What Do Enterprise Content Management and Six Sigma Have in Common?

Content Factory

It’s All About the Factory Floor

First, a quick refresher on Six Sigma. If you’ve ever worked for a brand that made something tangible—a car, a laptop, a tube of lipstick, or a bag of chips—you’ve likely heard the term. Created by Motorola USA employees in the late ’80s, Six Sigma aims to document and improve manufacturing practices. It’s commonly linked to the older, Japanese-born Lean, a related strategy focused on reducing eight types of waste. (More on waste in a minute.) Holistically, Lean Six Sigma reigns supreme in optimizing manufacturing processes for speed, efficacy, and throughput.

Great, you say, but I don’t work in manufacturing. I work in marketing. I work with content: words, images, videos, channels, sites, and platforms. I don’t work in a dirty, noisy factory.

Well, I hate to tell you, but you are wrong. Content is a product, and all products are produced. Therefore, you work in a content factory. Yes, you may have traded conveyor belts for APIs and assemblers for copywriters, but the end results are the same: You are assembling parts of a whole to produce a single, compiled outcome. It doesn’t matter if that outcome is a webpage, a social post, an infographic, or a keynote video.

Let’s take this blog, for example. It started as a concept, but quickly progressed through production-stage gates: approved concept, brief, outline, draft, reviewed draft. It went through rigorous quality assurance reviews: development edit, copyedit, SME approval, staging URL review. And finally, near the end, its companion components were tacked on: hero image, byline, author bio, social thumb, and summary. All to produce a single unit of output—the blog article you are currently reading.

So now that we’ve established that you do, indeed, work in a factory, you can begin to see where Lean Six Sigma comes in.

As content is created and assembled via a process, naturally we begin to look for ways to optimize that process. There are a myriad of tools in the Lean Six Sigma toolbox that apply to content creation, from DMAIC (define, measure, analyze, improve, and control) to SIPOC (suppliers, inputs, process, outputs, customers), as well as the 5 Whys and Histograms.

My personal favorite place to start a content-factory assessment? “Downtime” modeling for finding waste reduction opportunities.

Waste: It’s Not What You Think It Is

In developing the Lean methodology, Toyota engineer Shigeo Shingo, defined common types of waste  found in manufacturing processes. These were later aligned to the pneumonic “downtime” for easier recall.

D-EFECTS: When things are just wrong. How often is product copy inaccurate? When are your images and logo the wrong resolution? Are customers telling you your support FAQs are non-sensical?

O-VERPRODUCTION: We know that 80 percent of B2B content sits in a sales enablement platform unread. Do you know what you already have that may just need updating, versus creating net-new? Is the same content created in silos by three different teams?

W-AITING: How long are you waiting on approvals? Who is the biggest bottleneck, and do they really need to review every change?

N-ON-VALUE ADD PROCESSING (OVERPROCESSING): Similar to overproduction, but not quite. Overproduction looks at the resulting number of outputs, or the volume of end-products. Overprocessing looks at how many hands touch a single output, and asks can/should those number of touches be reduced?

T-RANSPORATION: In content production analysis, we look at the movement of content through delivery systems. Are you making the most of services and APIs to move content from DAMs, PIMs, and CMSs to syndicators and assemblers? Are those movements optimized?

I-NVENTORY: Having 75,000 sales enablement assets in your sales enablement platform not only costs more, but those 73,000 low-value, rarely used assets make it much harder to find the 2,000 high-value, deal-closing assets.

M-OTION: Relating to content, we treat transportation waste and motion waste as the same thing. (I know, DOWNTIE just doesn’t have the same ring to it as DOWNTIME.)

E-MPLOYEE KNOWLEDGE: The are two scenarios in which we commonly find employee knowledge waste:

  • First, your content processes are broken, causing highly capable employees to spend their time and energy on low-value tasks like reminder emails and managing versioning issues. Fixing production issues unshackles these employees to do the higher thinking you originally hired them for.
  • Second, an individual is using their exclusive knowledge of a broken process or legacy platform as job security. They hold the keys to the publishing castle—they alone know the workaround necessary to actually get something up on the website—and aren’t about to share. It’s no different than the factory engineer that keeps his homemade widget that fixes the assembly line in his own toolbox, rather than actually correcting the root cause of the problem.

Once you’ve identified where waste exists in your current content production processes, you can immediately begin tackling the low-hanging fruit that can be fixed with minimal effort—and you can employ other Six Sigma tools to better understand the more complex, nuanced issues at play.

To find out if you have waste in your content factory, or to learn about my second favorite Lean Six Sigma tool for content operations analysis, SIPOC, contact the Content Services team at Concentrix Catalyst today. We’re here to help you get the most ROI out of your content investments.

Headshot - Marli Latimer-modified

Marli Larimer

Associate Director of Content Operations and Production