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The following article is based on Jay Manciocchi’s main stage presentation at Opticon 2023 in San Diego.

Onboarding a new platform at your company can feel like gearing up for a marathon of unknown challenges, especially considering that about 70% of large-scale transformation initiatives fail. Marketing software implementations can be especially intimidating, but that effort doesn't have to be scary. 

Over the last few years, marketing leaders have recognized the incredible value of implementing a content marketing platform (CMP), taking heed that a CMP can deliver:  

  • centralized orchestration and project management
  • standardized workflows and content governance
  • consistent creation of on-brand content
  • increased operational efficiencies and cost savings 

But most often, the challenge isn’t understanding, or even proving, the advantages of a CMP. The real hurdle lies in effective change management during the onboarding process.  

So, if you’re a marketing leader that has found budget to fund your new CMP, navigated your way through procurement and past your security (architecture) leaders, and are ready to start onboarding the platform, you should recognize that the most daunting—yet essential—element of your journey may still remain.

What makes change management so challenging? 

Implementing a CMP—particularly in an enterprise setting—is often a months-long journey involving multiple key stakeholders, business units, and other constituencies in your company that will be impacted by adoption. There’s also significant time spent migrating data from old systems, perfecting integrations with other tools in your martech stack, training employees on the new CMP, and, of course, clearing unforeseen roadblocks that may arise.

And beyond that, there’s a myriad of potential reasons why it might be tough to execute sound change management. Perhaps your marketing org has a cadre of long-term employees that are predisposed to poo-poo new technologies because they’ve gotten comfortable with their status quo tools and what they perceive as ‘their (tech) turf.’ Maybe your bloated martech stack is already convoluted and some of your colleagues are resistant to learning yet another platform. It's also possible that your designated CMP sponsor is finding it difficult to capture the time and attention of their peers. 

With the above in mind, there are a number of practical measures you can take to make change happen.

Here are our recommended 8 steps to effective change management when onboarding a content marketing platform (CMP):

1. Map the journey that content takes from idea to artifact.

Content is steadily refined from a vague idea in someone’s head to a concrete artifact that is delivered to the target audience. Ensure you clearly understand this process workflow:

  • What systems does your content touch on its way through your process?
  • What systems will need to integrate?
  • What teams and people will need access to the CMP?

Your goal is no surprises or blockers to launch – know in advance how content winds its way through your organization. 

2. Identify the role(s) of individual senders and receivers in your organization.

In most companies, “senders” are marketing leaders that relay information about the change that is taking place and “receivers” are those that absorb that information (with the hope that they will firmly adopt the CMP).

Step one: Whether it’s through a RACI chart or another mechanism, clearly identify your senders and receivers. In some companies, even the most well-intended messages can be perceived negatively by the receivers. In our experience, one way to prevent such misunderstandings is to de-emphasize internal comms as a set of authoritarian instructions. Managers should also pay attention to how messages are resonating with their teams.

What’s more, it’s imperative that the senders’ messaging helps receivers realize the material benefits that await them. In essence, you need to get receivers hooked on the CMP light at the end of the tunnel—the marketing nirvana that lies around the bend once the CMP is implemented.

3. Communicate messages clearly and concisely without being redundant.

Change agents that are leading CMP implementations should avoid ambiguity by clearly communicating the core messages and goals for the CMP in a manner that all relevant groups, including marketing teams, will understand.

Since initial internal comms will likely flow from marketing leadership to the receivers, it is important to reiterate key messages through multiple redundant channels, such as a CMP-focused landing page on your company’s intranet, emails, CMP onboarding training, etc. This ensures that marketers at any level of the organization will get the same message regardless of the channel through which they receive it.

4. Appreciate the difference between natural employee resistance and ongoing resistance.

The delivery of change and related processes that a CMP implementation will entail must include:

  1. a clear understanding of the implementation apparatus 
  2. an internal communications plan
  3. the magnitude of change that is about to occur
  4. an understanding of all the positive outcomes that will eventually be realized in the wake of change

There will inevitably be some natural resistance to the implementation of a CMP. Through effective change management, that resistance should wane. If, however, a small group of marketers in your org continues to assail the CMP implementation, then that should be nipped in the bud right away (with the strong support of senior leadership and your CMO).

5. Determine future-state “victory conditions” for every role.

When taking a long view of the entire content team, how does the CMP make each one of their day-to-day work lives better? Does it mean less confusion, easier approvals, greater freedom and less tedium?

Interview every team member and ask them, “How do you expect a CMP will make your job better?” and “How do think a CMP is going to affect your job, good and bad?”

Long-term adoption requires realized benefits, and you can often tweak your implementation to produce these benefits, thus banking the cooperation and enthusiasm of an increasing number of team members.

6. Remain agile with a long-term goal. 

As your team embraces change and values flexibility, long-term plans and goals should be made cognizant of current events in your org. Your CMP roadmap, inclusive of its potential integrations with other software tools, should incorporate a clear strategic vision, rather than an overly detailed step-by-step plan that gets too much into the weeds. Don’t get me wrong—details outlining a CMP implementation are great, but exhaustive five-year CMP plans will quickly fall on deaf ears.

A focus on the delivery of immediate actions that align with a long-term marketing vision (perhaps, a one to three-year plan) is better than adhering to overly narrow, detailed long-term instructions.

What’s more, the very best CMPs are designed to evolve with your organization. The workflows should be malleable and agile enough to change, as needed, with your team.

7. Solicit ongoing employee feedback by addressing individuals.

Feedback from those actively using and adopting the CMP is paramount, as their daily interactions grant them a firsthand perspective on what is and isn’t working. 

Ask them about their pain points. Ask them how they see their use of the platform evolving. Ask them what integrations and APIs make sense for the future of the team. Focus on getting as much individual feedback as possible to continually hone the performance of your CMP. And equally important: you can attack processes, but never attack the people using the CMP, especially if they’re new to the platform.

It's important to keep in mind that workflows in your CMP can and will evolve, so don’t get overly hung-up on a particular current-state process—it can always be made better and it usually does as you get more and more feedback.

8. Identify clear metrics for success.

At some point, someone will want to know the ROI for your project, and by knowing and clarifying this upfront, you can keep your team focused on the keys to success. By what metrics will you judge the success of your implementation? Is it total content throughput (volume), time to content publishing (speed), or some combination of the two? Understand that this isn’t just an exercise in numbers: be clear with your team about the quantifiable goal behind the project. You’re implementing a CMP to solve a business problem – know what that is and how it’s measured.

Certainly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to effective change management when implementing a CMP. Each organization is unique. It starts, however, with having strong awareness of what your marketing org’s current challenges are and what the desired future-state looks like.

Below is a slide from Jay Manciocchi’s (Head of Marketing Content Operations, BMC Software) Opticon 2023 main stage presentation on this topic—the challenges that his team faced and the desired future-state that his team sought to realize with the implementation of Optimizely CMP.

Looking to speak with someone who has navigated the murky waters of effective change management when implementing Optimizely CMP? Well, look no further and connect with Optimizely CMP client, Jay Manciocchi via LinkedIn or email.  

He’d be happy to speak with you about his journey and how he got over 200 of his colleagues trained on the platform.

And, Jay’s co-author of this piece, Deane Barker, would love to share with you how Optimizely supports clients like BMC Software in their transformational journeys. Certainly, this article would not be complete without a mention of the many prescriptive change management tools that Optimizely offers its clients—from prescriptive templates to suggested internal comms and more, we’re here to help ensure your success with Optimizely CMP. 

Want to learn how Optimizely CMP can be a game-changer for your team? Click here to learn about Optimizely's new Omnichannel Authoring & Delivery capabilities.