Content Supply Chain

08 Oct 2023 » MSA

I first heard about Content Supply Chain (CSC) as we were approaching Adobe Summit 2023. For some reason, it did not feel to me as something revolutionary. It was rather a concept that made a lot of sense, and that had already existed before, but nobody had given it a catchy name. And we all know that humans love naming things. If you have never heard of this concept, this post is for you.

Let’s start by analyzing the expression “content supply chain” and where it comes from. Think about how you would compare a small workshop with a big factory and how they are part of the goods supply chain. In a small workshop, you have a reduced number of people, with most of them doing various, different tasks. On the other hand, in a big factory, you have many suppliers, the use of just-in-time (JIT) methods, very specialized workers, constant input and output, automated processes… Big factories rely on a well-oiled supply chain to work, whereas small workshops have fewer requirements.

I will use the following example to explain how CSC works. Consider an airline that has just opened a new route from its main hub, a big city, to a beach destination. The marketing department has decided to create a new web page with 3 images of the beaches, a video, and some text to entice people to book a trip to this wonderful destination.

Small websites

Many years ago, before I joined Adobe, I built websites for a living. I had a very small company and my customers were small and medium businesses. I used open-source content management systems (CMS) to create these websites. In this situation, creating a page was mainly a one-man job: reusing or taking some photos, creating some text, and publishing the new page. Maybe get someone to review it before (or after) publishing. There was no need to have a proper process.

As you can imagine, I never had an airline as a customer, but I had an important hotel chain. Their website was a bit more sophisticated, as they had professionally taken photographs and a small marketing department. However, the process was still simple: the images were directly uploaded through a custom-built backend, and I would get the text, copy it to the editor, and publish the page.

This works well for small or even medium-sized websites, like this blog. Going back to my initial comparison of workshops vs big factories, this would be the workshop. However, if you work with big corporations, you can immediately see how this does not scale.

Large websites

When you have large websites, with hundreds of thousands or millions of pages but a small team to manage it, you need a process to streamline the production of web pages, as you will be creating dozens per day. These pages need to be perfect. An image that looks inappropriate or a typo in the text will immediately be mocked on social media. It goes without saying that this situation can become a nightmare for the brand’s reputation. This is where CSC enters the scene.

Going back to the example of the airline, imagine the following process:

  1. The marketing department creates a brief with how the page should look like.
  2. The brief has 3 sections: video, images, text
  3. For the video:
    1. Engage with a videographer at the destination
    2. Film all needed footage
    3. Edit and combine the footage into the required video
    4. Upload the video to a Digital Assets Management (DAM) tool
    5. Approve the video
  4. For the images:
    1. Engage with a photographer at the destination
    2. Get a family to pose as models
    3. Do various photo shootings
    4. Select the best photos
    5. Edit the photos
    6. Upload the photos to a DAM
    7. Approve the photos
  5. For the text:
    1. Write the text
    2. Get it professionally reviewed for any syntax, grammar, or semantic error
    3. Translate it to all languages that the website offers
    4. Approve the text
  6. With the text, images, and video, create the web page using the template specified in the brief
  7. Review the resulting web page
  8. Approve the web page
  9. Publish it

I am sure you now understand why there is a need for a content supply chain, even more if I tell you that the previous process is a simplification of reality. This process is not something that you casually do or improvise, it needs to be very well structured so that you can continuously create new web pages.

One aspect of this process is that it must be automated, just like in a big factory. The more steps you can get a computer to do, the faster the process will be and the fewer errors it will have. In a section below I will explain some examples of where you can achieve this automation and what tools Adobe offers.

Beyond websites

We tend to think that CSC applies only to websites, although this is far from being true. Here you have some examples of where CSC also applies:

  • Mobile apps. Everything I have explained above can apply to also mobile applications: small companies will manage more manually their apps, but big corporations will follow a similar process to the one I exemplify above.
  • Marketing journeys. In my main project as a consultant at Adobe, we have just gone live with the 4th journey using Adobe Journey Optimizer. Creating a journey requires following a CSC strategy.
  • Email, SMS, push. As I explained in my previous post on content vs data, all marketing automation tools require content. Again, you will not just start creating an email (or SMS or push), but start with a brief and end with a finalized message.
  • Personalization. If a personalization activity is about intelligently modifying the content of a website or app, why should you not follow a similar process as a new page or screen?

In summary, CSC should apply to anything where you end up showing content to your visitors or customers.

Adobe tools

This is by no means a sales pitch. I do not think I would be a good salesperson. However, when you look at the following list, it is clear that Adobe has invested heavily in CSC. Again, I will use the example I gave above and the numbering refers to the list.

  • I would share the brief (1) in PDF format, using Adobe Distiller, Adobe PDFMaker, or the Adobe PDF printer.
  • Adobe Premiere Pro is an example of a video editor (3.c).
  • Both the ideographer and the photographer could use Adobe Creative Cloud storage for videos (3) and photos (4).
  • Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) offers AEM Assets, which is a DAM. You could use it to store the videos (3.d) and photos (4.f) and approve them (3.e & 4.g).
  • Adobe Assets Link connects Creative Cloud applications with AEM Assets (3.d & 4.f).
  • The web page could be created, reviewed, approved, and published using AEM Sites (6, 7, 8 & 9).
  • I know I have skipped (5), but there are a couple of ways to manage text. It could be done directly in AEM Sites as pages or in AEM Assets as Content Fragments. In the latter case, you will also likely include the images and the video in the Content Fragment.

There is one additional application that I have not mentioned, but it is as important as the others: Workfront. This is where you would manage the whole process, similar to a project management tool. But Workfront goes beyond that, it also integrates with other tools. If you want to go beyond the standard integrations, Workfront offers Fusion, to create custom integrations. The goal is to increase the automation as much as possible.

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