The work uniform

After high school, I spent four years enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. As a result, I didn’t really have to think about what to wear to work for those four years. I remember getting out and thinking about how it was going to be interesting to actually think about what clothes to wear every day.

A decade or so later, I am very deliberate about what I wear. This happened progressively over time and not for any particular reason, other than I like to look nice. Sites like pinterest have helped me make sense of what works and what doesn’t work. But whenever I see someone else talking about a “work uniform” and a desire to take the guess work out of what they’re going to wear, I just can’t fathom it.

For years I lived in Wyoming, where wearing jeans with a buttoned up shirt for a guy could be considered “dressed up.” So I never felt much of a compulsion to spend any time focusing on what I was wearing. I also felt self-conscious for a long time about dressing too nicely. I felt that being black in a state with few black people made me stand out as-is, so the last thing I needed to do was show up to public events appearing overdressed. A few years ago, this all changed for me. I’m not sure what made me change my mind, I just know that I started wearing ties twice a week. I think my logic was “eventually I’m going to live somewhere else and this kind of thing won’t be optional or rare. I should prepare for that reality.” What happened when I started dressing up? Other people started following my lead or at least, felt the need to comment. After a few months of doing “Tie Tuesday or Tie Thursday,” people would remember what day of the week it was because of my habitual tie habit. It was fun for me and led me to take things a step further.

These days, my sartorial inclinations have extended well beyond my work. I am not exactly painstaking about how I dress, I just put more time into than I ever did before. We’re talking a few minutes, not hours. The end result is a more confident me. I leave the house feeling like I’m prepared for whatever the moment is. Maybe I should just feel that way anyway, but the effort invested in changing clothes provides the mental shift I need to take that next step.

Some brief thoughts on the CMS selection process

Content management system selection is a frequent topic of conversation whenever I’m on the road. I put together a very short primer to talk about the one thing I don’t hear people talking about enough when considering a new platform. Everyone has different challenges, but there are some consistent challenges and I explore them in this 15 minute video, with the idea that you’ll reach out if you have additional questions.

The Ron Bronson Show – Episode 1

I have for months been wanting to produce a show – mostly narrated slides – where I share with you some stuff I’ve learned around digital strategy, user research, product thinking and social media that might help you. I think I just do a better job of sharing & for the people who don’t know me, you can experience “me” better when you hear and see me. Though there will not be any seeing for this podcast right now.

So I’m going to kick this off. I literally don’t want to spend all of the time in the world editing things to death because I do that or focusing on the perfect logo, because I do that too. This is minimum viable product all the way. Get in the studio, shoot a bunch of stuff and ship it. That’s my deal here and I’ve recorded this first episode as really an exercise in holding myself accountable to all of you, to share more of what I know.

Feel free to tune it, but this exercise is really for me to consistently demonstrate and share what I’ve learned all these years because I’ve been in your shoes not knowing who to ask, where to ask and why…and you don’t always know what you don’t know.

Hopefully I strike a chord or a nerve and it makes you want to know more. Mostly I hope there’s more than one episode.


Content Governance for the rest of us

During my #ConfabMN talk last week, we discussed among other things the various ways that enterprise content governance happens.

The first message I tried to impart is how within most organizations there’s not a culture of appreciating the challenges of managing large websites. It’s just low on the priority list. Often times, the people managing website who aren’t aware of the history of how we arrived at this place.

User roles are a fallacy based on the idea that people who manage web content have the time, talent or expertise to do it. When we first started managing websites, webmasters received content from everywhere and put it online. It eventually became too much for one person, so distributing the content management responsibilities across the company made sense. Often times, the people we gave permissions to manage aspects of the website were versed in some level of HTML or were easily trainable. Nobody wants extra work and the notion that you’re going force people to manage their content by putting it in their job descriptions. Yet, we hear of clients often whose leadership propose this very strategy of governing content.

Fast forward to 2015 and none of these things are necessarily true. Getting people to manage content is often like pulling teeth. This leaves websites with old or outdated content and leaves those of us responsible for bringing these disparate silos together on the web in a tough position to bring it all together.

Do your people know how to get content from their desks to the website?

There is no perfect model of governing content.

Stop! Drop! Roll! is is a helpful thing we tell kids in elementary school (here in the US anyway) if they find they find their clothes on fire. I have no idea how much this happens anymore, but the bottom line is, it sticks with you.

I propose a simple way of helping your end users understand how to get content to you in the same fashion. The high-level conversations of strategy are too alienating and don’t focus well enough on business goals in an environment where senior leaders are shifting priorties elsewhere. Only when you make digital properties relate directly to the bottom line, do I find that you’re able to resonate across silos.

During my Confab talk, I asked the audience what percentage of them believed that if you asked any random person in their companies how to get a piece of content from their desk published to the website, whether that person would be able to answer the question. Barely anyone raised their hands.

We’re spending an increased amount of time talking about the tactics surrounding content publishing and investing lots of resources into the tools of content management without focusing on the processes.

The trick is: there isn’t one.

It’s dependent largely on the way your company is setup, the structure and organization of your web content infrastructure.

Here are some models we’ve devised after seeing lots of different governance structures inside diverse companies and organizations:

Single-Payer Model

  • Every user has some skin in the game related to the CMS. Whether they are trained to edit content or approve content, the single-payer model gives everyone in the organization a relationship with the content management platform.
  • The problem? Hard to enforce. Also, once people have put their content in the CMS, many of them never want to deal with it again and would appreciate if you’d never, ever speak with them about it.

Most people responsible for managing websites are not empowered to implement widespread strategy or affect massive organizational change.

Policy-Based Model

  • Assemble a committee of stakeholders, preferably with at least one senior member. Work together to establish or revise existing policies that give you a baseline to manage content.
  • Policies can envelope responsibilities for governing content across departments, content on platforms outside of the CMS, approved tools and more. The key is to ensure policies are fluid enough to be workable in most scenarios rather than constraining the people in charge of managing your sites.
  • Problem: The policy-based model often requires a unique amount of consensus coupled with a leadership willing to delegate core responsibilities to subordinates. While we’ve seen the policy-based model work — and it’s the most common setup — it can be fraught with other challenges like outdated policies that once codified are hard to revise and a lack of senior stakeholder engagement that leads to stagnation once you’ve assembled a committee.

Centralized Model

  • Content is managed & approved centrally by a team. This can be done departmentally or company-wide. This ensures that areas like legal, marketing and product teams are part of the content development process. Provides support to web managers and takes the burden off one person or a small team to chase down folks to get content.
  • Bad news is having all of the power rest in one area, department or person is great when things are going well. It’s less good when things aren’t working as well. Having policies in tandem with a centralized model seem to work best for the people we’ve talked to.

Head Person In Charge Model

  • The closest thing to the old “webmaster” model where one person has control of pretty much the entire digital presence. A lot of people think this model no longer exists, but there are still lots of smaller institutions that leave the website in control of a centralized web person embedded in marketing or some related office.
  • There are lots of issues with this model, but the most challenging is what happens when the smart person you’ve entrusted with everything decides to leave. The vacuum of knowledge often leaves with that person and unless there’s 1) a lot of documentation and 2) a period of transition, you risk going backwards in your digital operations as a result. Ways that end users are used to interacting with one person might dissipate and leave you starting from scratch.
  • The other thing about the HPIC model is often that someone has responsibility for management of the website, but someone else has authority over the presence. This leader is often divorced from the day-to-day process of managing content which can cause many problems depending on the challenges faced by the team executing content from communication to funding breakdowns.

Bumper Car Model

  • I explained the bumper car model as “a bunch of people running into reach other, not communicating and trying to do a lot of the same things at the same time at varying speeds.”

Governance is not a topic that will move the need in most organizations. It’s our job to bring it down to Earth in measurable ways that help people understand how it can help us do our jobs better, save resources and improve communication.