By Scott Decker

Your Pet Cats Must Go

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To be very clear, no cats will be harmed in the writing of this post. It’s just that we have to move on from pet cats – projects or platforms that no longer work for us.

Earlier this year, I wrote an article for CMI that asks whether content is a sustainable competitive advantage. In that article, I refer to someone who influences my thinking, Rita Gunther McGrath. In her book The End of Competitive Advantage, McGrath discusses, among other things, the idea that, today, competitive advantage is transient. She encourages businesses to think about moving in and out of “arenas” in order to remain competitive. In short, she argues that it is our ability to adapt and change – not necessarily what we adapt and change into – that gives us a competitive advantage.

I’m thinking about this again this week after talking with some people at a large enterprise about their content platform strategy. Over the last 18 months, this company has embraced a few initiatives related to content-driven customer experiences. One was a separate blog and social program developed to educate technical buyers around a new product and approach that, 18 months later, was no longer new. They had dedicated a well-heeled team to this approach, including two technical writers, a content strategist, a social media “community manager,” and an editor. There was only one problem.

It wasn’t working any more.

The platform wasn’t attracting new subscribers. The content was adequate, but more and more of it was being used in other areas of the business. The traffic and purpose of the whole platform had become unclear. Further, the company needed more resources for another innovative content-driven idea.

VP: “How do I make a business case for adding headcount for this new idea?”

Me: “Why not just kill the blog and pivot the people working on it to work on this new idea?”

VP: “Ohhhh, we can’t do that. Those folks are on the VP of E-Business’ team. If we move them, he loses that project and the people on it. He won’t give them up.”

Me: “So the business is going to hire unproven people for the innovative thing and keep the skilled, proven people on the antiquated, unproductive thing?”

VP: “Right.”

That old blog is a pet cat. It has to go.

Not every content platform we stand up succeeds. And not every successful content platform succeeds forever. We often talk about our need to stand up new content platforms in an agile and flexible way. Heck, look at the home page of every enterprise content management platform. This the overt promise of all of them. But just as important is our ability, when appropriate, to dismantle and disassemble those platforms and to recycle, reuse, and reintegrate important bits of that content back into the business.

A scalable strategy – one that provides a sustainable competitive advantage – doesn’t always mean building and adding. It can mean unbuilding and subtracting too. Removing things.

Like the cats that have roamed the halls for too long.

 


This article originally appeared on LinkedIn and has been republished with permission.

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By Scott Decker
Scott Decker is the President and Founder of PublishThis. Before PublishThis, he led technology at Edmunds.com, Blue Nile, and development solutions for the government. When he’s not running PublishThis, the industry’s most advanced content platform, he’s exploring new technologies, preparing for next Halloween, or watching something with superheroes, dinosaurs, or at least a lot of explosions.