How to Tell if Content Services Are Not Meeting Business Needs
When your content services are used unexpectedly, don’t ignore it. Determine why and correct the problem.
If I’ve learned one thing from building systems over the years, it’s this: if you build it, people will abuse it. Ask any product manager and they’ll tell you about some of the weirdest bug fixes you’ve ever imagined. All because people are unpredictable.
Developing content services is no different. You define business use cases. You thoroughly document how to use content services for analysts and developers. You set up controls to ensure the validity of incoming data.
Then one day you notice that the content stored in the repository does not match the expected patterns.
Although normal and expected, don’t ignore it. Something has been clearly overlooked when defining or documenting content services — often both. In the face of unexpected use of content services, it is essential to assess why it is happening, correct the data and improve it so that it meets the needs of the organization.
Don’t let excessive trade rules cripple innovation
When content services are well designed, they reflect the business processes they support. This makes it easier for the organization to use them because they match the mental model of the business. It also makes it easy for the content platform to know what to do with incoming content.
This also seems like the perfect opportunity to ensure proper use of content. Yet appearances can be deceiving.
When creating content services, they are mapped to the more generic APIs of the underlying content engine. During this process, we apply business rules. This seems like an opportunity to prevent the misuse of content services.
However, when creating these rules, you cannot restrict all possible usage scenarios. Implementing too many restrictions will quickly make content services too finicky and difficult to use. This limits their adoption and groups will look for easier ways to store content.
Related article: Content services come in 3 flavors
Monitor your content services to understand usage
Let’s be clear: you cannot prevent content services from being misused. Instead, plan to learn how they are used. This is what commercial SaaS providers regularly do to improve their services. When you implement content services, you play the same role as these SaaS providers.
As early as possible, you can capture reliable data when bands operate pre-production or staging environments. Even then, there will be a lot of experimentation and random data, so it will be difficult to draw conclusions. The best you can do is seek behavior change and reach out to find out what is changing.
You won’t be able to truly gauge the actual deviation from expectation until content services are used in production. Only by running your analysis in the live system will you get reliable data.
But what are you looking for? Document your usage assumptions from the start. Then start the analysis early, to establish a baseline. Observe trends and when you see a spike in new behaviors, investigate why.
Related article: The Role of Content Services in the Digital Workplace
Learn from user behavior
People are quick to complain about developers when things break. It’s rarely the fault of the developers. However, unexpected usage of your content services can be a good thing. You learn what people actually need from your content services.
Maybe people save the same document multiple times. This may mean that you need to be able to link existing documents to additional locations – a common feature across many content platforms and a common need in my daily work. Do your content services offer this functionality?
When you find these behaviors, use them as an opportunity to reconnect with the teams using your content services. Find out what problem they were trying to solve when the new behavior appeared. Determine if there is another way to solve it using Content Services or if you need to create a new feature.
It’s not practical to know about every app that leverages your organization’s content services with the same depth as the people who build those apps. But by analyzing and understanding the contents of your system, you can learn more about the business. More importantly, you can learn from these lessons and improve the services you provide to the entire organization.
Because when you find a group that needs a new feature, other groups will likely need the same feature. Adding these features to all your content services requires a lot of goodwill and trust.
So do your analysis. Look for these anomalies. Adjust behaviors. Correct the data. And take the opportunity to provide your organization with more efficient content services.