Five Things We Learned about Getting Rid of ROT

By Denise Eisner

When we first blogged about removing Redundant, Outdated and Trivial (ROT) content in January 2011, we suggested that barring any other major drains on the team’s time, running a ROT exercise involving 5,000 web pages should take approximately two months to complete.

What a difference a year makes!

Having led and supported several ROT initiatives in various federal departments including scientific and regulatory agencies, it’s clear that a reset is needed on the potential risks and constraints for this exercise.

Based on growing experience, here are five key lessons we’ve learned to date:

  1. Communication is key:communicate often and well to the people performing content assessments. Keep in mind that they were likely just were handed another big task on top of all the other tasks piling up on their desks.Communications activities for a successful ROT exercise could include:
    • Holding targeted training sessions for similar content owner groups to explain how to assess and evaluate content for ROT
    • Holding information sessions during the process to cover various issues that come up
    • Creating an online content owner/publisher intranet section where reviewers can share tips, issues, etc.Be aware of vacation times and training periods to align deadlines according to the availability of stakeholders and team members.
  2. Calling all content owners! Anyone? Anyone? – Identifying a current caretaker who takes active ownership of the content is required for a successful ROT exercise; however, content created ten years ago is unlikely to be managed today by its creator. If there is no successful assignment of content to its rightful business owner, content that isn’t mandated or legislated should be removed from the live site.
  3. Broken links are guaranteed – Making content decisions might be the easiest part of the exercise. As one department discovered, finding and removing all the links to the deleted content in the absence of a CMS is a nightmare. Account for this step in the project plan.
  4. You are not alone – There is a lot of support available to departments on how to properly conduct a ROT exercise. There are tools on the Treasury Board and GCPedia websites, as well as a community of experienced ROTites who use social networks under hashtags such as #goc.
  5. Update or draft a department-wide content lifecycle policy – The policy implications for removal of web content dips into several domains, including information management, ATIP and legal. Having a solid policy in place ensures that web content is current, reliable and well-managed.

So could a ROT exercise for 5,000 web pages take only two months to complete?

It’s possible, with the following pieces in place:

  1. A well-written strategy that includes communications activities
  2. A project plan with clear deadlines for making it happen
  3. Dedicated resources to complete review and evaluation tasks, as well as project management and oversight tasks

The success of a department’s ROT endeavour relies on going in with eyes wide open and a willingness to accept and deal with roadblocks.

Do you have tips to share on your ROT experience? We’d love to hear from you.


Denise Eisner is a senior-level web strategist and communications specialist with a passion for creating enhanced user experiences. As a member of the Government Service Excellence practice, Denise’s experience and specializations include web strategy development, information architecture, web analytics (WebTrends and Google Analytics) and web project management. She has led large-scale content audits, developed performance measurement frameworks, and coordinated site updates to meet Treasury Board policies standards and guidelines. Engaged in the evolving spheres of information technology, corporate communications and media for almost two decades, Denise has transformed business objectives into web strategies and information architectures for corporate and government clients in the U.S. and Canada.


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