All the energy and investment you commit to automating digital experiences at scale may be for naught if you’ve failed to pay adequate attention to the content supply chain.

Why? Because the content supply chain is the rate limiter to digital marketing maturity. Targeting and personalizing experiences requires content—lots of it, in many different forms, for many different audiences, engaging across many different channels. Managing this madness becomes an exercise in combinatorial complexity that requires a more rigorous approach to your content strategy.

Wrangling this vast proliferation of content is one of the reasons Gartner has seen a surge in interest in digital asset management (DAM), a category that’s been kicking around for some time. Gartner analyst Andrew Frank and I recently published a Market Guide for Digital Asset Management (subscription required) to help clients identify the right DAM tooling to address their specific requirements.

But, of course, the solution is almost never found in technology alone. To fulfill the duty of content in context, we require a different approach to how content is created and managed in the first place.

Gartner analyst Chris Ross calls this atomic content, where monolithic content assets are deconstructed into more modular units that can be reused, composed and recomposed to create personalized or contextually relevant experiences.

This atomization of content begins with an architecture for how your content is created and managed. And like any good architecture, that requires with a clear understanding of how the content will be used.

I spent some time in the byzantine world of SOA—services oriented architecture—which was (and is) an approach to the modularization of IT and business services designed and managed for the purpose of reuse and maintainability. The premise was (and is) to design this architecture from the outside in, beginning with clear understanding of demand and then architecting reusable services through the lens of how and where they’ll be used. Once these services are made available, they help improve responsiveness by enabling self-service use cases and a scalable model for centralized maintenance.

Why am I talking about such arcane things? Because the same principles apply to your content supply chain. It requires an architectural way of thinking, which begins with a clear understanding of the demand side—in this case, all of the consuming applications and experiences enabled by your segmentation, targeting and personalization strategy.

One of the things you’ll quickly figure out is that, the finer you parse, the greater pressure you exert on the content supply chain. With true personalization, you may actually find that the juice isn’t quite worth the squeeze (credit to Chris Ross for this phrase, which I’ve adopted wholesale).

Which is why, in some cases, true personalization—the individualization of the experience—is overkill. Often, its personification—or segment-based targeting—that you’re after.

Either way, if your goal is to deliver an experience something better than one size fits all—or worse, all sizes fit none—you need to treat your content strategy as more than a hand wave. You need an architectural approach to your content supply chain.