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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:  October 28, 2010

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0  License


Museums and the Web 2003 Papers

Beyond "Availability": Content Productivity
Still A Key Challenge Facing Museums in 2004

Phil Locke, Victoria & Albert Museum, London, United Kingdom


Delivering information to multiple audiences can be time consuming and costly. This task becomes increasingly complex as an organization grows its content and as new content sources and delivery channels are continuously added. To maintain high productivity while ensuring consistency, it is necessary to reuse content across delivery channels whenever possible. Without the ability to efficiently manage content reuse, an organization creates a complicated, delicate web of information that can quickly fall victim to change. 

In today's multi-channel world, the key to efficient content reuse lies in the ability to proactively manage content relationships and to implement change across all channels, quickly, easily and by non-technical staff.  he Victoria and Albert Museum has just finished phase1 of a large exercise to maximize and manage the information flow when content meets technology, via a new Enterprise Content Management delivery system for its Web site. After 5 months preparing a Technical Requirements Specification based upon past experiences, the V&A now has a practical ECM solution that enables efficient content reuse and cost-effective delivery across multiple channels.  

This paper will show how the V&A's new ECM system speeds delivery of content by publishing optimized and re-useable content directly to delivery applications - whether this be the Web, Intranet or as a document or gallery interactive. 

Keywords: content management systems, content re-use, Victoria & Albert Museum, Enterprise Content Management (ECM)


The goal of Enterprise Content Management (ECM) solutions is to enable Museums to improve the management of the estimated 80% of information that is unstructured content.  ECM solutions have been available for several years, begging the question of what problems remain to be solved in 2004 and beyond. 

Phase One Solution: Moving Content from Multiple Places to One Place

For most Museums content resides in multiple places:

  • end user desktops
  • departmental applications
  • enterprise applications

As a result, finding and delivering the right content to multiple audiences is a complex challenge.   The first generation of ECM solutions solved this problem, content availability, by getting all the content into a single system.   However, by centralizing the content, only one part of the problem was solved: finding it. It did nothing to solve the problem of creating and managing audience-specific content.  Content availability centric solutions required creating multiple copies of the content for each audience - which, in turn, created a content maintenance nightmare. 

Resulting Phase One Problem: Content Chaos

Museums facing this content maintenance nightmare must wrestle with the needless proliferation of multiple, inconsistent copies of content, which causes these further problems:

  • Additional copies of the same content needlessly increases the volume of information (which is already growing exponentially);
  • Significant amount of time is wasted with repetitive approval cycles;
  • Content that is created as a derivative of the original content is difficult to find and update;
  • Content errors and inconsistencies are proliferated making it hard to ensure accuracy;
  • Linking related content together and managing the lifecycle implications, especially if one part changes, are impossible, which further prevents achieving accuracy and timeliness goals;
  • Increased instances of broken links on Web sites.

One approach to solving this problem has been to focus on multiple channels as different output types.  But multiple file formats are not the same as multi-channel delivery of content to multiple audiences.  Content itself must be modified for different audiences - not just its format and/or file type.  For example, a Personnel Department's employee benefits information is provided in detail on the Museums internal intranet, but is summarized on the public web site for prospective job applicants.   

Phase Two: Solving Content Productivity

Beyond content availability, content productivity allows Museums to reuse their content in the most efficient manner. Industry analysts estimate that duplication of effort and failure to reuse content adds approximately 65% to the content overhead in most organizations.  Solving the content reuse challenge with content productivity capabilities provides the missing link for ECM users.  

The Benefits of a Content Productivity Approach

In order to improve content productivity, ECM vendors must focus on how to make content reuse easier and more efficient.  By providing capabilities that solve content productivity challenges, Museums will be able to significantly reduce content chaos and achieve substantial benefits:

  • The delivery of consistent, accurate content to both existing and new audiences;
  • Improved employee productivity because content owners are empowered to easily create and manage audience-specific content;
  • Reduced costs since finding, updating and maintaining content (both the original and all related derivations) are now possible;
  • Increased "customer" satisfaction because information is both timely and accurate; and,
  • Improved regulatory and legal compliance because content is both accurate and consistent.

Content Productivity: A Driver for 2004

As 2004 unfolds, more and more enterprises will shift from content availability systems provided by document management-centric solutions to reuse-centric ECM solutions, as their need to support multiple content channels drives their requirements for high-reuse content.  The ECM solutions that have focused on content reuse are typically Web-centric solutions, since organizations need this to support their multiple Web-based initiatives (e.g., Internet sites and departmental intranets).  Museums which find and implement ECM solutions that can deliver high content productivity via easy, efficient content reuse will shorten their time-to-value and thereby gain the full benefits of optimized ECM. 

Yesterday's ECM challenge was content availability.  Tomorrow's challenge is solving content productivity by providing efficient content reuse. 

Looking forward to 2004 and beyond, the ECM spotlight will shift from content availability to content productivity.  ECM solutions must address the unique set of content productivity problems by providing efficient content reuse capabilities.

This workshop will include further information and examples on:

  • De-Coupled Delivery for cost-effective delivery to multiple audiences and channels;
  • Impact Analysis to assess the effect of content changes before making them live;
  • Intelligent Relationships for proactively managing content dependencies and connections; and
  • Active Assembly, a graphical user interface for enabling departmental users to easily reuse and re-purpose content.