Managing risk


Risks that are common in technical content include the following:

  • Inaccurate information
  • Incomplete information
  • Information that is ignored
  • Poorly written information
  • Unclear information
  • Information that is inappropriate for the target audience
  • Legal liability due to documentation problems

Is there risk in having a really good content strategy? Consider the following factors:

  • If information is easy to find and analyze, people may be able to more easily identify deficiencies in the products.
  • Some companies like to practice security through obscurity. If the information is sufficiently difficult to locate, they reason that nobody will find it, and therefore the information is safe.
  • Implementing a system that tracks and manages content changes may be seen as a litigation risk, because the record of changes might become discoverable.

Risks associated with the development of technical content include:

  • Release schedules. Pay attention to product release schedules. Avoid scheduling launch of a new content development environment inside the chaos that is a release deadline.

  • Communication. Good communication about the project alleviates fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Lack of communication does the opposite. The staff needs to understand the reasons for changing the approach to content and the benefits it provides. People do not like change. A careful change management process based upon a great deal of communication should address this challenge. When in doubt, overcommunicate—undercommunicating can kill your project.

  • Training. Writers need training to understand the new workflow. Without training, they will take longer to learn the new process and may resent the steep learning curve.

  • Productivity. Productivity will be initially low in the new system as people learn how to use it.
  • Quality of implementation. The new workflow should closely match the requirements of the content that’s being developed. Imposing processes that do not accommodate writers’ legitimate requirements will lead to disgruntled writers.

  • Leadership. Within the workgroup, the attitudes of leaders—whether positive or negative—will influence reactions of the entire staff. Without support from leaders, you will encounter heightened aversion to change and perhaps even outright hostility. Leaders may or may not be managers; look for the employees to whom others go for advice.

Most often, the risk perception is that implementing a new process is scary—and therefore bad. There’s some truth to this. If you push through a new strategy and it fails, you may be risking your job. However, the alternative is that bad content will become a millstone that drags down whoever is responsible for it.

An effective content strategy will include an assessment of the risks along with a plan to mitigate them.



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