Content strategy Up the Content Strategy Maturity Model

Published on November 14th, 2011 | by Rahel Bailie


Is it time for a content strategy maturity model?

Many of us are familiar with the concept of maturity models. (We’ll ignore, for now, that maturity models come up most often when someone wants to tell us we’re trying to accomplish something the wrong way.) From Carnegie Mellon’s capability maturity model, an approach to improving software development processes, to the information maturity model from MIKE2.0, which focuses on the maturity of data management, to the information process maturity model from the Information Management Center, we’ve seen enough development of content development processes to be able to make certain predictions.

Maturity models are a gauge for how developed an industry is, how established and repeatable their processes are, and how much the processes look at the future, at expansion, and strategic development. Hmmm, sound a lot like content strategy?  I posit, then, that the field of content strategy is ready for its own maturity model. It’s been around for over a decade now – in fact, we’ll see the second edition of Ann Rockley’s seminal work, Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy, hit the bookstores in the not-too-distance future – and we’re starting to see variations of content strategy come together into a multi-modal discipline that crosses organzational silos.

What, then, could a content strategy maturity model look like? Here’s one way of viewing such a model. I’m very interested in feedback from practitioners. Your thoughts?

Content Strategy Maturity Model

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

8 Responses to Is it time for a content strategy maturity model?

  1. rahelab says:

    I’m not the first person to think of this. A quick search turned up eBay’s presentation at Congility 2011 on multilingual content strategies that included that very topic: I think we’re both in the same ballpark.

  2. Thanks for posting these thoughts, Rahel. My initial response: at the strategic level, I would erase digital and replace user with customer.

    If an organization has fully integrated content management into their organizational processes, it’s not just about digital strategy, but about organizational strategy. It’s how the messages and content integrate across print, digital, and in-person and across all customer touch points. It’s a huge task, but we can dream, right?

    I’m curious about others’ thoughts as well.

  3. Noz Urbina says:

    Hi Rahel,

    Yes, a CSMM (note your diagram says CCMM) is very attractive. I would agree with both of Katie’s comments on this post.

    Also, although I think it’s great that you’ve started, it only whets the appetite. Something as complex as defining organisational maturity is out of the scope of such boxes (or octogons), so I hope we’re going to see follow-up posts with what you envisage as the fuller description of the levels!

    Based on what’s here, what struck me most was the ‘recognised for its complexity and impact on user experience’. I’m thinking about who is doing the recognising: To get to stage 3 and 4 – specifically if we assume that since silos are mentioned in 2 and the assumedly less of an issue in 3 and 4 – many, many people will have had to make this recognition already. Unless people recognise the complexity then the appropriate checks, balances, processes and even tools are near impossible to put in place so that we can manage.

    I think that the recognition concept has to considered to be on a sliding scale all along the model. The more mature, the more recognition of those two points has permeated – specifically at the executive level.

    I’d suggest that this recognition might be good on your horizontal access, and is more relevant and central than the current ‘Organizationl Condifence’ which I think is a bit vague anyway.

    I think it makes sense that as understanding of complexity and impact increases, if the organisation is to develop, CS must mature as a function of it.

    Noz – // @nozurbina

  4. Marko Hurst says:

    I built the CS maturity model for HUGE that we recently started using with clients. It follows the same general path you have here, as most do, but the 5 levels of maturity span across 8 dimensions (CS skills areas) of Content Strategy we use at HUGE.

    Like any solid maturity program we seek to:
    • Develop capabilities
    • Build team competency & culture
    • Motivate and manage performance
    • Shape the organization

    We’ve started to use internally for every client to better access what a client is really prepared for and design a better fitted solution, which has been really great. This is down and dirty and can be done in a very short amount of time.

    Not every client is ready for it though, those that are one-offs have no need. Large and long-term clients seem to be more open. And we’ve see it as valuable tool to sell and plan for more future work, as a simple output acts very nicely as a roadmap, which itself can become a project.

  5. In general I think these stages are great. This kind of thing will really help content strategists talk about where an organization is in terms of their relationship to their content.

    In level 4 you mention technology, and I understand why you do, but I would caution against that. It’s possible that the technology maturity and the process maturity are on different tracks, a situation that I think has often arisen when CMS vendors lead organizations to believe that the newest technology is going to solve all of their content creation problems.

    Level 5 seems a bit more abstract than the other 4, and seems like it might be out of place. I think this is probably due to the things that Noz mentioned about “recognition” – that has to be happening at various stages (though, of course, to varying degrees). Isn’t it possible for content to be a key part of the strategy but not be maturely handled? Recognition doesn’t seem like the pinnacle of the organization-content relationship.

    I can’t wait to see future iterations of this!

  6. Yes, it’s time! This example is a great start.

    To Katie’s point, every aspect of communication, marketing, etc. will be digital if they’re not already, so I’m fine with focusing on digital. For the organization with an important print component, one could always tweak this.

    Some of the descriptions could be tweaked, as Noz and Rachel point out, but, ultimately, the descriptions depend on the organization. That’s yet another reason why content strategy often requires close consultation, not a one-and-done project.

    P.S. Love “create and fling.”

  7. Pingback: Dodging the dragons of content strategy « Content Curated By Darin R. McClure & a few photos

  8. Pingback: Your guide to content strategy maturity models | Leading Technical Communication

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