If I’ve learned one thing building systems over the years, it’s this: if you build it, people will misuse it. Ask any product manager and they’ll tell you about some of the strangest bugfixes you’ve ever imagined. All because people are unpredictable.
Developing content services is no different. You define the business use cases. You thoroughly document how to use content services for analysts and developers. You put in place 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.
While normal and expected, don’t ignore it. Something has clearly been overlooked when defining or documenting content services – often both. When faced with unexpected use of content services, it is essential to assess why this is happening, correct the data and improve it to meet 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 facilitates their use by the organization because they correspond to the mental model of the company. It also makes it easy for the content platform to know what to do with the incoming content.
It also seems like the perfect opportunity to ensure proper use of content. Yet appearances can be deceptive.
When authoring content services, they are mapped to the more generic APIs of the underlying content engine. During this process we apply trade rules. This appears to be an opportunity to prevent the misuse of content services.
However, when creating these rules, you cannot restrict all possible use cases. Implementing too many restrictions will quickly make content services too picky and difficult to use. This limits their adoption and groups will look for easier ways to store content.
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Monitor your content services to understand usage
Let’s be clear: you can’t stop content services from being misused. Instead, plan to learn how they’re 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.
The earliest possible time to capture reliable data is when groups take advantage of pre-production or staging environments. Even then, there will be a lot of experimentation and random data, so it will be difficult to draw any conclusions. The best you can do is look for behavior change and find out what is changing.
You won’t be able to really assess the actual deviation from expectations 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 early on. Then start the analysis early, to establish a baseline. Watch for trends and when you see a spike in new behavior, investigate why.
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Learn from user behavior
People quickly complain about developers when things go wrong. It is seldom the fault of the developers. However, unexpected use of your content services can be a good thing. You learn what people really need from your content services.
Maybe people save the same document more than once. This may mean that you need to be able to link existing documents to additional locations – a feature common to many content platforms and a common need in my day-to-day work. Do your content services offer this functionality?
When you discover these behaviors, take the opportunity to reconnect with the teams using your content services. Find out what problem they were trying to fix when the new behavior appeared. Determine if there is another way to fix it using content services or if you need to build a new capacity.
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It’s not practical to know every app that leverages your organization’s content services with the same depth as the people who create those apps. But by analyzing and understanding the content of your system, you can learn more about the business. Most importantly, you can take these lessons and improve the services you provide across the organization.
Because when you find a group that needs a new feature, other groups are likely to need the same capacity. Adding these capabilities to all of your content services buys 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 effective content services.
Laurence Hart is Director of Consulting Services at CGI Federal, and is focused on leading the digital transformation efforts that contribute to the success of her clients. A recognized leader in content management and information governance, Laurence has more than two decades of experience in solving the challenges organizations face when implementing and deploying solutions. information.