I struggled with how to title this post as it may (as you read on) not be about what you think in terms of personalization. I’m using this as a catch-all that I’m hopeful you’ll understand as you read on.
Lately, I’ve been invigorated by discussions and research on vendors that are working hard to deliver solutions that adapt to the way customers buy, or the way users want to consume information. These can take a variety of forms from demos that you tailor to the buying team, personalized Web pages, collaboration tools, or other forms of “adaptive” systems. All of this work made me think back to one of my old companies, one of the first Web content management vendors, and a slew of other “content systems” I saw through the years.
Back then, our coolest capability (in my opinion) was the ability to easily adapt Web pages based on the role of the viewer. Ideal for intranets and extranets, we emphasized the ability to deliver the content people wanted in the way they wanted. That has been the promise of many systems through the years and continues to be for this new generation of solutions. It is an important, high value, promise.
But there is a problem–a big one.
It is really hard for content owners or creators to figure out how to create content for this user-centric world. Sure, I can “chunk” things up, but when the assembly is dynamic, it is hard to create a flowing coherent story. It also requires a significant investment in understanding the user.
When that is missing, what usually happens isleast common denominator results. The most impactful elements of the product don’t get leveraged, but some of the capabilities that were developed to deliver those capabilities do get used. For us, customers focused more on easy content contribution than role based tailoring. Or, we saw them create personalized content, but much of it was duplicated, creating a versioning nightmare (finding all of the “common elements” when a change or update was needed). Overall, we were moderately, vs. wildly, successful as a result.
As I see a re-emergence of these systems it points to the continued value of the approach. But it also highlights that there is work to be done. For companies creating these capabilities, invest more resources in understanding (and teaching) how to create content for this new world. Be sure your demonstrations present a great example of the experience—and be clear on what it takes to maket that happen. Provide examples, training, consulting, etc. whatever it takes. The “How” really matters.
And be persistent. Don’t give up. Don’t settle, and help your customers not settle. Nothing great is ever easy. Cracking this code matters now more than ever.
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