The Role of Content Administration in Governance

The role of content administration in governance

Content administration is an important dimension of content governance. It offers powerful capabilities, but its benefits are not always fully appreciated. 

Michael AndrewsPublished on Apr 22, 2021

Policies and processes support governance by guiding how people make decisions in a consistent way. Yet some routine decisions can be built into the systems that people use so they don’t need to specify these choices repeatedly. That’s the role of content administration: to set enterprise-wide standards for the CMS and related systems to promote consistent governance.

What content administration does

Content administration is the aspect of governance that shapes the systems your enterprise uses to support its content operations, especially those parts that are employee-facing. Content administration governance is broader than simply implementing the functionality of a content management system. It influences the organizational design of enterprise content operations. Too often, content administration decisions are made in isolation by individual teams, without consideration for how to structure them optimally to support the wider goals of the enterprise.

Governance should address how systems will support operations so that they function coherently and seamlessly, taking into account how your enterprise is structured. 

Like policies and processes, content administration requires enterprise-wide decision making and agreement. But where policies and processes largely focus on what people need to do, content administration is more focused on what systems need to do. It involves deciding how to standardize:

  • The platforms that everyone across the enterprise uses
  • The processes that rely on those platforms 

Content administration decisions embrace aspects of both system design and organizational design. It reflects agreements about how to manage and share enterprise content. Different business units must be willing to adopt common specifications and standards for content systems. 

Benefits of administrative governance

Enterprise-wide content administration provides unified governance for many foundational decisions influencing content operations. 

A common problem in large enterprises is that different parts of the organization develop content in isolation. They may not know what is being done elsewhere or may feel left behind. They may be unable to use something they need or have to wait to get access to it.

By having content administration as part of the governance framework, implementation decisions are considered at the enterprise level, which ensures they work cohesively for everyone. 

Content administration supports governance in three broad areas. It allows the enterprise to:

  1. Prevent errors and conflicts in how content resources are managed.
  2. Enhance the agility of the enterprise’s content operations.
  3. Promote greater maturity in working with content. 

Both individual staff and the enterprise benefit—when done correctly, content administration maximizes enterprise capabilities while reducing the complexity that individual staff have to work with. Staff only see features and choices they need, instead of all options that are available across the enterprise. Essential decisions are preset, so staff don’t have to deal with them constantly. 

Enterprise-wide content administration improves operational capabilities by allowing different central teams and divisions to:

  • Share content resources and avoid duplication.
  • Scale initiatives by making it easier to deploy new capabilities and resources.
  • Streamline operations by reducing the manual coordination between different groups.

These capabilities promote consistency by different groups and across different channels.

Consider a common problem facing large enterprises: duplication. Different business units duplicate the work of other units because their content operations are managed separately. Either they recreate existing content or duplicate that content, having multiple copies in different places. When content is duplicated in many places, it makes it harder to retire old content.

When duplication is a habitual pattern—necessitating the recreation of the operational setup in multiple places—enterprises have a harder time implementing global changes. Central teams don’t want to replicate changes across different systems, as it slows down agility. To realize the benefits of scale, they want to implement one change that’s available globally throughout the enterprise. 

Topics and decisions for administrative governance

While often simple on a small scale, content administration becomes more intricate when addressed at a larger scale. Enterprise-wide content administration delivers more sophisticated capabilities, but it needs to take into account the diverse range of needs that various stakeholders have. 

Enterprise content administration coordinates the activities managed by central teams with those managed by teams in independent business units. One of the major considerations is how to balance the discretion granted to local projects with the need for central control. For example, how should local, regional websites align with or differ from the main website? 

Content administration focuses on architectural decisions that influence the organization of content operations, such as:

  1. Enterprise content model
  2. Content collections
  3. User groups
  4. Access and permissions
  5. Standard workflows

The enterprise content model provides a commonly defined structure for content that allows interoperability of content created by different parts of the enterprise.

The delineation of content collections allows teams to group items of content that have a similar thematic or business focus, so they are managed in the same way. For example, it can define the focus of specific projects such as a marketing campaign. Collections also enable the sharing of content between different teams. All the content related to the campaign can be included within that collection so that any team that needs access to that content can use it. 

The specification of user groups such as teams will govern the contributions and collaboration by different roles to support the production of content.

The designation of access and permission settings define what roles can do what tasks. For example, role-based access would define what content or tasks that translators have access to.

Content administration also specifies baseline workflows for a user group or content type: the basic work patterns that are accommodated. For example, the workflow standards will answer when and how translation fits into the workflow. 

As mentioned earlier, content administration influences the organizational design of content operations. It requires balancing the benefits of standardization with the desire for flexibility, clearly distinguishing options that are widely useful from those that might be necessary for a few. For example, it must weigh the advantages of following a uniform standardized content model versus allowing a more flexible model. It will assess the value of universal workflows compared to more customizable ones. And it will consider the utility of having all content centrally managed compared to allowing separate projects that are somewhat autonomous.

Successful content administration must be able to support varied circumstances. It will consider:

  • The sensitivity of the content and the need to control access to it
  • The mix of roles supporting different teams
  • The maturity of different teams

Ultimately, the choices made should enable better coordination between different roles, resources, and organizational units. 

Contributors to content administration decision making

Content administration entails technical decisions that have a broad impact on everyone in the enterprise who works with content. Both technical and non-technical perspectives should be represented when developing content administration governance.

Technically oriented staff such as content managers and IT architects have the knowledge to evaluate and explain the available settings and their benefits—details that may seem arcane to non-technical employees. But non-technical employees are essential to provide the user perspective on what procedural choices they want preset. Users don’t want to make routine decisions; they want the settings to take care of that. But because these settings become fixed when standardized, it’s crucial that they don’t create any unintended barriers to operations.

A governance working group with a specialized focus on content administration can invite input on relevant business and user requirements. Content administration standards won’t generally require much governance committee involvement, except when big changes are introduced to how work is done. But the working group must have balanced representation so that different parts of the enterprise are aligned around the choices made.

Written by

Michael Andrews

I’m Content Strategy Evangelist at I appreciate the value of great content. My mission is to help others produce the best content they can.

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