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Productive content creation in higher education: Bridging silos for better collaboration

Productive content creation in higher education: Bridging silos for better collaboration

5 minute read

Productive content creation in higher education: Bridging silos for better collaboration

5 minute read

Productive content creation in higher education: Bridging silos for better collaboration

Paige Toomes

Copywriter and Digital Marketer

Higher education is a complex environment for content. There is a lot of online and offline content to think about — internal documents, course content, website content, marketing, newsletters and email, and of course when the annual task of prospectus content production rolls around.

The process of content creation in universities often involves multiple stakeholders, including

  • Writers
  • Reviewers
  • Subject matter experts
  • Designers
  • Academics and;
  • Increasingly with user-generated content, students

For projects to be successful, there needs to be strong interaction and collaboration across multiple university teams and departments.

Illustrated people in groups to represent higher ed silos such as academics, content team, senior leadership, developers and the legal team.

Silos in the content creation process: an inevitable problem

Silos are formed when information is held in containers that other departments can’t share or get to effectively. In the content creation process, Content Science breaks down different types of silos, including:

  • Content information silos
  • Channel silos
  • Departmental silos
  • Discipline silos within departments

With the coronavirus pandemic and home working, geographical dispersion can lead to more silos — or, it can be an opportunity for us to learn to work better together using the right technology.

Silos get in the way of team collaboration and communication. And the consequences can be startling. Fortune 500 companies are estimated to lose a combined $31.5 billion per year from employees failing to share knowledge effectively.

In higher education, it’s common for losses to occur in content production because of:

  • Too much time spent on content processes
  • Missed opportunities
  • Duplicated work
  • Bottlenecks
  • Lack of accountability  

If your processes aren’t productive, and there’s a disconnect between people, you start to sacrifice quality and consistency in content.  

But silos aren’t something that will just ‘go away.’ It’s a deep issue that is a common and natural part of business growth. Large organisations or organisations that have grown quickly are particularly susceptible to silos.

A realistic approach: Bridging not breaking silos

When people can’t access the information they need to do their best work, silos are a clear problem. But silos do serve their purpose at times. How nightmarish would it be if you overwhelmed everyone with information that is irrelevant to them? We need access permissions and to introduce teams to information gradually.  

The UK Government is known for their work on internal collaboration, and they say on their blog that it’s unrealistic to try and eradicate silos entirely. Instead, we should work towards mastering them for better productivity.

GatherContent recently interviewed content expert Padma Gillen, who has done a lot of work with digital transformation and higher education. He says:

“‍When your organisation gets bigger than a small village, you will have silos. Rather than asking ‘How do we stop working in silos?’ I think a better question is ‘How do we make sure the way we work doesn’t negatively affecting our users?’”

Tips for better collaboration in the content creation process

To create the best content for your users, you need to get your internal systems right to bridge silos effectively. GatherContent talks a lot on the blog about better ContentOps (Content Operations). This is the idea of looking at your people, processes and tools holistically to meet user needs and business goals with content.

Here are some tips on bridging silos, wrangling stakeholders and collaborating better in the content creation process in higher education:

1. Have a shared vision and common goals

If you are collaborating across different teams and departments, one way to encourage knowledge sharing is to give stakeholders and contributors an understanding of how they fit into the bigger picture and have common purposes and goals for content projects.

Start with:

  • A clear brief. You need a clear brief at the start of any content project. This should be thorough and something that everyone can refer back to. Lauren Pope has written an excellent article on the art of the content project brief.

  • Roles and responsibilities. Although everyone will have different roles in the project, if you set these out at the start then this will help towards shared understanding and unified teams. You could use a RACI chart to do this in a collaborative way.

  • Engaging subject matter experts early.  Subject Matter Experts are crucial to the success of a project, but can sometimes be an afterthought. This shouldn’t be the case. Make sure you engage them from the start and try pair writing to work towards common goals.

2. Use workflows for everything

Different understandings of shared business processes will only lead to confusion and collaboration issues. Repeatable workflows are one way of documenting processes and breaking them down into specific phases and tasks.

For a content delivery workflow, get a tool that enables you to have a workflow built in, where you can assign tasks to different people, maintain accountability,  track progress and meet deadlines.

3. Centralise documents

McKinsey studies show that workers spend 28% of their workweek reading and replying to emails, and 19% of their week searching and finding the right information. A large part of this is due to siloed working practices.

To avoid content silos, the right tech is half the battle. Email is probably the worst way to communicate around content. Microsoft Word a close second. Version control is a problem here, and important documents can get lost easily.

A remedy to this is to centralise documents wherever possible to create a single source of truth, where all files related to a project can be stored and accessed in one place.

4. Make sure people can communicate easily

Communication is key to connecting silos in your content production process. Yet Slack’s Future of Work study found:

  • 24% of workers are dissatisfied with communication at work, including how information is shared.
  • 91% of workers are looking to feel closer to their work colleagues.
  • Nearly 85% of workers want to feel more connected with their remote colleagues.

Instant messaging platforms like Slack are great for quick, mobile communication around projects. We use it here at GatherContent. But the multitude of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications available is actually accelerating data silo growth, according to TechTarget,

Often institutions use a combination of tools for content that aren’t purpose-built. You might be using Microsoft Word, along with Asana and G-Suite. This can cause further silos and collaboration issues, so it’s best to keep tools to a minimum for content management and collaboration.

Create a culture of productive collaboration with GatherContent

The key to bridging silos and enabling better collaboration is to build a culture around this within your institution. Remember, it's all about looking at people, processes and technologically holistically. And the technology you use for content creation, as we've talked about, can have a huge impact on your culture.

GatherContent is a complete content operations platform helping hundreds of higher education institutions to plan, create and manage content transparently and efficiently.  It’s a truly collaborative alternative to Microsoft Word and long email chains.

The platform lets you create custom content workflows with status trackers and updates, and the content calendar keeps everyone on track and aware of what others are working on, and when. GatherContent also lets you communicate easily with discussions around projects, with in-line commenting and tagging in the authoring environment.

Illinois State University and Cornell have used GatherContent to connect silos across website redesigns, and continue to use it day-to-day to improve their content. To find out what it can do for your institution, head to the higher education industry page.

Higher education is a complex environment for content. There is a lot of online and offline content to think about — internal documents, course content, website content, marketing, newsletters and email, and of course when the annual task of prospectus content production rolls around.

The process of content creation in universities often involves multiple stakeholders, including

  • Writers
  • Reviewers
  • Subject matter experts
  • Designers
  • Academics and;
  • Increasingly with user-generated content, students

For projects to be successful, there needs to be strong interaction and collaboration across multiple university teams and departments.

Illustrated people in groups to represent higher ed silos such as academics, content team, senior leadership, developers and the legal team.

Silos in the content creation process: an inevitable problem

Silos are formed when information is held in containers that other departments can’t share or get to effectively. In the content creation process, Content Science breaks down different types of silos, including:

  • Content information silos
  • Channel silos
  • Departmental silos
  • Discipline silos within departments

With the coronavirus pandemic and home working, geographical dispersion can lead to more silos — or, it can be an opportunity for us to learn to work better together using the right technology.

Silos get in the way of team collaboration and communication. And the consequences can be startling. Fortune 500 companies are estimated to lose a combined $31.5 billion per year from employees failing to share knowledge effectively.

In higher education, it’s common for losses to occur in content production because of:

  • Too much time spent on content processes
  • Missed opportunities
  • Duplicated work
  • Bottlenecks
  • Lack of accountability  

If your processes aren’t productive, and there’s a disconnect between people, you start to sacrifice quality and consistency in content.  

But silos aren’t something that will just ‘go away.’ It’s a deep issue that is a common and natural part of business growth. Large organisations or organisations that have grown quickly are particularly susceptible to silos.

A realistic approach: Bridging not breaking silos

When people can’t access the information they need to do their best work, silos are a clear problem. But silos do serve their purpose at times. How nightmarish would it be if you overwhelmed everyone with information that is irrelevant to them? We need access permissions and to introduce teams to information gradually.  

The UK Government is known for their work on internal collaboration, and they say on their blog that it’s unrealistic to try and eradicate silos entirely. Instead, we should work towards mastering them for better productivity.

GatherContent recently interviewed content expert Padma Gillen, who has done a lot of work with digital transformation and higher education. He says:

“‍When your organisation gets bigger than a small village, you will have silos. Rather than asking ‘How do we stop working in silos?’ I think a better question is ‘How do we make sure the way we work doesn’t negatively affecting our users?’”

Tips for better collaboration in the content creation process

To create the best content for your users, you need to get your internal systems right to bridge silos effectively. GatherContent talks a lot on the blog about better ContentOps (Content Operations). This is the idea of looking at your people, processes and tools holistically to meet user needs and business goals with content.

Here are some tips on bridging silos, wrangling stakeholders and collaborating better in the content creation process in higher education:

1. Have a shared vision and common goals

If you are collaborating across different teams and departments, one way to encourage knowledge sharing is to give stakeholders and contributors an understanding of how they fit into the bigger picture and have common purposes and goals for content projects.

Start with:

  • A clear brief. You need a clear brief at the start of any content project. This should be thorough and something that everyone can refer back to. Lauren Pope has written an excellent article on the art of the content project brief.

  • Roles and responsibilities. Although everyone will have different roles in the project, if you set these out at the start then this will help towards shared understanding and unified teams. You could use a RACI chart to do this in a collaborative way.

  • Engaging subject matter experts early.  Subject Matter Experts are crucial to the success of a project, but can sometimes be an afterthought. This shouldn’t be the case. Make sure you engage them from the start and try pair writing to work towards common goals.

2. Use workflows for everything

Different understandings of shared business processes will only lead to confusion and collaboration issues. Repeatable workflows are one way of documenting processes and breaking them down into specific phases and tasks.

For a content delivery workflow, get a tool that enables you to have a workflow built in, where you can assign tasks to different people, maintain accountability,  track progress and meet deadlines.

3. Centralise documents

McKinsey studies show that workers spend 28% of their workweek reading and replying to emails, and 19% of their week searching and finding the right information. A large part of this is due to siloed working practices.

To avoid content silos, the right tech is half the battle. Email is probably the worst way to communicate around content. Microsoft Word a close second. Version control is a problem here, and important documents can get lost easily.

A remedy to this is to centralise documents wherever possible to create a single source of truth, where all files related to a project can be stored and accessed in one place.

4. Make sure people can communicate easily

Communication is key to connecting silos in your content production process. Yet Slack’s Future of Work study found:

  • 24% of workers are dissatisfied with communication at work, including how information is shared.
  • 91% of workers are looking to feel closer to their work colleagues.
  • Nearly 85% of workers want to feel more connected with their remote colleagues.

Instant messaging platforms like Slack are great for quick, mobile communication around projects. We use it here at GatherContent. But the multitude of software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications available is actually accelerating data silo growth, according to TechTarget,

Often institutions use a combination of tools for content that aren’t purpose-built. You might be using Microsoft Word, along with Asana and G-Suite. This can cause further silos and collaboration issues, so it’s best to keep tools to a minimum for content management and collaboration.

Create a culture of productive collaboration with GatherContent

The key to bridging silos and enabling better collaboration is to build a culture around this within your institution. Remember, it's all about looking at people, processes and technologically holistically. And the technology you use for content creation, as we've talked about, can have a huge impact on your culture.

GatherContent is a complete content operations platform helping hundreds of higher education institutions to plan, create and manage content transparently and efficiently.  It’s a truly collaborative alternative to Microsoft Word and long email chains.

The platform lets you create custom content workflows with status trackers and updates, and the content calendar keeps everyone on track and aware of what others are working on, and when. GatherContent also lets you communicate easily with discussions around projects, with in-line commenting and tagging in the authoring environment.

Illinois State University and Cornell have used GatherContent to connect silos across website redesigns, and continue to use it day-to-day to improve their content. To find out what it can do for your institution, head to the higher education industry page.

Webinar Recording

Connecting silos in your institution for efficient ContentOps

Understand the elements of ContentOps to connect silos and produce effective content, with insights, stories and examples from renowned universities.

July 11, 2018

7:33 am

Register now

Webinar Recording

Connecting silos in your institution for efficient ContentOps

Understand the elements of ContentOps to connect silos and produce effective content, with insights, stories and examples from renowned universities.

July 11, 2018

7:33 am

Watch now
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About the author

Paige Toomes

Paige is an English Literature and Media graduate from Newcastle University, and over the last three years has built up a career in SEO-driven copywriting for tech companies. She has written for Microsoft, Symantec and LinkedIn, as well as other SaaS companies and IT consulting firms. With an audience-focused approach to content, Paige handles the lifecycle from creation through to measurement, supporting businesses with their content operations.

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