Geoff Bock Photo

Interview with Geoff Bock technology analyst and expert on content technologies

rustyw

1:05 PM

rustyw

We're pleased to welcome Geoff Bock to AnswerStage. Geoff is a technology analyst and consultant and frequent contributor to TechTarget. He's authored hundreds of in-depth reports, case studies and articles on the business impacts of content technologies. He is principal of Bock and Company and previously senior analyst with the Gilbane Group and Senior Vice President of Patricia Seybold Group. For the past few years he's tracked the mobile revolution and focused on the impact of mobile experiences in the enterprise.
1:08 PM

rustyw

1:56 PM

rustyw

We'll get started in just a few minutes.
rustyw

2:03 PM

rustyw

OK. Let's get started!
rustyw

2:04 PM

rustyw

Q1: Can you give a few "for instance" illustration in the changes required due to the growth in mobile traffic?
geoffbock

2:04 PM

geoffbock

Web sites need to look good on mobile. They need to be responsive which means using templates that work on full screen web browsers and all different types of mobile screens. But I think responsive design is only half the story.

The real power of mobile content is the ability to transform digital experiences. We have incredible power now in our pockets and handbags. Publishing is still a very important activity, but we actually want to use these devices in a business context. So the real power of the mobile revolution is transforming experiences.

As I listen to what's happening in businesses, there are many examples where mobile devices are being used to communicate with back-end databases and backend data sources. These mobile apps make people more productive and take a lot of the friction out of the way people go about their jobs.

One very simple illustration is scheduling lifeguards and reporting their hours. In previous years lifeguards would have to call in an IVR when they arrived at their post. Now they can do all of this time tracking with a mobile app. In addition to just tracking hours, a mobile app also captures time of day, location and pushes all of this info into a time tracking system. You see this increased efficiency time and again in transportation examples, construction, and many other places.

So enterprise mobility really is truly a revolution in the way that we're able to get things done.

rustyw

2:04 PM

rustyw

Q2: Do you think that "web content management" is still an appropriate term when considering the larger impact of the digital (and mobile) revolution?
geoffbock

2:04 PM

geoffbock

Yes and no. It's an appropriate term because the content that flows to mobile apps still needs to be managed and there's still a need for the basic functions and features of web content management. The whole web content revolution was invented to get the IT/techies out of the loop so business managers, marketers, and almost anyone could actually organize and manage and present content on their web sites without having to involve IT.

There is another aspect that may be better described as “digital content management.” This takes into account the ability to create truly mobile experiences that are context sensitive and make sense in terms of the work environment. We haven't completely solved the context management puzzle for mobile. There's a lot of really interesting innovation that's been going on over the last couple of years. We often know what the parameters are of what has to happen, but we just haven't brought the information together yet.

Just one example is creating a grocery list. You should be able to go to a grocery store and view your list on your mobile device organized by the store layout so that you don't have walk all over the place. One store might have the bread next to the milk and another may have it far away from dairy products.

These apps are just starting to appear; Wegman’s and Whole Foods are implementing these types of apps right now.

So we've come a long way, but there's still more to be done around the whole concept of contextual management and creating digital experiences. But you need to have managed content at the heart of it.

rustyw

2:04 PM

rustyw

Q3: Many companies have separate systems for editorial content, collaboration, and social media. Is there an argument to unify these systems?
geoffbock

2:04 PM

geoffbock

I've argued for years that content is the currency for competing in the digital age. Content is like dollar bills. In and of itself, it's only paper and may or may not have value. But once you define something as money then all sorts of interesting things can happen. You can build banking relationships and different types of economies.

So to answer your question of whether you need separate systems or one system , I think it really depends on the organizational culture. It depends on a company’s existing investments in its IT infrastructure. And it depends on how the company is managed, its incentive structure and the market in which the company is competing.

So I don't think there's a silver bullet where we need to have a grand unification of content, collaboration and social media or that it's perfectly fine for these things to be wildly disparate and never talk to each other. There need to be modes of communication and modes of content exchange — ways to look at the problem holistically and align technologies to business goals and objectives.

So I think if you do have separate systems you need to have some common infrastructure. Part of this infrastructure is security and identity. Another part of the common infrastructure goes under the rubric of information architecture. There needs to be a holistic view of what the information architecture is among these three systems and how the different types of content, and different expressions and presentation of the content, create business value.

You need to do a bottom-up approach and focus first on the business value of your overall content strategy, and then drill down into the different systems that you have to support it – whether editorial content plays, collaborative systems play or social media.

Finally you need to have some kind of overall organizing framework. This is often expressed in terms of key concepts, taxonomies and metadata. So, there are many additional tools that you can bring to bear but they all have to be aligned with your business value analysis.

rustyw

2:04 PM

rustyw

Q4: Can one taxonomy take into account all necessary attributes?
geoffbock

2:04 PM

geoffbock

I'm a big believer in using information architecture for tackling some of the key issues around the digital revolution. The more I look at it, the more important I think information architecture is.

It's similar to the way that people once built cities. In Boston it was called paving the cow paths. In Paris they did something similar. And then along came somebody who said "we really have to get this city organized” and take into account how people want to live in it. It took someone like Baron Von Haussmann in Paris to basically upend the whole city and create a beautiful 19th century city with broad boulevards, easy access and unified presentation. In Boston things evolved a little differently where we have Back Bay and parts of Cambridge that have been well thought out.

So you don't need a top down, rip-out-the-slums/put in big boulevards approach, you can also do a bottom up approach.

To really keep up with the digital revolution you need to have a road map. You need to know where you're going. You need to have a plan. And, by the way, once you have the road map and plan you need to have a way to update it on an ongoing basis. This shouldn't be too difficult because that's how good businesses are run. Businesses have goals and objectives and annual plans and quarterly plans and predictions and if things aren’t' working right people will adapt and introduce new systems.

In the digital age and digital revolution there are any number of important technologies to bring to bear and you need to add them in a planful way. Part of this planfulness is to have a way to think about organizing your content.

This gets you into information architecture and defining what that is. For lack of a better term we've been calling this structure a "taxonomy.” This is a pretty good term in library science. In the digital age is you have to build these sets of taxonomies from the customer’s perspective. You have to look at it in terms of who the customer is. What is he/she trying to do? What are the steps along the process that will get them to the goal?

The final thing I would add about taxonomies is that in the physical world we could build taxonomies that were limited to one dimension. A library system could define one way that books could be physically organized because they couldn't move around.

In the digital age we're not limited to this one dimension of atoms or even two or three dimensions of our cognitive space. Rather we can have multiple taxonomies. A lot of the interesting work and interesting systems that are coming out these days are based on multiple ways of organizing content and making this organization much more intuitive by enabling people to jump from one concept to another in ways that make the most sense.

rustyw

2:04 PM

rustyw

Q5: Who in an organization should have the responsibility for defining a taxonomy and information architecture?
geoffbock

2:04 PM

geoffbock

It's different for different companies. It depends on how the company is organized and managed.

There are often people internally — particularly scientific and technical companies — who are responsible for Knowledge Management. They make sure that the company is not reinventing the wheel by sharing information across labs and so forth. That gets to be really complex depending on who the company is and how they manage intellectual property.

There also needs to be a customer-facing function. So whether that person is in marketing or operations or customer service or support the customer’s perspective needs to be taken into account. I'm thinking about utility companies in the northeast as a good example. Two winters ago they got hammered because they had no way of telling customers how long power lines were gong to be out. All of the sudden someone in the company had to be responsible for this customer information or they were going to hear from lawyers.

So it really depends on the situation. The point is there needs to be people in companies responsible for driving the organization of the content. And that needs to be a line managed function and it needs to be assigned and on somebody's performance review. It needs to be not only internally focused — answering such questions as how does the company operate? But also externally focused — how do we engage with customers? And what are our modes of digital engagement?

rustyw

2:05 PM

rustyw

Q6: How should information be organized to create the best interface and user experience?
geoffbock

2:05 PM

geoffbock

I think there are two key design parameters. Number one is to put the customer first. You have to be designing for the customer experience. You have to put yourself in the customer's shoes.

And second, particularly when it comes to the mobile revolution, is to focus on the businesses tasks that they customer is trying to do. I like to talk about the importance of task-oriented apps where you want to deliver content at the point of custom engagement — right at the point where they need the information and are ready to receive it.

I think the poster child for this is a problem I encountered a few years ago. When I used my favorite airline mobile app on my mobile device I would have the exact same experience as if I had gone to my web browser. The airline mobile app was just the buying experience designed for the full screen web browser and shrunk to fit on my mobile device.

Fortunately over the past two or three years I've seen steady evolutions where airline apps are getting smarter. Many apps now have a "boarding mode" in addition to “buying mode,” and can recognize when I am near an airport and scheduled to depart, and can automatically give me information about gates and flight delays.

I've been delighted to see this evolution towards task-oriented apps. I think the challenge going forward is that companies that really want to be part of the mobile revolution need to go through their customer experiences and figure out where they can be more task-oriented. They need to make use of the multiple data sources that are accessible on a mobile device including GPS, sensors, and the camera.

rustyw

2:05 PM

rustyw

Q7: What do you think is meant by the term "micro moments"?
geoffbock

2:05 PM

geoffbock

I think it's a great term. I wish I could claim that I invented it or helped invent it, but I can't. But I do promise to use it in the future because it actually captures the two sides of the digital revolution.

Number one is to be in the moment. And number two is to be micro — having just enough content to make sense and deliver a smart result, in the moment.

This goes back to something that many of us have been writing about for years — the importance of looking at content not as full screen documents, but as something more granular that we call content snippets. Content snippets are just enough information to help you make a decision. Content snippets can also be combined and recombined dynamically to create many different types of experiences.

Micro moments is a good way to phrase the delivery of this. When you dig into what Google is talking about it's basically the ability to have a question and go to Google and magically find the answer. Google has done a lot of great work with this. I was recently in Europe and I had a micro moment. I wanted to know what the dollar to euro exchange rate was and could type that into a search box and Google provided me with the answer right there.

When you track that back you realize that there is a lot of infrastructure that Google has invested in over the years to actually tag the content necessary to create these micro moments. There's a great deal of information architecture that many groups have invested over the years to create this consumer experience.

The challenge going forward is to create micro moments for the enterprise that are useful for businesses and their partners and employees. This is going to require a lot of investment in various kinds of semantic technologies.

rustyw

2:58 PM

rustyw

The audio version of my interview with Geoff is available on Soundcloud.

Q&A with Geoff Bock by AnswerStage
rustyw

3:02 PM

rustyw

Read more of Geoff's thoughts on latest trends in WCM & mobile on @techtarget
3:02 PM

rustyw

3:17 PM

rustyw

This relates directly to my conversation today with Geoff. Companies are scrambling to make their sites mobile compatible.
3:17 PM

rustyw

3:19 PM

rustyw

Many thanks to tech analyst and mobile content expert, Geoff Bock, for spending time with us today on AnswerStage.