In my last post (Create Once, Publish Everywhere: what does it all mean?) we looked at the key principles of COPE and how we are planning to implement them (at least in broad terms) at CIPD.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be following up on that post by rehearsing some of the arguments for COPE at CIPD: what benefits exactly will it bring? Although specific to one particular business – the CIPD – our case for COPE will undoubtedly strike a chord with other content rich organisations looking to persuade their leadership teams to invest in a modern content management capability.
Why it’s difficult to build a business case for content
Building a business case for content isn’t straightforwardWe’re currently putting together a business case for Project Athena: a significant investment for CIPD in terms of money, time, resource and organisational change. But building a business case for content isn’t straightforward. The difficulty we face is that content is notoriously hard to cost. There are some measurable production savings, for example DTP (page layout) and print. But – in common with most organisations – time spent creating, managing, reviewing, searching for, updating, (and so on) content is not tracked at CIPD. Therefore establishing precise cost savings and return on investment is tricky.
To build a more nuanced argument for COPE we must look beyond the balance sheetWe still need to demonstrate the tangible cost savings and potential revenue opportunities, but to build a more nuanced argument for COPE we must look beyond the balance sheet. Substitute ‘COPE’ for ‘content strategy’ in Kristina Halvorsen’s famous quote, and you get the picture.
Content strategy defines how you’re going to use content to meet your business goals and satisfy your users’ needs.
Kristina Halvorsen, Content Strategy for the Web
So what we’ll be looking to do is build a business case that demonstrates how COPE (Project Athena) aligns to (and helps to deliver) CIPD’s strategic imperatives and satisfies our customers’ needs. But beyond that even, how COPE will help CIPD to not only cope with, but thrive in, these challenging economic times. And that’s what we’ll be looking at in this first post on building a business case for COPE.
Agility: building a business case that aligns with our corporate values
Agility is one of CIPD’s core organisational values. As an Institute and as employees, we try to be Purposeful, Agile, Collaborative and Expert in everything we do. So by couching COPE in terms of ‘agility’ I’m hoping to align our content strategy with our corporate values. But it’s not for nothing that agility is one of our core values. To remain viable and relevant in the 21st century, businesses must become agile. It’s not for nothing that agility is one of our core values
First we’ll look at the economic factors at play that are driving this need for organisational agility. We’ll go on to look at what I believe are the three crucial ingredients needed to develop organisational agility with a particular focus on the need for technical agility. And in the next post we’ll look specifically at how COPE builds business agility. Because let’s face it – it really is crazy out there!
Why do organisations need to be agile? Or: ‘Hey it’s crazy out there!’
Volatility is the new reality
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2009 report, the seismic events of 2008 introduced a new phase of globalisation ‘one in which volatility is likely to remain a constant’. The recession may be lifting in some markets, but
… underlying fluctuations in energy, commodity and currency rates, the emergence of new and non-traditional competitors, and rising customer demands will continue to roil traditional business and operating models for some time to come.
Economist Intelligence Unit, Organisational agility: how business can survive and thrive in turbulent times (2009)
The end of competitive advantage
In her book The End of Competitive Advantage, Professor Rita Gunther McGrath argues that the very concept of competitive advantage is no longer relevant. In this VUCA world of ours, business behemoths that once appeared invincible to the vagaries of the market, adapt too slowly to changes in technology, in consumer taste, and disappear. Kodak is the example most often cited, crashing from market leader to yesterday’s news, due to its inability to adapt to the digital revolution.
The rise of freeconomics
If you’re not using free, you will be competing with free
A business model most closely associated with Internet start up companies, it is best exemplified by services such as Skype, Dropbox, Flicr, Evernote, etc. Originally coined by venture capitalist Fred Wilson, freemium is the combination of the words ‘free’ and ‘premium’. The core product is given away for free to a large user base; a small group (often under 10%) of users pay for the premium service.
With the majority of content and services given away for free, freemium inevitably poses a significant threat to ‘traditional’ businesses. And it’s not going away any time soon: Pew Research Center’s Digital Life in 2025 predicts the continued ‘disruption of business models established in the 20th century (most notably impacting … publishers of all sorts and education).’
Organisational agility: strategies for volatile times
This storm is only going to get stormierIncreasingly top executives understand that it is not simply by battening down the hatches, by tightening control of operating costs, that they will weather the economic storms. This storm is only going to get stormier; some additional strategies are required.
According to that report by the EIU, ‘organisational agility is a core differentiator in today’s rapidly changing business environment. Nearly 90% of executives surveyed … believe that organisational agility is critical for business success.’
In fact agile businesses can grow revenues up to 37% faster and than their non-agile competitors (Peter Weill, MIT).
So what makes an organisation agile?
Businesses must be constantly vigilant to threats and opportunities, and prepared, agile if you will, to respond as they emerge.
It seems to me that the three crucial ingredients of organisational agility are an agile mindset, agile working practices and technical agility.
The agile mindset
This agile mindset is defined very nicely in CIPD’s Shaping the Future research (2011) as the ‘ability to stay open to new directions and be continually proactive, helping to assess the limits or indeed risks of existing approaches and ensuring that leaders and followers have an agile and change-ready mindset to enable them and ultimately the organisation to keep moving, changing, adapting’.
Change, adaptation and re-calibration is a constantThe agile mindset acknowledges that change, adaptation and re-calibration is a constant, and that rather than a threat offers opportunities for learning, growth and new ventures both at an organisational as well as a individual level.
The agile workplace
According to CIPD’s Getting Smart about Agile Working report (2014) agile working is
A set of practices that allow businesses to establish an optimal workforce and provide the benefits of a greater match between the resources and the demand for services, increased productivity, and improved talent attraction and retention.
This means flexible working arrangements in terms of when people work, where they work and what they do.
Added to this is the percolation of some of the theories of agile methodology from software development teams through to the more general working environment.
Agile teams rely on self-organisation, iterations, customer centricity, knowledge sharing and collaboration, and mutual trust.
CIPD Getting Smart about Agile Working (2014)
This is something we’re seeing introduced at CIPD: for example we’re working out loud, across silos, with projects broken up into 90-day sprints.
Building technical agility
The third and final component of organisational agility is, inevitably I suppose, around the investment in and optimisation of a business’s information technology.
Businesses must look to invest in technologies that ‘improve decision making and convert information into insight’ (EIU, 2009); systems that support knowledge gathering and analysis (e.g. customer and market insights and business intelligence), as well as knowledge sharing and collaboration tools.
Of equal importance is the technology that supports an organisation’s core business, its ‘true engine of growth’ (EIU, 2009). And in this it plays two roles. Firstly the optimisation of production processes (the ‘whittling away at inefficiency’ and secondly, the ‘re-grouping around what is truly core to the business’ (EIU, 2009).
CIPD is a knowledge business; our content is a key strategic asset. We need to be re-grouping around content, investing in technology that supports the efficient production, management and dissemination of content.
The agility paradox
There is higher agility in firms with more digitized and standardized business process and platform.
Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution, Ross, Weill & Robertson, Harvard Business School Press, June 2006
Ironically, it is through standardisation that a business builds agilityIronically, it is through standardisation that a business builds agility – Peter Weill’s ‘agility paradox’. Funnily enough this echoes loudly in my head Rachel Lovinger’s quote ‘ironically, it’s more structure that makes content nimble and sets it free.’ (Nimble Report.) We’ll be looking at this more when we explore content agility, another piece of the business case argument coming soon.
The four categories of agility (three out of four ain’t bad)
In the Agility Paradox, Peter Weill (quoting Jeanne Ross, MIT CISR Research Workshop May 2006) talks about the four categories of business agility. COPE satisfies three out of the four, which let’s face it, ain’t half bad!
1. Business Efficiency Agility
As we’ll see in future posts, COPE introduces a number of process efficiencies to the content workflow, in terms of the creation, management, translation, transformation, publication and distribution. It is also a scalable solution, at least in IT terms – the people side of the equation, resourcing and skills, will need more careful consideration.
2. Business Model Agility
With its excellent translation and localisation capabilities (which we’ll explore more in a future post looking at how COPE aligns to our strategic imperatives) the implementation of COPE at CIPD will support new business models, particularly the ability to enter new global markets. Additionally ‘intelligent’ content – atomised, free of system- and presentation- formatting, semantically rich and structurally logical – will enable us to deliver content to new platforms, channels and partners as they emerge.
3. New Product Agility
The necessity of process efficiency is the mother of invention As we shall see in the next post (COPE and Business Agility), COPE supports business innovation, with its seemingly infinite capacity to combine and re-combine atoms of content and transform them into new customer propositions. It would seem that the necessity of process efficiency is the mother of invention.
Open standards – the ultimate technical agility
And lastly, but by no means least-ly, that technical agility needs to be built upon open standards and open platforms. (There’ll be a post on this in a few weeks’ time.) It is only when the systems you invest in can connect to and easily communicate with one another that businesses can claim to be truly technically agile.