November 15, 2023 | 5 Min
The Future of Work with AI
Part 2 of Content Creation: Before and After AI ...
Building and managing content for commerce is no small feat. There are often dozens of people involved across numerous departments, not to mention external partners like agencies and manufacturers or vendors. The process, people, and technology involved mean that the approach to doing business often necessitates a waterfall methodology; heavy upfront planning followed by lots of mid-project grunt work, followed by a host of last-minute changes.
Eventually, the result is some watered-down version of the once great idea. It works. But it’s not great, and under normal timeframes weeks and more likely months have passed. Chances are also high that a Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HIPPO) had undue influence on how things turned out. There is so much focus on selfishly chasing team goals and time spent tossing things over the wall to the next person that the customer suffers – they get a mediocre shopping experience on some channels — which is just not good enough these days.
The power of the SCOOT
In a white paper I wrote a couple of years ago, I introduced the concept of a “SCOOT”: Specialized Content Oversight and Operations Team. SCOOTs are part of CXOPs – Content Experience Operations — that ultimately report into the c-suite, ideally such as a CXO (Chief Experience Officer), CDO (Chief Digital officer), or similar. SCOOTs could even be focused on segments of the customer journey or channels. Call them agile squads, if you will. The idea is to have a self-contained unit that’s comprised of a manager or lead, content producer, developer, taxonomist/modeler, linguist, and a coordinator.
The idea is to have this small, specialized unit report into a single executive. The SCOOT owns the content process soon after ideation and initial approvals. Leadership sets the strategy and stakeholders sign-off on the brief, then the team gets to work. The goal is to keep those doing the content as close to the customer as possible, with as few distractions and external dependencies as possible. Like a dev team running scrum, but here it’s an agile content operations team.
This works in theory, but most organizations don’t want to give so much control to these autonomous groups, and the established silos and inward-focused goals previously kept getting in the way. Old habits die hard, and the long waterfall process persisted despite having the people and technology to be agile. It’s essentially a print-based way of working but with digital tools and channels thrown in. Awful!
How AI will revolutionize content creation
Enter AI. Now the SCOOT teams and agile squads can actually perform as they were intended, because AI tools help fill gaps for constrained organizations augment human abilities to make one person’s output equivalent of two or three, and provide objective oversight and outputs. Essentially, AI has answered the objections of skeptical leaders, clearing the way for agile commerce to finally be realized. But we’re not talking commoditized, general-use AI tools. We’re talking about entire AI studios and product suites, models that are trained just for retail and brand-specific instances, so they work in the same way as an entire team of specialists at your fingertips. It’s the very definition of revolutionary.
Consider the following examples of how next-gen AI tools will help teams work differently:
Ideation: AI helps get the creative juices flowing, helps fill in the gaps of incomplete ideas, offers novel ideas outside the comfort zone and can rate them and helps create quick visual aids
Planning & Research: AI synthesizes disparate data into a consolidated and summarized document, provides forecasting and predictions (eg: supply chain, segment performance, weather), even offers insights into Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) and Core Web Vitals (CWV)
Stakeholder Approvals/Briefs: individuals can converse with the AI to better understand the goals and requirements, adjust campaign parameters and receive real-time feedback, explore versions and rapidly prototype new workable options
Content Creation: mundane tasks like batch processing and background removal are automated, AI-assisted design, variants based on the master asset are produced in seconds, scoring and compliance checks run nonstop to ensure high quality and high performance
Review & Changes: as people talk and provide comments, the AI takes notes and provides sentiment analysis. AI can also score feedback and quickly tweak assets, of which approved changes can be handled by the AI in some cases, reducing cycle time and likelihood of rework
Authoring & Publish: the AI tools can quickly complete monotonous but high-value work such as alt-text generation and meta generation, run compliance and performance checks, recommend changes for layouts or which components may work best, offer insights about scheduling using Business Intelligence (BI) and site analytics along with market trends and Quality Assurance (QA) checks
AI and the future of work
As you can see above, there are many aspects of getting even a single content item – let alone an entire omnichannel campaign – from ideation to publish, with AI tools helping to...
Compress timeline from weeks and months to mere days or less
Act as consultants when SMEs or stakeholders aren’t in the room
Churn through data and connect dots that human colleagues simply can’t fathom and process
And tap the true power of the designers, merchandisers, developers, copywriters, and others involved.
The future of work includes AI because it solves real problems. But the future of work requires new ways of thinking, new ways of working together, new ways of organizing teams and leveraging both data and human creativity and passion. The future of work is not generic AI. Companies, teams, and individuals that understand the potential of contextual AI and seek to be early adopters will gain the upper hand.