Building Powerful Content Workflows that Scale

Building Powerful Content Workflows that Scale

Great content requires a reliable workflow, just like a tasty meal calls for a solid recipe. Your favorite TV chef may not hold a cookbook to decide between salt and cinnamon, but they will follow a trusted process, and so should you.

A content workflow gives your marketing team structure. It helps them communicate and collaborate, which ultimately leads to engaging content and better results. However, we understand that setting up a content workflow can be intimidating. In fact, as a solution architect at Magnolia, I help customers navigate their project setup every day.

So, here are some pointers about why you need one and how to tailor it to your unique needs. Let’s get into it!

What is a content workflow, and why does it matter?

Your content team has to keep a lot of balls in the air. As a simple blog post goes from a content idea through its different approval stages, first draft, and editing, it sees countless changes. That means many team members will handle each individual content piece.

Since the rise of hybrid and remote work models, this process has increasingly been accompanied by a patchwork of applications. According to a recent Forbes survey, 40% of those working in hybrid or remote models reported on asynchronous or disjointed collaboration tools.

Using a reliable content workflow helps you observe deadlines while regularly producing high-quality content. With a solid marketing workflow in place, you don’t have to keep reminding everyone about big-picture decisions because your content strategy is an integral part of the process.

Once your marketing team can rely on routines, efficiency and productivity skyrocket. And, because nobody has to ask about mundane organizational details anymore, communication channels are reserved for truly creative exchanges that matter.

Prerequisites for a solid content workflow

A streamlined approach to content workflows leads to more predictable workflow management, improves accountability across the organization, and lets you track the effects of even minor adjustments immediately.

A comprehensive content workflow should build on:

  • A breakdown of your existing content by regions, sites, social media channels, and custom applications.

  • Documentation on regulations your content team needs to comply with

  • Responsibilities for different website sections, specified for content creator and project manager roles.

  • Approval processes and access permissions for digital assets, your content calendar, and content workflow software.

  • A plan for the technical functionality or custom solutions needed for your content creation workflow.

  • Test scenarios to identify potential misconfigurations.

At its core, a content workflow is designed to give your content production efforts structure. Within Magnolia CMS, workflows are handled by the Workflow module. The four-eye approval workflow that’s prebuilt into Magnolia’s Pages app will cover the most common content production routines from creation to review and publication. The Editor creates or edits the content, activates the workflow, and the Publisher reviews and approves it.

However, you may want an extra level of control baked into your process. Maybe you need your legal department to approve the wording or involve an engineer in a content creation workflow dedicated to manuals to ensure they’re technically accurate. That’s where custom workflows come into play. With a few clicks, you can set up another round of revisions for a content manager, content strategist, or lawyer to make sure your content is spot on.

Avoid permissions overload

Setting up these more elaborate workflows isn’t the biggest pitfall. What’s more common is a seemingly simple use case that ends up being complicated. That could be because you don’t have a clear understanding of the regulations and jurisdictional requirements affecting your content marketing strategy. This can be even more challenging if they differ locally, as is often the case in highly regulated fields like pharmaceuticals or financial services.

To give you an idea, a pharmaceutical might have to tailor different content planning cycles and workflows to the requirements of the U.S. Prescription Drug Marketing Act of 1987, India’s Drugs and Cosmetics Act, and the EU’s GDPR, among others.

Besides those issues, a marketing team can fall into the trap of setting up highly defined roles while neglecting the corresponding processes tied to them. They might set up a social media manager for every region, but when it comes to creating and reviewing that first social media post, their content workflow falls short. The danger is that it can seem like everything is well-organized when the system is actually holding up content production. Here’s how to tackle that.

Using a workflow for task management and user authorization

Ideally, you want to create an environment where your content marketing team can just be in the zone. Anything that distracts from that is detrimental to quality content and your business success. The advantage of a reliable workflow lies in the security it provides for writers, graphic designers, and videographers.

Since they only see the workflow template relevant to their respective roles, they can focus on their tasks alone, whether that’s keyword research, social media content, or a content brief. No need to worry about the full responsibilities of overlooking everything. They can rest assured someone else on their team has their back, and even see when they checked their work.

In case you’re not comfortable with setting up a content marketing workflow by yourself or struggled to do so in the past, Magnolia’s solution architects like myself will gladly make suggestions for scheduled content production routines, which can mirror your content’s rules-based personalization. These can be logic-based routines you schedule to automate a minute task that’s often hard to remember, not because you don’t know about it but because it’s so trivial.

In most scenarios, it’s best to keep your content workflow simple. If you can’t explain it to a stranger in two minutes, it’s probably too complicated, unless your business model calls for it.

As any software, a digital experience platform (DXP) can tempt you to go overboard and fine-tune every last detail, giving highly detailed permissions to each individual employee. While there may be scenarios where that’s adequate, we’d advise against it. Again, a simple routine with clearly defined permissions and rights for each role usually does the job, and if you set up too many roles, someone may lose sight of the task at hand, thus eliminating the benefits a DXP brought in the first place.

That said, if you badly need a custom approval workflow and a content management system didn’t give you the flexibility you needed, then a DXP will be able to resolve your problem. Keep in mind that these can be as complex or simple as you’d like. There’s no need to follow the DXP’s logic because it adapts to you. Whether you just want one custom workflow for your analysts that differs from those for the web content team or a dedicated one for each region, you can feed your entire content workflow management into a DXP like Magnolia’s.

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Types of workflows relevant to the content creation process

Efficient workflows are crucial for streamlining these processes, ensuring that content is not only produced in a timely manner but also meets the required quality standards. However, a good workflow goes beyond the technical setup and adapts to your strategic goals and preferences. Below are several types of workflows relevant to the content creation process, each with its unique advantages and challenges.

Task-based workflows

Pros: Task-based workflows focus on breaking down the content creation process into discrete tasks. This approach is highly effective for complex projects, allowing team members to concentrate on specific responsibilities without being overwhelmed by the project’s entirety. It facilitates easy tracking of progress and individual contributors.

Cons: The main drawback is the potential for siloed working conditions, where team members may become too focused on their tasks without understanding the broader project context. This can lead to inconsistencies in content or missed opportunities for synergy.

Sequential workflows

Pros: A sequential or status-based workflow, where each step must be completed before moving on to the next, ensures a logical and orderly progression of tasks. This can enhance the quality of your team’s input by enforcing thoroughness at each stage of content creation.

Cons: The linear nature of sequential workflows can lead to bottlenecks and limit creative collaboration, especially if a particular stage requires more time to complete. This can delay your overall project timelines and, of course, project outcomes.

Parallel workflows

Pros: Parallel workflows allow multiple tasks or stages to be executed simultaneously. This approach is ideal for speeding up the content creation process and is particularly beneficial when tasks are independent of each other.

Cons: The challenge lies in coordinating efforts and ensuring consistency across tasks that are being completed concurrently. It requires excellent communication and project management skills to prevent conflicts or discrepancies in the final content.

State machine workflows

Pros: State machine workflows are highly flexible and can accommodate complex content creation processes with multiple paths and outcomes. They adapt well to changes, allowing for content to move non-linearly based on specific conditions and approvals.

Cons: The complexity of setting up and managing a state machine workflow can be a drawback for smaller teams with straightforward content needs.

How to decide which content production workflow is best for you

Choosing the right workflow for your organization depends on several factors, including the nature of your content, team size, project complexity, and desired speed of production. Consider the following when making your decision:

  • Project complexity: More complex projects might benefit from task-based or state machine workflows, which can handle multiple variables and outcomes.

  • Team size and structure: Smaller teams might find sequential or parallel workflows more manageable, while larger teams could leverage status-based workflows to cope with volume efficiently.

  • Content volume and velocity: High-volume environments might prefer status-based or parallel workflows to accelerate production without sacrificing quality.

  • Flexibility needs: If your content creation process involves changes or updates, a state machine workflow could offer the necessary flexibility.

Of course, you also want to consider how you can adapt the process to allow for your team’s creativity. You may wish to integrate a workflow phase or time block for campaign-related brainstorming sessions. If your brand uses reference jokes where imagery and copy need to be aligned, you could embed separate drafting or feedback workflows to facilitate creative exchanges between graphic designers and writers.

Every media type will call for a slightly optimized workflow, as well. For blog posts, it’s advisable to reserve dedicated workflow phases for outlines, SEO optimization, or research. Videos, on the other hand, might require distinct phases for scripting, storyboarding, scripting, and editing. Each of these stages should have clear objectives and deliverables, considering the technical and creative requirements.

Ultimately, the choice of workflow should enhance your team’s efficiency, improve content quality, and align with your organizational goals. You might need to experiment and iterate upon processes to find the perfect fit, but the effort will pay off in streamlined operations and better content outcomes.

Project management tools in Magnolia’s platform for your content team

To be clear, your workflow isn’t supposed to add work; it should be tailored to your organization’s needs so that you can automate routine tasks and document responsibilities within manual ones.

That’s why we at Magnolia walk you through information architecture sessions before recommending any solution. We gather use case information to determine where Magnolia’s default implementation fits your needs and where you might benefit from external functionality. Depending on your current workflow and content needs, those sessions can take anywhere from four hours to four days.

That may sound intimidating, but we do it to frontload all the work, so you’ll cover most scenarios and regulatory requirements before you define your setup. In some cases, that may require determining compliance needs site by site or language by language. Other times, it’s straightforward because there’s only one product line in one regional market.

If you’d like your workflow to run actions without user intervention, like when a certain event occurs or when a service task is performed, you might want to consider using a custom workflow process. Within Magnolia CMS, these run on jBPM6, so you’ll need to use Eclipse to edit them.

Of course, you can always fall back on APIs to leverage a partner tool’s functionality. The danger only lies in replicating a workflow through external tools that Magnolia’s DXP already had.

If you’re still unfamiliar with JBPM or feel intimidated by setting up custom workflows, our solution architects will help you to streamline everything to work optimally. So, in case you notice that something isn’t running as smoothly as you were expecting, we can gain insights through audit logging to keep an eye on the inner mechanism of your workflow.

That way, it’s easy to collaboratively identify inefficient code or performance issues that slow down your workflow.

We make creating content easy. Book a demo to see how!

So, there you have it. We hope that sheds some light on why you need a solid content workflow and which steps you can take to fine-tune yours. Finding the right one for your business isn’t easy, as it’s essential to consider everything from your team size to production schedules and geographic audiences. However, ignoring all those challenges will only lead to inconsistent content and irritated audiences.

With a DXP like Magnolia’s, you can tweak your workflow to your heart’s content, from a zen-like setup with minimalist routines all the way to a multi-departmental setup for large corporations.

Curious to see what your workflow could look like? Book a demo now, and Magnolia will give you a taste!

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