic represents in their content strategy quad, half of what makes content strategy happen comes down to people -- that means workflow and governance. Brain Traffic defines workflow as the which “processes, tools, and human resources are required for content initiatives to launch successfully and maintain ongoing quality.” Within workflow, there are roles and responsibilities defined to help the process move along smoothly. To conclude our fountain of youth series, we’ll take a closer look at what this means.

Rolling with roles, flowing with workflow

What do you mean by “roles and workflow”?

In explaining the basics of content strategy, the resource Usability.gov emphasizes the importance of defining “how people manage and maintain content on a daily basis, including the roles, tasks, and tools required throughout the content lifecycle.”

Kristina Halvorson has defined workflow as the “roles, responsibilities, organisational structure, and the tools that people use to create and care for content and documentation – typically, the content management system.”

Roles encompass different aspects of the planning, creation, and management of content. Richard Ingram offers a visualization of some of the roles involved in creating and managing content. Some examples of the tasks these roles are responsible for fulfilling include:

  • Plan/Strategize
  • Create
  • Provide subject-matter expertise
  • Edit
  • Review
  • SEO Review
  • Tag
  • Approve
  • Publish
  • Promote
  • Monitor/Listen (for social)
  • Measure
  • Archive

Why is it important to define roles and workflow?

If the people responsible for maintaining a website don’t know what is expected of them, how they are supposed to complete those tasks, and the value of their role in the process, then the workflow breaks down.

When we talk about governance as a roadmap for our website (the car), roles and workflow are the gears and parts that make it go. Without people knowing what they’re supposed to do, and having an order in which to complete certain tasks, nothing would move forward. Our website would stagnate and confusion would reign.

Workflows are particularly relevant when it comes to figuring out how to use the content management system. A CMS, after all, is just a tool -- it needs a process and an operator (or operators) to function effectively.

How do I go about doing this?

To know the roles and workflow needed, as Rick Allen of ePublish Media explains, you need to take stock of your organization, interviewing stakeholders, editors, and contributors to identify needs and current processes. What works? What doesn’t? Where are there gaps? What resources, training, or documentation are needed to get the job done? How long do things take to accomplish? Is that a reasonable timeframe or not?

From there, you can determine:

  • What roles are necessary to address those needs (and roles are not equal to job titles within your organizational chart -- a hierarchy of roles may not be analogous to your organizational hierarchy, and that’s okay)
  • What tasks and responsibilities those roles entail
  • Who will fulfill the roles
  • What support or training they need to get the job done
  • How to piece it all together into an improved workflow
  • How much time to allocate for each step in the workflow

Sophie Dennis and Juliet Richardson presented a great overview of this process at UX Bristol 2014. In their presentation, they also touched on a helpful framework for understanding roles and responsibilities: the RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed) model, often used in project management but particularly applicable here.

Here’s an example of the RACI model applied to defining roles for content governance, per Dennis and Richardson:

Above all, it’s important to be mindful of the fact that in defining roles and establishing workflow, you are influencing a person’s day-to-day work within an organization. Change can be difficult, as content strategist Ahava Leibtag notes. “There is typically a lot of pushback toward any type of change,” she writes. “It becomes even more intense when you ask people to think about doing their jobs differently, or think about their roles as part of a larger team.”

That means managing the change is imperative. Educating staff about the value of their role and ensuring their success with training and documentation is key to a successful workflow, and thus a successful web publishing process.

Roles and workflow are a fountain of youth because…

By empowering people with defined roles within an established process for website publishing, both the website and the people who manage it will be more successful in the long run.

Read more in the Your Website's Fountain of Youth series:
Part 1: Editorial Calendar
Part 2: Training and Guidelines
Part 3: Measurement

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