Content Management Necessity: Planning

Save time, save money - these are the tenets of content management. With hundreds of content management vendors and systems - ranging in price from free to millions of dollars once implemented - choosing the right system for your organization can be daunting.



In short, content management describes the process of easily creating, managing and publishing online content with neither programming nor technical skills. Easy and effective content management is achieved through the deployment of a content management system (CMS) that is either custom built or purchased as an off-the-shelf solution. However, without a well-defined content plan, evaluating and choosing a CMS may prove disastrous.

"Strategically aligning your Portal vision, through proper strategy and planning, is quickly becoming the first step in Portal Content Management System projects to ensure a successful implementation," says Steve Cohen, PowerCentral Product Manager for the PowerCentral CMS product of Anzer IT Solutions.

One prominent financial services firm (that wishes, for obvious reasons, to remain anonymous) purchased a CMS for about $1.5 million. The CMS limited the number of publishers, it limited the number of pages that could be stored and published, and it proved unstable. Worst of all, the company that supported the product went bankrupt, leaving the client with no support. A little more than one year after they implemented the CMS, they decided to scrap it. One wonders if the outcome would be different had they properly addressed requirements and constructed a thorough content management plan.

"I've seen so many organizations that have got burned because they didn't spend the time to really figure out what they wanted," says Gerry McGovern, a Dublin, Ireland-based Web content guru and consultant. "Not all content management systems are the same - not by a long shot. And just because you spend a lot of money on a system doesn't mean that it will do what you need it to do."

An organization typically requires a CMS when it creates and publishes large volumes of content, or the publishing process is too time consuming and inefficient, or if there are so many publishers that the existing system has no standardized approach to efficiently publish, store and organize content for user consumption. Many problems including 'information overload' and search engine ineffectiveness explain why content management continues to be one of the most pressing and important issues facing Internet and intranet site managers.

Information overload, in particular, continues to plague organizations - especially on corporate intranets where it is eroding employee productivity. Recent studies reveal that the average corporate employee spends 25-35 per cent of their productive time searching for information to do their day-to-day job. "Our ability to create information has substantially outpaced our ability to retrieve relevant information," claims a recent Delphi Group report (Taxonomy & Content Classification, 2002).

"People are lazy," said Cory Doctorow, science fiction writer and technologist, in one of my recent columns The Search Isn't Broken, We're Broken. "People are remarkably cavalier about their information and how it is stored. This laziness is bottomless…"

In many cases, in most organizations, content management can combat these challenges and significantly improve the content publishing, storage and retrieval process. Specifically, a CMS can offer many benefits and tools including:

  • User-friendly, Web-based access and use
  • Decentralized authoring allowing many authors, in multiple locations\
  • Document version and time controls
  • Content approval workflow
  • Database and template creation
  • Dynamic page generation
  • Link management
  • Document conversion
  • Personalization
  • Access control and built-in security
  • Usage analysis
  • Template and design standardization

    Not all tools offer these benefits, and some offer more or different benefits. Therefore, determining which systems and tools will best benefit your organization depends on the specific requirements of your organization. A content management system's future performance and success is determined before its birth with the identification and documentation of business requirements including:

  • Defining the users
  • Number of users
  • Speed of publishing
  • Language requirements
  • Page and document limits
  • Approval and workflow processes
  • Number and type of templates
  • Use of multimedia
  • Integration capabilities with existing infrastructure
  • These requirements and others must be identified prior to evaluating any CMS. Once these requirements are documented, specific evaluation criteria and a content management plan can be developed for evaluating different vendors and CMSs.

    "Defining who your reader is is perhaps the most important element of your plan," says McGovern. "You may have lots of content but does anyone want to read it? What's your killer content -- the content that you have, that your competitors don't have, and that your reader really wants."?

    McGovern also stresses the importance of the governance model - defining roles, responsibilities and ownership. "Somebody needs to be in charge. They need to have the authority and responsibility to make decisions. They need to be able to kick ass where ass needs to be kicked."

    Failure to develop an integrated plan that for these requirements may result in failure necessitating termination - wasting money, great time and effort, and perhaps your job.

    Caveat emptor.

    About the Author

    A senior e-business consultant and a regular writer and speaker, Toby Ward is the president of Prescient Digital Media.

    Prescient provides strategic Internet and intranet consulting, planning and communications services to all sizes of organizations, enabling them to compete more effectively in the digital economy. It leverages strategic relationships, communications expertise and benchmarked best practices to plan and deliver Internet and intranet blueprints that facilitate revenue generation, enhanced communications, operational efficiencies and significant ROI.

    For a content management consultation or a copy of the free white paper, “Intranet ROI,” please email: prescient@prescientdigital.com.