Planning an Inventory and Audit Project

Aug 11, 2014

Update September 23, 2014: Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook, from which this post is excerpted, is now available.

Laying the Groundwork

Getting organizational buy-in for your inventory and audit project can make all the difference in how successful you are in gathering all the data you need and delivering actionable results. A well-defined project is also a tool for convincing stakeholders of the value of investing the resources.

Improve your chances of getting buy-in by showing up front that you have a carefully thought-out plan and a solid project management approach, and by regularly communicating your progress and findings.

Putting Together Your Project Plan

Begin by explicitly stating the goals for the project, select and prepare the team members who will be involved, and plan for how you will track and communicate progress.

Document Your Vision and Goals

Explain the vision and goals of the project to your stakeholders and to your project team to make sure that everyone is working toward the same end. Ensure that the team agrees about who the audience for the audit is, what business goals it supports, and what the project requirements are. Establishing the goals helps everyone on the team make cohesive decisions and spend time effectively.

Define Roles and Responsibilities

Inventories and audits are ideally the work of a cross-disciplinary team that assesses the content from a variety of angles. Analyze your team to see whether you have sufficient content strategy, user experience, business and marketing, and technical representation.

Identify who will do what on the project to avoid duplicated effort or important tasks falling through the cracks. Make sure that everyone on the team is aware of his or her role; understands the dependencies on other team members; and is clear on the timing, format, and content of expected deliverables.

Choose Your Tools

Inventories and audits can be done manually or can be supported by tools such as the Content Analysis Tool (CAT). You will likely also be working with software to create your project plan, write your documents, and visualize and present your findings. You may also need some familiarity with your current or future CMS. Before you start, select the tools you will use for each of these steps, and confirm the following:

  • The tool scales to your project size and requirements
  • The tool does everything you need it to do
  • Everyone who needs to use the tool has been trained and is comfortable using it
  • The tool meets your organization's security requirements
  • Any appropriate fees are paid, and licenses have been attained
  • Necessary workflows have been defined, documented, and communicated

Communicate Early and Often

Regular communication of project status, both to internal team members and to project stakeholders, helps everyone feel comfortable that things are on track. Regular check-ins also create a place for issues and risks to be raised and addressed early. For example, during the course of the inventory and audit, you may discover unexpected information—hidden pockets of content or technical issues that would affect scope and timing. Better to know and plan for these scenarios early in the project lifecycle.

Know When to Stop

When do you stop? When you're auditing content, it can be difficult to know when you have collected enough information to inform your actions. This is why you need to understand your business goals, set milestones for communication of results along the way, and define your audit scope. Stop when you have enough data and analysis to support recommendations that you feel can result in measurable improvement. Document and present your findings.


Category: Content Audit Tips

Paula Land


Paula Land is co-founder and CEO of Content Insight and author of Content Audits and Inventories: A Handbook.

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