What is a Content Supply Chain? (And how's yours?)

Personalized experiences demand a lot of good content, fast. Here's how to keep the pipeline flowing.

Digital Transformation

Success in the digital economy depends more and more on personalized customer experiences. The impact of the right content in front of the right people at the right time is a differentiator in business today, and is quickly becoming table stakes for successful marketing campaigns. And tools like algorithms and AI get more sophisticated by the day, enabling ever-more-relevant content delivery. It's a sweeping revolution that's only just begun.

But this machine has a voracious appetite for its essential fuel: content. As teams try to keep up with the need for more and more content targeted at ever-more-specific customers and contexts, they're running into some familiar obstacles. Burnout. Bottlenecks. Spiraling costs. Asset management chaos. And missed opportunities. 

How can you meet this surge in demand for content - and keep this revolution from passing you by?

The truth is, it's another case of technology outrunning our thinking. The traditional approaches to creative asset production, iteration, and management aren't built for this. So the change starts with embracing a new mental model of how content happens: the content supply chain.

The high cost of business as usual

The term "supply chain" caught on in the 1980s to describe the increasingly sophisticated journey of raw materials into consumer products. The concept of the content supply chain also reflects technological advances in production and distribution. It' s just that in this case, the product isn't cars or shoes or low-calorie frozen entrees; it's high-quality and increasingly personalized content.

Worldwide content marketing spend is set to grow to $487 billion by 2026, driven by the shift toward personalized, optimized, and targeted experiences. 88% of marketers tell Adobe the demand for content has at least doubled over the last two years, and 85% say they're under increasing pressure to deliver more content, more quickly

That means even higher risk of burnout among already burnout-prone teams. Marketing and communications professionals suffer higher levels of burnout than any other job function, with 83.3% reporting that they've experienced burnout.

With all that content flying around, keeping it organized has gotten harder, too. Digital asset management has become a hot topic because 85% of employees spend time every day locating essential documents or files. A whopping 60% of remote workers say they spend more time hunting for files than answering email. 

Clearly, something isn't working here, and it's only getting worse. Just throwing more SaaS at the problem won't help, if we don't understand the content pipeline of today.

A content supply chain built for today's realities and tomorrow's opportunities

Adobe, the undisputed standard-bearers in content workflow, define the content supply chain as "the process that brings together people, tools, and workstreams to effectively plan, create, manage, and deliver content." 

Let's focus on that phrase "brings together". 

The de facto approach has disparate stakeholders planning their content needs with no coordination across the department. They often submit those requests each via their own process, on their own timetable. Resource priority tends to belong to whoever gets in the door first. Production, testing, reporting, iteration: all siloed, so that the overall ROI picture is murky, at best.

It adds up to a lot of stress, a lot of wasted time, a lot of re-work, and diminished impact. A smoothly functioning content supply chain harmonizes planning, production, delivery, and reporting so everyone's singing from the same sheet. And it's all tied back to data-driven strategic outcomes.

Let's look at how a top-of-class content supply chain solution, such as an operating system of record like Adobe Workfront integrated with tools like Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe Creative Cloud, sets you up to succeed in the new content age.

The planning phase: simplify and streamline

As content demand ramps up, prioritization becomes both more difficult and more important. Your content supply chain should start with one central intake for new requests, where they can be prioritized against the organization's strategic objectives.

But what about the contextual backdrop you need to really make that call? Like how much time similar requests have taken in the past? Or the total workload volume across the whole team? You know, that information that's always in bits and pieces in an old email chain or in someone else's spreadsheet, if it exists at all?

You can see it all in Workfront. Historical data, current commitments, performance benchmarks, and more, all right there with the incoming requests. Managers across functions know all they need to collaboratively plan for maximum impact. About time, right?

The production phase: collaborate and automate

"Time is money" doesn't say it anymore. The pace of content production these days means time is priceless. Every missed note, every missing asset, every misunderstanding carries a cost that no high-performing organization can afford.

The first step is to bring all project collaboration together. Stakeholders should be able to post briefs and specs, creatives can ideate on concepts and produce finished assets, and everyone reviews the work, all within the walls of their favorite tools integrated into one platform. No more "what was that one note from Steve?" scavenger hunts in your Inbox. (As a bonus, this record of the workflow generates that juicy resource data you need for future planning.)

Beyond that, the next step is to integrate generative AI to scale, personalize, and iterate on assets. Rapidly try new colors, layouts, and messaging. Generate variations sized for any format or channel. Until now, creatives have mostly had to do this laborious, time-consuming work manually. A sophisticated content supply chain solution sets their expertise free to do more of the high-impact mental work that only they can do.

The delivery phase: easy access equals fast access

The greatest assets can't help you if you can't find them. We've all sent those frantic messages looking for that one image or video or piece of copy we need for an opportunity right now, and that urgency will only increase in the future. (Are you noticing a theme here?)

So your content supply chain should include a digital asset management (DAM) system that lets every stakeholder know exactly what assets you have, where they are, and how to get them ASAP. A good DAM gives everyone confidence that they'll have the content they need to support new opportunities or ideas. When one pops up, you can stop wondering if you can do it and skip immediately to getting it done.

"But wait," some readers will say, "we already upload everything onto a shared drive. That's good enough, right?"

Well, does that shared drive automatically notify everyone involved and apply the right permissions? Is it integrated with your creative tools and workflow management, so nobody has to manually upload new assets, then check them off a task list? Can it intelligently maintain naming structures and version control? 

If any of those answers are "no", your DAM probably isn't up to speed. (There's that word again.)

The reporting phase: beyond the basics, finally

We saved the most delicate conversation for last: content performance. As every marketer and creative knows, the simple question "did it work?" is all too often obscured by shifting benchmarks, changing attribution models, unclear production costs, and the inherent limitations of the most common analytics tools. That confusion sparks some very animated discussions, with high stakes for the individuals involved as well as the entire organization.

A great content supply chain can take the heat out of those conversations. We've already seen how a more integrated workflow can pinpoint more accurate costings. But it doesn't stop on that side of the equation.

The performance of every asset served via Adobe Experience Manager, for example, can be tracked according to its metadata across every channel and site where it appears. The newly integrated Adobe Sensei AI can then interpret that data and explain why certain audience segments responded the way they did. That's right, no more "hmm, I guess people aged 25-34 like blue better than yellow" guesswork.

Honestly, that's just the beginning of where content performance data is headed. By the time you read this, something even more sophisticated will be on the way. But the message remains the same: the future's not waiting around.

Repair your broken content supply chain, or forge a whole new one

If you're still reading, you're probably convinced that a modern content supply chain can benefit your company. But we'd forgive for wondering if maybe it sounds too good to be true. Is it really possible? As experts in digital platform integration and process design, WNDYR can answer with a confident yes. Our Adobe-certified consultants have brought the future of work to hundreds of thousands of employees worldwide. Contact us to find out just how possible it is for you, too. (Spoiler: it's totally possible.)


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