Breaking the Content Maintenance Routine

By Paul Chin

Originally published in Intranet Journal's Chin Music (12-May-2008)

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Thousands of spectators line up at Churchill Downs to watch the Kentucky Derby, but not everyone's as willing to clean the stables and feed the horses.

Content maintenance—adding, filing, archiving, and filtering information—is one of those intranet housekeeping activities considered crucial, but those holding the position often regard their job with disdain. A reader once admitted to me in an email that, after three years as a content manager, her most challenging part of the day was staying awake long enough to go to lunch. Doesn't sound like a very fulfilling job, does it?

Why is it so many content managers who contact me describe being "trapped" in their profession? Simple: No one else wants to do it.

An intranet needs to be fed with content, and that content needs to be regularly maintained. Someone's got to do it. Once suitable content managers are found, they're locked up in that role because everyone's thinking the same thing, "If our content manager leaves, I might have to do it." So everything is done to keep content managers in their position while limiting their exposure to other intranet-related duties.

But doing the same job for any length of time can become tedious—especially when it doesn't vary all that much from day to day. Dedicated intranet content managers find it hard enough to maintain system quality and consistency, much less their own enthusiasm, when they have been wrangling content for X number of years. It's only a matter of time before lethargy sets in.

Depending on a person's tolerance to repetitious work, it can happen in months or years, but it will happen. The life of a content manager usually unfolds in three stages:

Stage 1: The Happy Years

Things are new and exciting, and you're given an important role in an important company-wide system. These early years are marked with enthusiastic determination, resulting in carefully vetted and filed content.

Stage 2: The Humdrum Years

The novelty wears out and repetitive stress and mental fatigue set in. This often results in the quick skimming and random filing of content.

Stage 3: The "Put Me Out of My Misery" Years

All motivation is gone, and maintaining intranet content becomes an assembly line job. You're so used to the job that it can be done blindfolded; and by the results, it appears as if it was done blindfolded.

It's important for intranet managers to recognize their content managers' evolution from one stage to the next because once they reach Stage 3, they're beyond the point of no return. Content managers will get so tired of the same old same old, that they will either become apathetic and do a half-hearted job or they will simply leave the position in search of other, more challenging opportunities.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was so right when he said that a person can stand anything except a succession of ordinary days. Intranet content managers shouldn't be kept locked in their job for fear of allowing them to see the "outside world." Just because you allow them to taste other jobs doesn't necessarily mean they will want to vacate their current one. Trying out different things—or even implementing a job rotation program—contributes to overall job satisfaction and can even allow people to view their own position in a whole new light.

Dedicated intranet content managers must be given some variety in order to keep things fresh and reduce the possibility of boredom. They can only be expected to maintain the stables for so long before they get fed up with the smell of shi... Well, you get my point.

Copyright © 2008 Paul Chin. All rights reserved.
Reproduction of this article in whole or part in any form without prior written permission of Paul Chin is prohibited.