The Content-as-a-Service Imperative

Leveraging the power of disruptive technologies in innovative ways can help us produce products and services that previously seemed impossible — even unimaginable. To do so, though, we need to rethink how we do what we do.

I have written previously about the need to adjust the way we produce content for those who need it. I made a case for developing capabilities required to survive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the perfect storm of new technologies transforming how we live and work in radical, often unexpected ways.

Content is the single most-used way of understanding an organization’s products or services, stories, and brand. Innovations in the way we craft, categorize, assemble, manage, augment, localize, and deliver it affords us opportunities to develop content capabilities that provide value and spark engagement.

Doing that consistently, at scale, and on-demand requires us to rethink the way we produce and manage content. It entails the adoption of accelerating technologies and the development of new business models that can help us meet our goals.

Content is the new oil —it drives the global economy

Transforming an established, but inadequate, content production program into a lean, mean, content-producing factory demands that we determine whether conventional content production processes and tools can provide the capabilities required to succeed in the new economy. If not, then it’s time to consider transformation.

Old, outdated modes of production fail to provide the customer experience, scalability, flexibility, and acceleration leaders require of their organizations. Increasingly, those at the helm of forward-thinking organizations recognize that conventional approaches to content are ineffective and inefficient

The driving force behind the most significant changes in the way businesses deal with content is the focus on customer experience. Over the past decade, there’s been a steady uptick in interest in “customer experience” as captured in this interest-over-time chart from Google Trends [see figure below]. Brands that figure out the best way to help customers either “do something or feel something” will win customer loyalty, say customer experience analysts at Gartner.

Source: trends.google.com (mentions of “customer experience” from November 2009 to December 2019)

In companies where customer experience is more than just empty talk, customer-facing content crews work in cooperation to produce a consistent experience at every touchpoint along the customer journey.

They work to knock down silo-promoting processes between departments that prevent collaboration. They rethink the way they work by evaluating their methods, discarding outdated and ineffective approaches. Collaboration becomes the rule. And, they rethink the way they work. Effort is laser-focused on the all-important goal of effectively producing content that delivers the best customer experience possible.

Customer experience itself is proving to be the only truly durable competitive advantage

Jake Sorofman

“Customer experience itself is proving to be the only truly durable competitive advantage,” wrote Jake Sorofman, former chief of research at Gartner, on the company’s marketing blog. Sorofman’s opinions are backed up by a Gartner report that found 89% of business leaders said they expect to compete with adversaries mainly on customer experience. That view is backed up by numerous business- and consumer-focused surveys, including data from market researchers.

The focus on customer experience is driving a shift away from conventional
content production methods and toward the adoption of a Content-as-a-Service (CaaS) model.

What do we mean by Content-as-a-Service?

Wikipedia defines Content-as-a-Service as a “…service-oriented model where a service provider delivers content on-demand to subscribers via web services. Content is hosted by the service provider in the cloud and offered to subscribers that need the content delivered into a software application or other system.”

Content-as-a-Service (CaaS) is a relatively new term that has yet to catch on in the same manner as its taxonomic relative, Software-as-a-Service. You can think of CaaS as cloud computing meets service-oriented architecture delivered via Software-as-a-Service. Content lives in a single repository in the cloud, where management, categorization, and augmentation occurs before the content is made available by subscription to other systems. These integrations make possible the controlled sharing of content between connected applications, devices, and services.

CaaS affords organizations the capability to make content available in ways that subscribing systems can understand and process. This approach becomes more valuable to you over time. Once established, CaaS offerings can be weaved together to create composite services with significantly less effort than conventional development approaches require.

Subscribing systems collect and process this content, preparing it for automatic delivery to consumers who require it, on the device and channel of their choosing. Content provided as a service can be served up inside of software platforms and pushed to web pages, mobile-device apps, wearables, and medical devices. CaaS can power store displays, public kiosks, digital signage, chatbots, smart cars, connected appliances, voice-enabled assistants, and almost any new channel that may appear in the future.

By investing in the creation of content optimized to be delivered as a service, technical documentation, training, and other product information that you provide to users of your knowledge center can be made available as a subscription service to others inside and outside your organization. The goal is to create compelling, competitive advantage from the content you create.

Your customer support team, for instance, could be made more productive and effective by subscribing to your content, allowing you to develop capabilities that allow you to serve up relevant information directly into the call center management platform they use, preventing them from wasting time jumping back-and-forth from system to system in search of answers for your customers.

Your sales teams could benefit from a similar approach. You could deliver the content they need to the interface where they spend most of their time, inside Salesforce or your customer relationship management system.

Medical device manufacturers could make their content available to the network of medical devices connected to the Internet of Things, serving up the right piece of content to the right person on the medical device they are using.

CaaS requires us to produce granular, structured, modular, semantically rich components of intelligent content, the type of content that the Astoria Component Content Management System (CCMS) prefers. The Astoria CCMS relies on content rich in metadata to determine which pieces of content to personalize. Previous product purchases, market segment, role, level of expertise, stage in the customer journey, language, and other variables are common metadata types the system uses to serve content that uniquely relates to the individual consumer.

Why does CaaS matter? As technology strategist and angel invest, Salim Ismail says, “If you are not disrupting your business or industry, someone else is.”

Organizations that aim to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution focus on developing exponential growth capabilities that allow them to lower the cost of supply exponentially.

It’s about math — and money. Developing new capabilities allow forward-looking organizations to produce new content experiences with fewer input costs, resulting in a more systematic and efficient content production system. Organizations that reduce the marginal cost of adding new content channels realize economies of scale.

Conversion optimization expert and growth strategist Alex Birkett says it’s “bad business” to squander resources on content production tasks that could be better handled — more consistently, more accurately, and less expensively — through automation and intelligent content.

If you are not disrupting your business or industry, someone else is.

Salim Ismail

“If you can produce a cheap piece of content that gets the same or better results than an expensive one, why would you waste the resources on an expensive one?” asks Birkett.

Taking the math and money example a bit further, business leaders who develop CaaS capabilities can more easily expand their global reach by localizing content to make it more meaningful, appropriate, and useful for a particular culture, locale, or market. CaaS provides a framework that helps us to serve and laser-target groups of consumers from different markets around the world.

The value of CaaS is not in its technical capabilities. Its value is the service capabilities it provides.

The value of CaaS is not in its technical capabilities, but rather, its value is found in the service capabilities it can provide. Using CaaS to improve customer experiences is the focus of many global organizations today—and it’s a driver for the changes needed tomorrow.