When Gerri Martin-Flickinger came to Adobe as Chief Information Officer (CIO) nearly eight years ago, one of the most common conversations in executive staff meetings was—for her and many other CIOs—”Why does it take so long to make content changes on the website?”
“Somewhere along the line,” Martin-Flickinger says, “the speed at which the refreshing of content happened became insufficient to the velocity of the business.”
The rise of content marketing has only made the demand for dynamic, content-rich sites even greater. Company websites are no longer static billboards of business information, nor are they the only locations for connecting with the brand online. Websites are ever-changing and blogs, content hubs and social channels crankout new content, sometimes on a daily basis, to keep consumers engaged. And the trend isn’t going away. According to 2015 studies by The Content Marketing Institute, 69% of business-to-consumer marketers and 70% of business-to-business marketers are creating more content than they did a year ago.
All of that activity simply amplifies the same challenge CIOs were facing eight years ago: rather than simply dealing with the technology demands of their own industry, IT is suddenly in charge of digital publishing operations as well, from their corporate websites to content hubs.
Fortunately for Adobe, Martin-Flickinger began working toward a solution way back then that has fundamentally changed the way their websites are managed and the role of their IT staff, and has facilitated content-rich sites like the online publication CMO.com to keep Adobe ahead of the content marketing game.
What became clear to Martin-Flickinger eight years ago was that IT was too involved in the content of the website.
“They’re not writers, they’re not brand people, they’re not marketers, and yet in order to get words on the website,” she says, “somehow my IT people became part of that workflow.”
Getting them out of the way would take a change that would transform everything about the way IT worked and the way sites were managed.
“You need to separate the content from the platform,” Martin-Flickinger says. “And you need to build a platform that allows people who own the content to make changes to the content with no touch, or minimal touch, from the technologists who support the platform.”
In other words, IT needed to find a way to empower their business groups to become self-publishers of their own content.
Making the Content Separation
While separating content from platforms isn’t a new concept for most IT departments, deciding to do so to the degree that Adobe was proposing is no small undertaking. Martin-Flickinger and her team began with a re-platforming effort and leveraging their own product, Adobe Experience Manager, or AEM, that would eventually become the platform for all of their websites.
While working closely with marketing to ensure the new platform would meet their needs—they, after all, were the part of the business feeling the pain of slow content changes—Adobe’s IT team created templates within the platform that would allow for marketing and other groups to manage and create their own dynamic pages.
“This is not the kind of thing you take on in an IT silo,” Martin-Flickinger says. “We’re all in this together.”
And that’s especially true now. After the lengthy process of migrating their legacy website onto the new platform, the job of updating the websites with content was ready to be handed off to the other business groups—and IT was ready for a new role.
IT’s New Role
Rather than being the button-pushers causing content bottlenecks, today, the Adobe IT team’s role is providing and maintaining the AEM platform. And no one, says Martin-Flickinger, misses the button-pushing role.
“I would argue that the role we have now is even more critical than the role we had before,” she says. “We redefined the entire domain within the architecture and roles and responsibilities around the table.”
That change has certainly benefited Adobe internally, empowering the business to keep up with the demands of content marketing and allowing for the development of content sites like CMO.com, but it’s also been a business benefit overall, says Martin-Flickinger, because of the impact it’s had on their customers.
“We’re able to give them more relevant content, more relevant messaging, more relevant help, more relevant offers,” she says. “This has really given them better access to the information they need to make the right kind of decisions, and it’s given us a way to understand better how they are engaging with us and do a much better job of building those messages that will help them be successful.”
A decade ago, many CIOs might not have imagined handing off the populating of their company’s websites to departments with no IT knowledge. But by thinking like a publisher, and building or working with a platform that allows anyone within the business to create and publish dynamic content, they can now empower their companies to not only keep up with regular content changes to the website, but compete in the ever-growing content marketing space.
This article was originally posted on Forbes BrandVoice.
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