It's hard to say when something is a best practice, but it's much easier to know when something is a great
practice. And that's what this podcast is all about. Interviews with PMO and project management leaders
to through years of trial and error, have discovered their own great practices and are now sharing their
insights with you. Now sit back and enjoy the conversation as Chris Cop uncovers another great practice
in this episode.
Well, we'd like to welcome you to this month's episode of Great Practices and what's coming up in this
episode? Well, today we're going to be interviewing Brian Garner, who is the director of content strategy
at White Deer Group in Atlanta based company that helps with content strategy and business
documentation. You may be saying, well, what does that have to do with the PMO? Well, like it or not, a
large part of being a PMO includes content practice, because if the PMO is the engine of your project
based company, then content and information is the fuel.
And in this episode, what you're going to learn is first, some of the challenges that content presents to a
PMO. Second, we're going to learn this rule of thirds that helps make sure that your content stays pristine.
Brian covers that interesting concept with us. Third, who determines whether something is easy and
understandable. And then finally, one thing that you can do to make sure that everyone always comes to
you as the project manager with every single question they could possibly have. Hi, this is not something
you want to do.
So let's get right into our episode. Keep your PMO engine running smoothly with great information. We
we'd like to welcome everyone to this episode of Great Practices, and we are looking forward to talking to
our guests today. Who is Brian Garner? He is the director of content strategy for White Deer Group. You
may say to yourself, well, what in the world does content strategy have to do with PMO? And we'll talk
about that in a little bit about what that looks like. But to start things off, Brian, what I'd like to do is just
you tell us a little bit about who you are and what that means to be director of content Strategy.
Who I am is I've been doing content strategy and website development for 25 years or so. Anybody who
build Web pages, you know this back in the early days, you want to change the header or the footer and
you've got a change every page or cut and paste across each dot HTML file.
And content reuse became a really big thing for me back in the early 2000. Anytime you can write once
and publish everywhere, such a huge time saving, it created consistency. So I started with SSO and
moved into a little PHP and did some cold fusion. If anybody remembers that. And now content
management systems really kind of make that happen. So what we do at what Dear group is work with
companies who have a large number of documents, a document library. We help them create, publish,
and manage in a way that helps reduce accuracy erosion and maintains the integrity of the information
because it changes the info changes depending on who you're talking to and what your objective is.
But a lot of it remains the same, the core parts of it.
And we help folks to modernize get out of PDFs to future proof, so that change happens, so you might as
well embrace it and to measure where we can.
All right. Excellent. I like a lot of those concepts that you're bringing to the table there, particularly that
whole concept of create, publish and manage, and we're going to get more into that in a little bit. But I just
do want to set up this conversation before we start start going down that path because this is a podcast
that's primarily focused on the PMO leader. So the assumption is that most people that are going to be
listening to the show have a PMO, and that means if their organization as a PMO or they're part of a PMO
that they take projects seriously.
So the way I look at that is that let's say that the PMO drives projects to closure. So if the PMO is the
engine of a projectile organization, then it's got to have fuel to run. And to me, that fuel is content and
information. That's really what feeds into this engine in order to run this PMO. And that's where I was
excited about talking to you, because that's where your experience and your expertise comes into play is
because you can really help us understand. How can we leverage this content and information?
I think you said that there was accuracy erosion, right. That's a great. That's a great term, because that
happens all the time. The second that document is done, it begins to erode as far as its accuracy goes.
So that's some of the things we want to talk with you about today about how can we maintain that? Brian,
what are some of the different types of content and information that you know throughout your experience
that surrounds projects and PMOs. So.
There are different types of PMOs, and you get you and I kind of discussed a couple of differences
between ones that you've been in and ones that I've been in. There are common PMO artifacts. There's a
charter, there's a BRD and FRD project plan, a risk mitigation strategy, a change log. A lot of those things
are just common standard artifacts that may not be used on every project.
When I was at Delta, then our PMO is actually responsible for developing the user ads and the play
books as well. And then they didn't hand them over to a training team. They handed them over to a
business team. So for a web content management system, they created the training guides and then they
turned them over to us, the content operations team. So that document had a longer shelf life and it
needed to be updated over time for the different versions. And as we learn new things.
But a lot of those documents also kind of reuse content. The scope is in a lot of them. The business
reason is in a lot of them. And if you're cutting and pasting that's fine. As long as when you update one,
you're updating to or three or four.
Right. And I think that's a key point because you mentioned that is that it's going to vary from company to
company. It's going to vary from project to project. It's going to vary from project manager to project
manager. As far as there may be this core framework of content, but it's going to be the project may be
highly complex and have a ton of content surrounding it, or maybe a lot simpler and just have a little bit.
But regardless, the problem is going to be the same, right?
No matter what those artifacts are. So what are some of these challenges and the problems they create
when it comes to like you're saying that content getting stale and old or disconnected and orphaned and
all these terrible things that happen to content and information.
There are three areas to any content practice. And if you're a PMO, you are a content practice, whether
you like it or not, there's published and there's management. And each one of those plays a part in the
accuracy and whether or not you're getting the right information to the right people at the right time. The
ultimate goal would be that everybody can get what they need. They ask you what time it is. You don't tell
them how to make the watch. You can tell them what the time it is, right.
And if they just want a piece of information, they don't want to be a seven page document in order to get
that. So that's one aspect of it, the other. A key part of this is the ability to self service that information.
The PM is constantly bombarded with some version of can you send me the latest version of can you
send me the updated? I lost your email that had the link.
So how you create we could even start there. One of the challenges is are you creating too much? Who is
your audience? Who is your objective? And what I've seen in some PMO is that because because we're a
PMO and we have standard artifacts, people expect to see these. Therefore, we will create each of these.
But do you have the audience for it?
Is there even a need? Exactly that's right.
Don't create something. How does this go? You don't obtain some things unless you have the ability to
maintain it. And if you don't, then don't obtain it. Right. So there's no point in complicating some of those
things and then how you publish is a function of that. I've seen Confluence Jura company Wiki
Mean, the quip, the Google docs. It depends on whether you're dealing with internal clients or external
clients, or we're going to duplicate this and put it on the Google drive. People outside the company can
see it. So the audience in the objective really come in to play with that. So how you publish matters, and
then how you update is like everything else. Your sneeze are somewhat siloed. So your subject matter
experts know this one thing, but that one thing may appear in four different documents. So unless your
mean knows about those other documents, then the management of that becomes a problem.
You create manage publish where you begin with. That almost doesn't matter. But you have to consider
the other two at each one of the steps.
Yeah. I think you've called that. I think you've said that. That's your rule of thirds, right. Roughly. You want
to spend maybe a third of the time, or you have to realize that that content has these three life cycles to it
or these three aspects to it. And I want to go back to create some of the key points when it comes to
creative to make it understandable and easy. Right. And how do you determine what's understandable
one easy. What does that look like?
What you start with your audience and your objective content strategy. Sometimes people ask me how
you define it. And really, that's it who's my audience and what am I trying to tell them? And and for
executive leadership, who's looking executives talk in data stories, right. They say this is going to save us
X amount of dollars or y percentage of inbound phone calls or whatever. But that's not detailed enough
for somebody who's talking about provisioning or deprovisioning of a service. It's not detailed enough for
So the audience is different. But some of them still need that same basic. Here's our problem. And here's
our business reason behind solving that problem.
So that's interesting. So what you're saying is it varies. I mean, it's like you literally have to start with your
audience and what's the objective and then that's going to give you the definition of. Well, this is
understandable and easy. And it could it could be literally a data point like you're saying. And that's all
that's needed or who knows, it could end up being a whole specifications document. So it's very
interesting now publish, I think publish becomes findable and usable. Right. That's kind of what that ends
up looking like.
So how can that be accomplished?
Again, there's a little bit of audience that comes into play here in that the tech team may work through Jira
in the backlog, and they expect documents to be attached to it, which creates one more chance for a
document to become out of stealth. But you may want PDFs. You may want to be accessible only to
internal people that may want to be accessible to external people. If it is a PDF is pension Zoom. Okay. Is
your audience on a tablet or a mobile device and that's possibly try for end user documents where you
put it is kind of a big deal, and we live in a world of democratized information.
So the ability to distribute authorship was a very large leadership objective, right. Because a
documentation team became a bottleneck. Therefore, let's push it out for the Sneeze. They can always
keep it updated. And that's great. Except the Sneeze tend to work in the channels that they know best.
Some are going to do it in confluence, and it'll be evergreen content. Some will attach it to Jira and then
attach it again and attach it again. And then now you've got findability issues in terms of of search.
The more common ways are. One of the things that we do is we do a searchable, KB, do the surgical
knowledge base everything's in HTML and whether we keep and each one of those is topic based.
Whether we keep the form that's attached to that topic in the CV or not is almost irrelevant. But we'll point
to where it is, right. The other way to do that is how most people do. It not going to lie. Dropbox,
SharePoint, Google Drive, and it's a directory structure. Your audience probably knows the difference
between Google and Yahoo.
Or at least old Yahoo and old Yahoo was a directory structure whereby if I was a restaurant in Atlanta, I
would go to restaurants Atlanta, Midtown Chinese delivery. But then I would also put it in restaurants.
Atlanta, Midtown Asian delivery. Right. And I would have to put every place that I wanted that relies
heavily on taxonomy. As long as everybody's calling everything the same thing. You're fine. But I come
back to Delta examples, firearms and guns, luggage and baggage. Which of those so what that means in
terms of search, then is search is usually keyword based.
So looking for uniform policy, you might get the company's policy is to wearing uniforms, or you might get
that there's a uniform policy for peeling potatoes. Or you might get that our policy is to always wear a
uniform in front of customers, whatever that's actually been multiplied by the number of audiences that
you have. If you create different documents, a holiday schedule at Delta, we had one for salaried
employees, one for hourly employees, one for contract workers, and then one for Union. So that's four
policies there's the US holidays, Canadian holidays, European, Asian.
You search for days off and you're presented with a haystack and it's up to you to find the meal.
Exactly. And I think that you are saying because it's a difference between directory based versus topic
based, which you really said was intent. Right? What's that? End users intent? What do they want to get?
Because you're right. We've all done that you put in that search term, and you end up with just pages of
irrelevant information that have nothing to do with you.
And that's certainly not your intent of what you wanted to do there. So that's a good point. I mean, it does.
It needs to be findable and usable in whatever that second rule of thirds is right there. And then I think the
third point you said was managed, and that has to do with integrity and accuracy, which actually has to do
with credibility. Right. So what's the impact if these documents from whatever is being gendered from the
PMO is not being managed correctly? What's the impact of credibility there?
Yeah. They're other people have done lots of studies on this. Mackenzie says that the average worker
spends nine plus hours per week looking for the information they need to do their job. Taking that a step
further is that once somebody finds something to be well, first of all, if it took them a long time to find it,
your natural inclination is once you do find it to save it and put it on your hard drive.
Which means that you're never going to get the updates. You're always going to be working off an old
version. The other part of credibility is especially when content is reused across documents is if they
conflict, then what you just taught people is to now ask the PM for to reconcile that. And once they do that
twice, then their first step is no longer search it's. Now go straight to the PM to reconcile that.
And now you've got a PM that's serving as that flawed directory structure. Right.
In addition to creating documents that other people aren't going to read because they don't have the
audience for it, which makes it feel like make work. Right. I'm doing this just to check the box. So all three
of them really play together. How you create something is based on its change frequency. It's audience,
it's objective, and that will determine whether you write it as evergreen, or you put it on an editorial
calendar to update it every week after the team meeting. Or you put variables in or do you use a content
management system and then how you publish it is largely determined by who's going to see internal
Do they need web based? Do they want PDF? Do we want them to have PDF?
Also, how you create determines how it dies every time you create something. What's the end state? This
will die. How do we gracefully pull it down, right?
You have got to have a plan for that. And I think of just in general, as far as a good model, like a website,
just a basic website that a company may have, right? As far as just content. Everybody's like Gung Ho
about that when it comes to that creating. And it's so much fun. And this is going to be great. Right. So
there's the first part it's published findable usable for a little bit of time. And then what happens over time?
What happens to that website?
It just devolves broken links, useless garbage that's just been orphaned out there. And that's really what
happens to our content.
It is. And usually keeping with the website example is that the production of the website, the initial
production is everybody's responsibility. We've got our Sneeze from HR to talk about the about us, and
we've got the PR team. We've got the product team and we've got the policy team and the lawyers. And
then once it's published, it feels like the only people responsible for it are the web team, which might be a
person. It may be a small team who then has to go out and get all of it.
So it's really important that every document has and there are actually three roles here. You've got the
person who assembles topics for an audience. And I'm objected. The PM, they're gathering information
and sending it out to whoever the and then each one of those topics has a SME. So I may go to one
person for my access control list, another person for my failover, another person for my SSO, but they
consolidate all that.
The third one is that when you have a PMO organization, the standards, the style guide, the sun setting,
the archiving. Following those rules, you're managing multiple documents, you need a library and they
can all be the same person. But they have to understand that they're fulfilling different roles, and it gives
you an editorial calendar. Every section has an owner. Your product information is going to remain up to
date because the sales people are out there pushing it or because you're adding new features that you're
highlighting different features, so that tends to be watched.
And it also tends to be seen by customers. You're going to get feedback from them about us may still
have Bob from accounting on it. And Bob hasn't worked here in four years. Exactly, because the end user
doesn't know and internal has no owner.
Well, Brian, this was a great conversation, and I tell you what I think the big takeaway, the great practice
that that I'm getting out of this that anybody could apply to a PMO would be your rule of thirds is
whenever any document is created, you should spend time creating it. You should spend time and
thinking about publishing it, and then you should spend time managing it and making sure that those
three elements for any document, it doesn't matter what it is. Every PMO is going to have different
documents and they're going to have different artifacts that they use, and it's going to vary from company
But create, publish, manage. We will all succumb to just creating and then thinking is just going to take
care of itself. That never happens. Right. So that's some good insight there into doing that. So we
definitely appreciate you bringing that to us today. And again, that concept too. We say it all the time, but
it's like the right once publish everywhere. It prevents a lot of problems. Also, right, once publish
everywhere because of the fact that you've got that one source of truth that doesn't get old.
Alright, well, we definitely appreciate you coming on today. And now, if people wanted to find more about
White Deer Group or you, how would they connect with you? What's the best way to get in touch with
Well, I'm available on LinkedIn, but White Deer Group dot com talks about us, which is content strategy.
And we do a lot of the head thinking for some global companies. And then we have some subsidiaries,
manual makers, focuses on franchise companies and they do the rent turn it. So we have a publishing
house and we think about content a lot and our own stuff is kind of channeled and bifurcated and we
bring it all together for ourselves. So we eat our own dog food too.
Nice. So what you're saying is that your website is up to date.
My website is up to date and my internal knowledge base is up to date.
Okay, we'll take your word for that. But knowing you, I'm sure it is. Alright, Brian. Well, enjoy the
conversation and we will talk to you soon.
Thanks for having me, Chris. I appreciate you.
Well, I sure picked up a lot from that conversation and I hope you did too. A couple of things. First of all,
the PMO is a content practice within the company and as such, we need to understand that content
lifecycle here's. The great practice that really came out of today's discussion. Use the rule of thirds
number one, create make it understandable and easy. What is it that makes it understandable and easy?
Well, it's the audience and the objective. They determine whether it's going to be something that is going
to be understandable and easy.
So always keep that audience and objective in mind. Second was published, making whatever it is that
you've created, findable and useful now, making it findable and useful as we learn, really deals with the
intent that people have people read. People look for information in order to do something, not necessarily
just know something. So help people do that, help people find what they're looking for so that they can go
do what it is that they need to get done. And then finally the idea of managing that content, focusing on
that integrity and accuracy.
I don't know if you picked up on that, but if you have two or three conflicting documents that have different
information, what you're going to do is you're absolutely going to train everyone to ignore the
documentation out of the gate and come to you first because they don't trust what's in writing. And that's
certainly not what you want as a project manager. And finally I thought that the idea of right once publish
anywhere was a good practice as well. That's just something that we want to make sure that we're
mindful of whenever it is that we're creating that content.
Don't forget to update the content on your website while you're at it, because John from Accounting has
been gone for four years. Now, do you have a great practice that you'd like to share? If so, we'd love to
hear from you and have you as a guest on a future show. We're lining up for months in advance, so we
would love to have you as a guest. And in order to submit that form, you can go to the PMO leader. Com.
Click on Community and then you'll see Great Practices Podcast and there's a form at the bottom of that
page that you can fill out.
So again, we thank you for listening and that's it for this episode and start putting great practices into