Breaking Development: Turning Disruption into Transformation

by July 23, 2013

In her presentation at Breaking Development in San Diego CA Sara Wachter-Boettcher shared her views on why organizational change matters and how to embrace rather than fight it. Here's my notes from her talk on Mobile Content(ment): Turning Disruption into Transformation.

  • We're still dealing with organizations that have not accepted the disruption mobile has created today. They want to maintain business as usual.
  • These companies are tacking mobile onto their Web processes which are tacked on their existing processes. They don't want to come to terms with the fact that the Web and mobile have fundamentally changed their businesses.
  • We need to get the organizations we work with the embrace disruption over and over again. A big part of our job now is being a bridge form the known to the unknown. We have to guide people over the bridge.
  • It's easier to set up a wall and separate ourselves from the people who don't understand. But the World and the Web are hopelessly intertwined. We can't wall ourselves off, we have to communicate better.
  • Use content as an opportunity to bridge the gap, to avoid creating these walls.
  • Content is something that goes into Web pages but it is also what comes out of an organization. Content is what comes out of groups. It reveals what their values and beliefs are.
  • We need to bring our organizations along with us. They don't need to know everything we do but the more they know the better we can work together.
  • Organizational change is slow. There is no checklist of features to ship so it can feel like it takes forever.
  • Change management is an ongoing, bit by bit process.

Rethink Your Project Team

  • Most of our teams are on our side of the wall. They have roles we understand and know how to work with.
  • In many cases, lots of other people are involved in creating content for a Web site. We don't need them at every meeting but they can be deeply effected by the design decisions Web teams make.
  • Take the time to understand how people do their jobs, what works for them, what doesn't, how they developed their process, etc. You have to care about the answers to these questions.
  • Have these conversations before you make decisions. It may be time consuming but its better than building something no one will use.
  • Choose participation, not just presentations. Find the different ways you can have conversations.

Break the Page Mindset

  • Content managers are used to thinking about the result of their work as a series of pages on a Website.
  • But what we are building is modules and reusable components. Our content needs to work the same way: focus on structured fields of content not unstructured blobs.
  • People latch onto pages because it gives them some ownership: these pages are mine. It grounds their work while things are constantly changing around them.
  • Protecting your fiefdom is not a good strategy for creating user experiences. The underpants problem: people get so concerned about what is going on inside their organization, they forget about how they are seen by their audiences and customers.
  • People focused on ownership of pages are often only thinking of things form their perspective. Content isn't pages that belong to anyone. Its modules that can be seen anywhere.
  • Focus content creators on building what users actually need. Your site can't be user-centered if your content is self-centered.

Get Uncomfortable

  • Be comfortable working with things you're not comfortable with.
  • You can keep doing what your doing but then things won't change. Our organizations need help.
  • Ask where are we stuck and where are we going? That's where change happens.
  • If we can't change our organizations, we won't be able to make the things we believe in.
  • Use content as your catalyst. Extend it beyond any particular individual.