Findability Issues Impact Everything Work Related

This should have been the last post of 2013 but you know how the holidays and weather (snow removal) get in the way of real work. However, throughout the month of December emails and messages, meetings, and reading peppered me with reminders that search surrounds everything we do. In my modest enterprise, findability issues occupy a major portion of my day and probably yours, too.

Deciding how important search is for workers in any enterprise is easy to determine if we think about how so many of us go about our daily work routines:

  • Receiving and sending emails, text messages, voice mail,
  • Documenting and disseminating work results,
  • Attending meetings where we listen, contribute, view presentations and take notes,
  • Researching and studying new topics or legacy content to begin or execute a project

As content accrues, information of value that will be needed for future work activities, finding mechanisms come into play, or should. That is why I probably expend 50% of my day consuming content, determining relevance and importance, deciding where and how it needs to be preserved, and clearing out debris. The other 50% of the time is devoted to retrieving, digesting and creating new content, new formulations of found material. The most common outputs are the result of:

  • Evaluation of professionals who would be candidates for speaking at programs I help organize,
  • Studying for an understanding of client needs, challenges and work environments,
  • Evaluation of technology solutions and tools for clients and my own enterprise,
  • Responding to inquiries for information, introductions, how-to solve a problem, opinions about products, people or processes,
  • Preparing deliverables to clients related to projects

Without the means and methods of my finding systems, those used by my clients, and those in the public domain, no work would get done. It is just that simple.

So, what came at me in December that made the cut of information to be made findable? A lot, but here are just three examples.

Commentary on metadata and taxonomy governance was a major topic in one session I moderated at the Gilbane Conference in Boston, Dec. 3-4, 2014. All of the panelists shared terrific observations about how and why governance of metadata and taxonomies is enterprise-critical; from one came this post-conference blog post. It, Taxonomy Governance, was written by Heather Hedden, author of The Accidental Taxonomist and a frequent speaker on taxonomy topics. The point here: when you engage in any work activity to consistently organize and manage the professional content in your possession, you are governing that material for findability. Anything that improves the process in the enterprise, is going to be a findability plus, just as it is for your own content.

Also in December, the Boston KM Forum hosted Allan Lewis, an “informaticist” at Lahey Health in Massachusetts; he is responsible for an initiative that will support healthcare professionals’ sharing of information via social business software tools. As a healthcare informatics professional, working with electronic clinical data sets to better codify diagnostic information, Allan is engaging in an enterprise-wide project. It is based on the need for a common view of medical conditions, how to diagnose them, and assign accurate classification to ensure the best records. Here is an issue where the quality of governing rules will be reached through consensus among medical experts. Again, findability is a major goal of this effort for everyone in a system, from the clinicians who need to retrieve information to the business units who must track cases and outcomes for accountability.

Last, from among the hundreds of information resources crossing my desk last month came one, a “Thank you for donating to the Wikimedia Foundation. You are wonderful!” You might ask why this did not simply get filed away for my tax return preparation; it almost did but read on.

Throughout the year I have been involved in numerous projects that rely on my ability to find definitions or explanations of hundreds of topics outside my areas of expertise. Sometimes I use known resources, such as government agency web sites that specialize in a field, or those of professional associations and publications with content by experts in a domain. I depend on finding tools at those sites to get what I am looking for. You can be certain that I know which ones have quality findability and those with difficult to use search functions.

When all else fails, my Google search is usually formatted as “define: xxx yyy” to include a phrase or name I seek to better understand. A simple term or acronym will usually net a glossary definition but for more complex topics Wikipedia is the most prominent resource showing up in results. Sometimes it is just a “stub” with notations that the entry needs updating, but more often it is very complete with scores of links and citations to help further my research. During one period when I had been beating a path to its site on a frequent basis, a banner requesting a donation appeared and persisted. As a professional benefiting from its work, I contributed a very modest sum. When the thank you came, I found the entire correspondence compelling enough to share parts of it with my readers. The last paragraph is one I hope you will read because you are interested in “search” and probably have the knowledge to contribute content that others might search for. Contributions of money and your knowledge are both important.

It’s easy to ignore our fundraising banners, and I’m really glad you didn’t. This is how Wikipedia pays its bills — people like you giving us money, so we can keep the site freely available for everyone around the world.

People tell me they donate to Wikipedia because they find it useful, and they trust it because even though it’s not perfect, they know it’s written for them. Wikipedia isn’t meant to advance somebody’s PR agenda or push a particular ideology, or to persuade you to believe something that’s not true. …

You should know: your donation isn’t just covering your own costs. The average donor is paying for his or her own use of Wikipedia, plus the costs of hundreds of other people. …

Most people don’t know Wikipedia’s run by a non-profit. Please consider sharing this e-mail with a few of your friends to encourage them to donate too. And if you’re interested, you should try adding some new information to Wikipedia. If you see a typo or other small mistake, please fix it, and if you find something missing, please add it. There are resources here that can help you get started. Don’t worry about making a mistake: that’s normal when people first start editing and if it happens, other Wikipedians will be happy to fix it for you.

So, this is my opening for 2014, a reflection on what it means to be able to find what we need to do our work and keep it all straight. The plug for Wikipedia is not a shameless endorsement for any personal gain, just an acknowledgement that I respect and have benefitted from the collaborative spirit under which it operates. I am thanking them by sharing my experience with you.

Beyond Customer Experience Management: What Your CMS Really Needs to Deliver

Selecting a new or replacement CMS is one of the most strategic technology decisions you can make. Why? Because customers and prospects expect personalized, engaging, dynamic, and high quality experiences and will leave if they don’t find them.

Selecting the right CMS is important because it is a primary tool in providing those experiences and the hub that connects and drives many of the components that make up customer experience management. This post is based on a white paper entitled “Beyond Customer Experience: What Your CMS Really Needs to Deliver, “ which was also the subject of a recent presentation I did at the Gilbane Conference. You can download the white paper (registration required): at .

Providing a personalized and seamless experience to customers across myriad devices, touch points, and stages in the relationship is a big challenge; one with which many organizations struggle. A recent Bain & Company survey found that while 80% of surveyed executives believe their companies are delivering a great customer experience, only 8% of their customers agree.

One reason they struggle is that customer experience is only part of the equation, specifically, the goal. The other parts of the equation that achieve that goal are content creator experience, developer experience, and integrator experience-in total, the  “global user experience.” While those are “behind the scenes players, they create and shape the customer experience.

Great customer experiences are predicated on the effectiveness with which a CMS provides those other experiences—in effect, a well-designed CMS inspires better performance on the part of content creators and developers, yielding customer experiences that deliver more business impact. It also allows integration of familiar and new tools to enhance the productivity and effectiveness of content creators and developers. Shown as an equation, the global user experience would look like the diagram below:


Key to achieving a superior customer experience is the ability for content creators, marketers, and developers to focus on the experience itself, not the mechanics of producing it. That requires a mature CMS solution that provides a balanced set of tools and capabilities for content creators, developers, and integrators. That, in turn, requires a coordinated CMS selection process amongst all of those stakeholders that emphasizes not only the individual experiences, but the collective experience as well.

As we noted at the top of this post, selecting a CMS is a strategic decision-the CMS solution that provides the right global user experience is a growth engine that helps power the success of any business or firm-the right strategic decision.

What is Content, Context, and Educational Marketing?

The blog on our sister site,, is the place to tune to for our series of speaker spotlights and general updates about our upcoming conference in Boston. Here, I’ll be highlighting a few conference sessions and why we have decided to include them.

You could say that our conference has assumed content marketing since our initial focus on web content management has always attracted marketers. But there is certainly a lot more attention now paid to the crafting of content, as well as to matching content to context whether that is channel context, customer context, buying-cycle context, or better, at least these three. In spite of the wise-cracky session description, you will hear thoughtful and reliable commentary on one of the biggest buzz terms of the year.

C5. Content, Context, and Educational Marketing

Wednesday, December, 4: 9:40 a.m. – 10:40 a.m.

Content Marketing is certainly hot. But what is it? Is it new? Is it old? Was there ever a time when marketing was content-free? Has it always been content-free? Is there some new kind of content that makes marketing different? Is it a strategy, a methodology, a parallel universe? Snarkiness aside, it is easy to see that carefully created or chosen content can help improve success rates of different kinds of marketing objectives. This session takes a serious look at what content marketing is today, how you can use it, and how it is evolving.

Jose Castillo, President, thinkjose

Kipp Bodnar, Director of Marketing, Hubspot
WTF is Context Marketing?
Doug Bolin, Associate Director, User Experience Design, Creative, DigitasLBi, and Adjunct Professor, Mass Art
Beyond Content Marketing, The Emergence of Edumarketing


Can Human Sensors Contribute to Improving Search Technology?

Information Today fall meetings usually have me in the Enterprise Search Summit sessions but this year KM World was my focus. Social networking, social media and tools are clearly entering the mainstream of the enterprise domain as important means of intra-company communication, as many corporate case presentations revealed. But it was Dave Snowden’s Thursday keynote, Big Data vs. Human Data, which encouraged me because he conveyed a message of how we must synthesize good knowledge management practices out of both human and machine-based information. Set aside 52+ minutes and be prepared to be highly stimulated by his talk .

Snowden does the deep thinking and research on these topics; at present, my best option is to try to figure out how to apply concepts that he puts forth to my current work.

Having long tried to get enterprises to focus on what people need to do to make search work meaningfully in an organization, instead of a list of technology specifications, I welcome messages like Snowden’s. Martin White called for information specialists for search management roles earlier this year in a CMSWire piece. While it may be a stretch to call for “search specialists” to act as “human sensors,” it does merit consideration. Search specialists have a critical role to play in any enterprise where knowledge assets (content and human expertise), data retrieval and analysis , and understanding user needs must fit cohesively together to deliver a searchable corpus that really works for an organization. This is not typically an assignment for a single IT professional focused on installing software, hardware and network oversight.

One of the intangible capital assets defined by a recent start-up, Smarter-Companies, Inc., is human capital. Founder Mary Adams has devised a methodology to be used by a person she calls an Icountant. An Icountant establishes values for intangible capital and optimizing its use. Adam’s method is a new way of thinking about establishing asset value for organizations whose real worth has more to do with people and other intangibles than fixed assets like buildings and equipment.

Let’s consider the merit of assigning value to search specialists, those experts who can really make search technology work optimally for any given enterprise. How should we value them? For what competencies will we be assigning jobs to individuals who will own or manage search technology selection, implementation/tuning and administration?

Rather than defaulting to outside experts for an evaluation process, installation and basic training for a particular technology, we need internal people who are more astute about characteristics of and human needs of an organization. High value human sensors have deep experience in and knowledge of an enterprise; this knowledge would take the consultant off-the-street months or years to accrue. People with experience as searchers and researchers supporting the knowledge intensive units of a company, with library and information science training in electronic information retrieval methods must be on the front lines of search teams.

Knowledge of users, what searchable content is essential across all business units, and what is needed just for special cases is a human attribute that search teams must have. Consider the points in White’s article and the wisdom of placing humans in charge of algorithm-based solutions. What aptitudes and understanding will move the adoption of any technology forward? Then pick the humans with highly tuned sensitivity to what will or will not work for the technology selection and deployment situation at hand. Let them place search technology in the role of augmenting human work instead of making human workers slaves to technology adaptation.

If you are at the Gilbane Conference next week, and want to further this discussion, please look for me and let me know what you think. Session E7 will have a special focus on search, Strategic Imperatives for Enterprise Search to Succeed, a Panel Discussion. I will be moderating.

Responsive Design and the Future of Digital Experiences

The blog on our sister site,, is the place to tune to for our series of speaker spotlights and general updates about our upcoming conference in Boston. Here, I’ll be highlighting a few conference sessions and why we have decided to include them.

Digital experience designers are familiar with the approach of responsive design even if they haven’t used it. If they have used it they know it is not quite as easy as it first sounds, and the popularity of responsive design courses suggests there is a still a lot of learning going on. But even if you don’t need to understand the code, if you are a marketing manager you need to know what you can expect responsive design to accomplish and what level of effort it entails.

C2. Responsive Design and the Future of Digital Experiences

Tuesday, December, 3: 2:40 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.

Responsive design has been around since the early days of the browser wars, but as mobile channels grew it became both more important and more complex. Gone are the days when new digital channels, form factors, and other device characteristics can be anticipated and digital strategies need to reflect this new reality. This session will provide multiple perspectives on what responsive design can do, what its limitations are, and what its future challenges are.

Tom Anderson, President, Anderson Digital

Scott Noonan, Chief Technology Officer, Boston Interactive
In Koo Kim, Senior Manager, MOBEX, NorthPoint Digital
Scrap the Big Launch, Fly a Kite: How to Create and Maintain Control of Smarter Mobile Apps with Real-Time UI Updates, A/B Testing, and Personalization
Christopher S Carter, General Manager, aLanguageBank
Are You Prepared to Create Content for the Internet of Things?


Multi-channel Publishing and Content Reuse

The blog on our sister site,, is the place to tune to for our series of speaker spotlights and general updates about our upcoming conference in Boston. Here, I’ll be highlighting a few conference sessions and why we have decided to include them.

We’re big believers in the potential for learning from colleagues in other industries. There are many shared challenges crossing vertical boundaries not always obvious because of different vocabularies, and often a gem can be found in the variety of solutions, or an idea can be sparked by a slightly different lens on the problem. The publishing industry’s influence on computing and digital experiences goes way back and is especially applicable horizontally – markup languages, style sheets, electronic type – and of course multi-channel publishing. This is why we have usually included a publishing track in our conferences. This session looks at how a couple of publishers have dealt with some thorny multichannel publishing issues.

P2. Multi-channel Publishing and Content Reuse

Tuesday, December, 3: 2:40 p.m. – 3:50 p.m.

In this session two publishing organizations report on projects that involve moving publications and existing content from print to multi-channel digital. Business Insurance, part of Crain Communications, implemented a digital publishing strategy that supports interactive digital content and content reuse across print, Web, iOS, and Android, all based on HTML5. Wolters Kluwer Health now creates textbooks with versions for print, multiple eBook formats, and integration with Learning Management Systems and other advanced learning tools. As part of their multi year initiative they report on a recent project where they implemented round tripping between XML and author-editable Word documents, and discusses the technical and organizational problems they solved.

Tom Brown, VP, Multichannel Solutions, HP

Dave White, Chief Technology Officer, Quark Software Inc.
Case Study: Transforming Print Content into Mobile and Web Apps
Ken Golkin, Technical Project Manager, Wolters Kluwer Health
Niels Nielsen, Managing Director, Avalon Consulting, LLC
Long Cycle Reuse in Textbook Publishing: Cracking the XML–>Word–>XML Round Trip Nut


How Should Your CMS Fit into Your Mobile Strategy?

The blog on our sister site,, is the place to tune to for our series of speaker spotlights and general updates about our upcoming conference in Boston. Here, I’ll be highlighting a few conference sessions and why we have decided to include them.

There are many answers to this question, but the right answer for you will depend on what other components make up your digital experience management system, how they integrate with other enterprise systems, the types of content and apps and mobile platforms you need, existing developer expertise and tools, and so on. CMS and DXM vendors have to work through the possibilities with their customers and partners so are a valuable resource for helping you think through some of the options.

T5. How Should Your CMS Fit into Your Mobile Strategy?

Wednesday, December, 4: 9:40 a.m. – 10:40 a.m.

As analysts will tell you, web content management systems are now, or should be one of the core components of a larger digital experience management strategy. There are lots of questions about what this means in practice, but this session focuses specifically on how your content management system(s) can or should support your mobile presence. Should your CMS manage all mobile content? Should that include apps as well? Is mobile content delivery by the CMS active or passive? Where does the delivery layer reside? Is data incorporated by the mobile app or by the CMS? Should you create a separate system just for managing mobile content? Should your WCM mind its business and stick to the Web? Should your other CMSs stay with whatever enterprise applications they support?

Marc Strohlein, Principal, Agile Business Logic

Ian Truscott, VP Product Marketing, Content Management Technologies Division, SDL
Loni Stark, Director of Product, Industry Marketing, Adobe


Building Next Generation Web Content Management & Delivery Digital Experiences – Gilbane Conference Spotlight

The blog on our sister site,, is the place to tune to for our series of speaker spotlights and general updates about our upcoming conference in Boston. Here, I’ll be highlighting a few conference sessions and why we have decided to include them.

While not everybody agrees that web content management should be the hub of digital experience management implementations, there should be no doubt it is an essential core component. Certainly the WebCM / CustomerXM / DigitalXM, etc. vendors that started in web content management have an opinion, though there are many nuances in their positioning which are important to understand. Even more interesting is what they have all learned in the past few years while incorporating or integrating other technologies to help their customers build modern digital experiences for customers and employees. Vendor visions and expertise are at least as important as those of analysts, consultants, integrators, agencies, and even your peers.

C7. Building Next Generation Web Content Management & Delivery Digital Experiences – A Panel Discussion

Wednesday, December, 4: 2:00 p.m. – 3:20 p.m.

You probably need to attend every session in the conference to even learn all the questions to ask before embarking on a next generation digital experience strategy and design. In this session a panel of competing vendors will discuss what they see as the critical components and challenges based on their customer’s experiences and feedback, and on their own vision of what is possible. Vendors have lots of valuable experience and information and this is your chance to hear from knowledgeable representatives minus the PowerPoint pitch.

Melissa Webster, Program VP, Content & Digital Media Technologies, IDC
Arjé Cahn, CTO, Hippo
Robert Bredlau, COO, e-Spirit
Ron Person, Sr. Consultant, Business Optimization Services, Sitecore
Russ Danner, Vice President, Products, Crafter Software
Loni Stark, Director of Product, Solution & Industry Marketing, Adobe


Healthcare e-Commerce Search Lessons for the Enterprise

Search Tools Wanting on Many Exchanges: This headline was too good to pass up even though stories about the failures of the Affordable Care Act web site are wearing a little thin right now. For those of us long involved in developing, delivering and supporting large software solutions, we can only imagine all the project places that have brought about this massive melt-down. Seeing this result: “many who get through the log-in process on the new health insurance exchanges then have trouble determining whether the offered policies will provide the coverage they need”, we who spend hours on external and internal web sites know the frustrations very well. It is not the “search tools” that are lacking but the approach to design and development.

This current event serves as a cautionary tale to any enterprise attempting its own self-service web-site, for employees’ in-house use, customer service extranets or direct sales on public facing sites.

Here are the basic necessary requirements, for anyone launching large-scale site search, internally or externally.

Leadership in an endeavor of this scale requires deep understanding of the scope of the goals. All the goals must be met in the short term (enrollment of both the neediest without insurance AND enrollment of the young procrastinators), and scalable for the long term. What this requires is a single authority with:

  • Experience on major projects, global in reach, size and complexity
  • Knowledge of how all the entities in the healthcare industry work and inter-relate
  • Maturity, enough to understand and manage software engineers (designers), coders, business operations managers, writers, user interface specialists and business analysts with their myriad of personality types that will be doing the work to bring millions of computing elements into synch
  • The authority and control to hire, fire, and prioritize project elements.

Simplicity of site design to begin a proof of concept, or several proofs of concept, rolled out to real prospects using a minimalist approach with small teams. This a surer path to understanding what works and what doesn’t. Think of the approach to the Manhattan Project where multiple parallel efforts were employed to get to the quickest and most practical deployment of an atomic weapon. Groves had the leadership authority to shift initiative priorities as each group progressed and made a case for its approach. This more technically complex endeavor was achieved over a 4 year period, only one year more than this government healthcare site development. Because the ability to find information is the first step for almost every shopper, it makes sense to get search and navigation working smoothly first, even as content targets and partner sites are being readied for access. Again, deep understanding of the audience, what it wants to know first and how that audience will go about finding it is imperative. Usability experts with knowledge of the healthcare industry would be critical in such an effort. The priority is to enable a search before requiring identity. Forcing enrollment of multitudes of people who just want to search, many of whom will never become buyers (e.g. counselors, children helping elderly parents find information, insurers wanting to verify their own linkages and site flow from the main site) is madness. No successful e-commerce site demands this from a new visitor and the government healthcare site has no business harvesting a huge amount of personal data that it has no use for (i.e. marketing).

Hundreds of major enterprises have failed at massive search implementations because the focus was on the technology instead of the business need, the user need and content preparation. Good to excellent search will always depend on an excellent level of organization and categorization for the audience and use intended. That is how excellent e-commerce sites flourish. Uniformity, normalization, and consistency models take time to build and maintain. They need smart people with time to think through logical paths to information to do this work. It is not a task for programmers or business managers. Content specialists and taxonomists who have dealt with content in healthcare areas for years are needed.

How a public project could fail so badly will eventually be examined and the results made known. I will wager that these three basic elements were missing from day one: a single strong leader, a simple, multi-track development approach with prototyping and attention to preparing searchable content for the target audience. Here is a lesson learned for your enterprise.

Content and User Experience Design for the Internet of Smart Things – Gilbane Conference Spotlight

The blog on our sister site,, is the place to tune to for our series of speaker spotlights and general updates about our upcoming conference in Boston. Here, I’ll be highlighting a few conference sessions and why we have decided to include them.

There are many reasons to be excited about the Internet of Things, a content channel is not usually considered one of them. In fact, the mere suggestion of a need to support one more digital channel is enough to cause many execs to consider a career change, never mind n additional channels, and n is the future.

Many internet things don’t and won’t need to prepare content for direct human consumption, but many will – cars and watches and glasses are just the beginning. The variety of form factors, display technologies, and application requirements will present challenges in user experience design, content strategies, content management and data integration. The session we are spotlighting today will focus on the user experience design challenges, of which there are many.

T7. Have You Talked To Your Refrigerator Today? Content and User Experience Design for the Internet of Smart Things

Wednesday, December, 4: 2:00 p.m. – 3:20 p.m. – The Westin Boston Waterfront

The web is dead. Or is it evolving into the Internet of things? If so, how can we harness the emergence of smart and app-enabled devices, appliances, homes, cars and offices into the digital gene pool? Four senior executives in experience planning and strategy, technology, creative and user experience will provide a point of view on the Internet of smart things and answer key questions, including the following, using real world examples:

  • How can your smart washing machine, refrigerator and dishwasher be mated with intelligent apps, CRM, and dynamic content management systems to create real-time marketing and ecommerce experiences?
  • What happens to content strategy and management as app-enabled “playthings” become essential to your work and family life?
  • What do we do as video baby monitors become digital caretaking, developmental tracking, medical monitoring, and product ordering parent-bots?
  • What is the optimal customer experience for using voice to simultaneously integrate and operate your car, your mechanic, your GPS, your iPod, your radio, your tablet and your smartphone?
  • What best practices are needed for creative designers, content strategists, marketers, and user experience designers to create engaging Internet of smart things experiences?
Doug Bolin, Associate Director, User Experience Design, Digitas
Michael Vessella, Vice President, Director, Experience Design, Digitas
Michael Daitch, Vice President, Group Creative Director, Digitas
Adam Buhler, Vice President, Creative Technology / Labs / Mobile, Digitas