Case studies

 

Content people, as a group, are terrible at business cases. In discussions about content challenges, the content creators usually have a litany of valid complaints about bad tools, inefficient processes, and generally wasted resources. But at the first mention of a potential solution that costs more than $100, content creators respond, “Oh, they will never approve that. We never get any money.”

It is true that “they”—which is to say upper management—do not respond well to requests for large sums of money. What they do understand is business cases, such as, “To prevent us from wasting Y amount of resources every year, we need X amount of money this year,” and X is smaller than Y.

Building a business case requires you to quantify how an investment (in tools, technology, training, or anything else) will improve business results. It is not sufficient to claim that your content strategy will contribute to business goals; you must estimate the improvement and show that the results are worth the investment. It helps when your estimates are obviously erring on the conservative side and the savings shown are still compelling.

Characters are composites—or entirely fictitious

This chapter offers sample business cases based on our consulting experiences. The scenarios, which use made-up or composite client profiles, describe common content strategy problems.

All of the client names are completely invented; any resemblance to an actual company or person name is unintentional. (We spent some time checking to make sure that these company names did not exist. We are not responsible for anyone deciding that Super Cygnets would be a fantastic name for a band.)

The examples show how to quantify potential savings and to compare them against the cost of implementing the needed system. For example, if you plan to increase the amount of reuse, you might need a content management system to support that effort. If you can show that a modest improvement in reuse in a large writing group will save $200,000 per year, you can easily justify a CMS-based system. If, however, your calculations show a savings of $15,000 per year, you need to scale your investment accordingly.

Note: In many cases, you can show cost savings in multiple areas; a new content strategy can address multiple inefficiencies.

 

Estimating implementation costs

When estimating costs for a new system, examine factors such as the following:

  • Software and tools licensing.Be sure to look beyond the initial licensing costs. Consider, for example:
    • The number of authors, contributors, reviewers, and so on, who will use the tool now and in the months and years to come
    • How much content will be managed now and in the future
    • The cost of software maintenance
    • The cost of upgrading to new versions
    • The costs to maintain and upgrade the hardware that runs installed tools
    • Annual/periodic costs for cloud-based solutions (software as a service)
  • Conversion.If you need to convert legacy content to a new format, you can:
    • Do the conversion work internally
    • Hire a consultant to handle it
    • Implement a hybrid approach (for example, a consultant develops an automated conversion path, completes a pilot conversion, and then hands over the process so your employees can complete the majority of the conversion)
  • Training.There is little sense in investing in new tools and processes if employees aren’t shown how to use them correctly. There are several training options to consider, including:
    • Classroom-based training
    • Live (and recorded) web-based training
    • Self-paced training through workbooks
    • Computer-based interactive training
  • Consulting. You can hire consultants to handle some or all aspects of a content strategy process—from requirements gathering all the way through conversion, implementation, and training.
  • Follow-on support. If you need to make adjustments to your process after initial implementation, having a resource (often the consultant you hired to assist with the implementation) to help you with those changes is a good idea.

This list is not comprehensive; the factors you should consider will be based on your company’s particular requirements.

The case studies offer general estimates on implementation costs. The scenarios illustrate the costs of typical projects but are not a substitute for your own organization-specific analysis.

 

2 Responses to Case studies

  1. Rhonda says:

    Totally agree on the need for making a business case, one that means something to the *company*, not just you.

    I wrote some blog posts on this a couple of years ago, which I believe are still relevant to the points you’ve made:
    * http://cybertext.wordpress.com/2008/11/30/making-a-business-case/
    * http://cybertext.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/the-real-cost-of-new-software/
    * http://cybertext.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/the-real-costs-of-a-lite-version/

    –Rhonda

  2. Pingback: Good writing adds value: here’s proof | Leading Technical Communication

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