Building a Strong CMS Business Case: Selling the Sizzle and the Steak

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December 2005


Building a Strong CMS Business Case: Selling the Sizzle and the Steak


CIDMIconNewsletter Charlotte Robidoux and Patrick Waychoff, Hewlett-Packard Company

Selling often involves engendering the belief that your “merchandise” is linked to something that people want, need, or value. Easier said than done. The challenge entails a number of steps: (1) identifying the need or value, (2) generating urgency, (3) demonstrating how your knowledge can help to achieve that value or meet that need, (4) justifying the costs, and (5) presenting a compelling case. When you systematically address each of the steps, you blend the “sizzle” with a solid business case, foregrounding the savings made possible through the investment.

Step 1: Identifying the Need or Value

Fortunately, business needs are rather straightforward. Decision-makers value efforts to reduce costs, focus on the bottom line, promote efficiency, ensure time to market, and create quality content that doesn’t ravage the revenue in revenue-generating products. Content management strategies accommodate what decision-makers value.

Step 2: Generating Urgency

As John Kotter asserts in The Heart of Change: Real-Life Stories of How People Change Their Organizations, urgency is a catalyst for change. Because change requires new habits, new ways of thinking, and creative energy, change is less likely without urgency. Table 1 describes options for promoting change and urgency

Step 3: Demonstrating Your Knowledge

To demonstrate how your knowledge relates to the concerns of decision-makers, know your organization-its needs, key requirements, and potential for change. Before you begin analyzing needs, ask probing questions regarding content development and use:

  • How much time do you spend searching for content released for a particular software version or for legal reasons?
  • How common is it to modify one set of content because of changes made to comparable information in another set of content (for example, marketing, product documentation, training materials)?
  • Are information developers often scrambling to ensure consistency in content they maintain in multiple formats (guides, online help, release notes)?
  • How many customers indicate that they are confused by conflicting or out-of-date content?
  • How often do editors and localization specialists handle the same content?

For a complete list of questions and issues, see JoAnn Hackos’s Content Management for Dynamic Web Delivery.

Needs analysis
Be very clear about your organization’s needs as they relate to the problems you identify:

  • Create objectivity through requirement language to frame the problem (subject) as a “required” solution (predicate), moving away from “I need” or “I want.” For example
  • reducing localization costs requires improved text efficiency and the ability to identify changed versus unchanged content
  • efficient writing requires practical guidelines and improved control over the same change implemented in multiple locations
  • efficient content development requires writers to see how similar concepts are deployed in various products
  • achieving content accuracy requires consistent use of information in various types of deliverables developed by different organizations (or departments)
  • Group requirements and establish a justifiable priority

Ranking requirements
Use a prioritization matrix, illustrated in Figure 1, to rank the requirements and make decisions about

  • influencing your team (quick wins, low-hanging fruit)
  • selecting pilots (quick wins, low-hanging fruit)
  • persuading decision-makers (must haves)

Potential for change
Large-scale change, like that required to implement a CMS, cannot occur without some proof of concept that demonstrates the potential for change-compelling evidence that an investment in technology, training, and reorganizing workflow is worthwhile. Find a sponsor to support a smaller-scale improvement plan or pilot that will yield convincing data. Build on the information gathered in Step 2: Generating Urgency and through the needs analysis. The pilot should focus on the following areas:

  • What you are trying to accomplish
  • project description
  • improvement objectives
  • value proposition to customers
  • How you will know that a change demonstrates improvement
  • baseline metrics
  • current performance
  • goals (text reduction, restructured content, development efficiencies, accuracy)
  • What approach will you use to drive improvement
  • description of approach, sponsorship, methodology, components, and resources
  • schedule, tracking, and reporting on progress

Summarize this information on one or two pages to demonstrate your understanding of and commitment to improving your organization. Consider implementing two or three pilots using smaller-scale single-sourcing solutions, such as conditionalized text in FrameMaker, WebWorks Publisher to create help files from FrameMaker, word-count reductions, and structured writing.

Step 4: Justifying Costs

If demonstrating expertise means knowing your organization, justifying costs requires knowledge of how the CMS generates cost savings. This step requires a

  • mastery of CMS technologies and methodologies. (See CMS Solutions: Knowing the Right Stuff in Best Practices, August 2005.)
  • solid business case with cost-benefit calculations (See “Finding the Grail: A Three-part Process to CMS Cost-benefits” in Best Practices, October 2005.)

CMS mastery
Knowing more gives you an advantage when questions arise. Just the fact that you have done thorough research gives you a leading edge when justifying costs.

  • Become well versed in describing the CMS at various levels
  • cursory overview to highlight the purpose of the system
  • essential details to illustrate how it works
  • key components and applications to describe workflow improvements
  • Familiarize yourself with a range of CMS implementation options
  • strategies for small-, medium-, and large-sized business
  • relative cost of each option, along with the trade-offs
  • realistic view of short- and long-term savings to be expected for a business of comparable size

Strong business case
A strong business case means that you have defensible reasons for directing your organization’s resources in a certain way. Compiling cost-benefit and return on investment (ROI) information will help you make the case. Because the benefits realized will depend on your business situation and CMS solution, determine first what scale of solution fits your business size. Consider the following when preparing your business case:

  • Assess cost-benefits using various approaches to broaden your perspective
  • Calculate ROI based on pilots and
    projected savings for other products, including
  • products with a substantial lifespan
  • target areas (text reduction, consistency, development efficiencies)
  • actual costs for target areas (baseline)
  • potential savings for these target areas
  • hardware/software, training, programming costs
  • start-up and learning-curve costs (content audit/mapping, style sheets, structured writing)

If you use vendor calculators to arrive at estimates, remember that these tools are generic and may project more aggressive savings (based on certain assumptions) than your business can deliver.

  • Measure effectiveness over time to demonstrate improvement, such as
  • cost per project (small, medium, large)
  • cost per deliverable
  • cost per task (project lead, writing, editing, graphics)
  • duration of tasks
  • reported errors

Step 5: Presenting a Compelling Case

Compelling presentations build on the work you have done to establish momentum, support, expertise, proof of concept, and strong business reasons for CMS implementation. The most important aspect of this step is preparing the right level of detail for your audience, especially if you only have 30-45 minutes to present your case. Effective presentations

  • contain 8-10 slides
  • identify the purpose
  • summarize the strategy and the industry best practices
  • report on pilot results
  • outline the investment request and
    implementation goals
  • explain the cost-saving methodology
  • summarize key points

Remember to practice ways of describing single-sourcing benefits before engaging management and other key decision-makers.

The challenges inherent in selling large-scale change to your organization are real-especially if you don’t see yourself as being savvy with sales. However, when you can break down the effort into steps over time, the effort becomes more manageable. If the benefits of CMS technology are compelling to you and your team, you can begin the process of building a strong case for decision-makers in your organization. CIDMIconNewsletter

About the Authors

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