20 year content strategy veteran, Sharon Burton. Sharon Burton consults about content strategy, content business issues, social media and managing post-sales customer experience issues.

The cost of developing content (part 6)

The cost of developing content (part 6)
The cost of developing content (part 6)
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In previous articles, I talked about the costs of creating content in Word, in unstructured Frame or InDesign, the cost reductions in topic-based authoring, and the costs of localization using each tool. I’ve also covered the costs of purchasing and implementing these tools.

Change management

Douglas Adams said: “Change is good. You go first.”

Change management is one of the tougher parts of this process. The business case is clear, the money saved and the cost avoided is clear. What’s murky is how to change the processes to support the new content-development paradigm.

In other words: How do you get people to change how they do what they’re doing? There’s an entire industry on studying change management. We can take away some common-sense steps to help. For me, it’s always about setting expectations.

Internal to your content development team

Your content development team needs to buy into the new way of doing things. I don’t mean they’re going to sing happy songs, but they need to see that, while it’s going to be painful for a bit, this is a better way to do their jobs.

Typically, this goes more smoothly if you involve the team in the process of changing and helping to solve the change management issues. Make sure you support people who are nervous about the change so that they understand there is nothing to fear.

Understand that productivity is going to be hit for perhaps as long as 6 months while everyone gets up to speed. Consider implementing the new methods on a new project with the most confident or experienced person. Set those expectations with management.

Set your team up for success.

And understand that some people can’t or won’t make the change. If, after, say, 6 months, you have a team member still whining about how much better the old way was, it may be time for The Talk. Find out what they’re afraid of and make it clear that this is the way it’s done now. If, after a year, they still can’t make the change, it may be time to let them go. They may be very unhappy too.

External to your content development team

In my experience, the content development team is usually excited about a better way to work. They’re willing to examine and change processes to make things better.

The touchpoint groups typically are not as excited.

In my experience, the touchpoint groups are the hardest to change. For example, your reviewers are not usually happy with the review process in general. They don’t like it and find it a waste of their time. Asking them to change it just brings to mind how much they don’t like any part of it anyway.

But this group typically has to change as well.

For example, this group may say they prefer to review in Word, which may no longer be efficient for your team to create, since they no longer work in Word. But the reviewers don’t want to learn a new way. They like the old way that they never liked.

You may need a higher power

Getting this group on board can be tough. Some ways to help them with the change is to also get them involved in what a better process would involve. Make suggestions to them about new processes, based on what’s possible with the new tools. Make the process change about streamlining the review process to help them. Set the expectations.

At some point, you need management and higher-ups involved to make sure that the new processes work in the environment. Management can also help lay down the law, if needed. You hate to have to do that, but sometimes it’s required.

Almost finished with the widget

We’re really close. My developer just has a few more things to get done and we’re ready for beta.


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By Sharon Burton


  1. And I was just woirdenng about that too!

  2. Sharon, you’re right again. I think that understanding the effect of change on people, and learning to manage it, is incredibly important for content managers AND content developers. The content managers are helping implement new tools, and the content developers are often documenting new ways of doing things. As technical communicators, we’re so often delivering the “yes, I know you used to do it that way, but now…” conversation!

    That is why the Technical Communicators Association of NZ biennial conference is themed “Communicating Change”. What are you doing in October?! I know you’d love a trip to Christchurch… We’re calling for presenters at the moment.

    • Sharon Burton

      I wish I could plan that far ahead right now. But there is always presenting remotely, thru skype, for example?

      But boy oh boy, would I love to come back and see some of the south island this time.

  3. Quite simply, this is one of the best things (articles, presentations, etc.) I’ve ever seen on the topic of introducing change to a Tech Comm organization. Thanks, Sharon.

    In our field, change is inevitable. So we want to create a culture in which people overcome their natural resistance to change. Following this advice will go a long way toward creating that culture.

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