CMS Solutions: Knowing the Right Stuff
This is the first of six articles by Charlotte Robidoux and Pat Waychoff based on their presentation, CMS Solutions: Six Important How To’s, at the Content Management Strategies Conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in April 2005. The articles are derived from the six major content management areas considered in the presentation: CM researching, CM cost-benefits, Selling a CMS, Engaging your team in CM, Demonstrating CM cost savings, and Reporting on CM progress. The first article, CMS Solutions: Knowing the Right Stuff, addresses issues related to researching and preparing for CMS implementation. Subsequent articles will provide more detail on salient points that were touched on briefly at the conference.
As content management strategies circulate through and around various businesses, it’s easy to wonder if you are capturing or have captured the right stuff-the right amount of content management system (CMS) information to meet the needs of your organization. Whether you are fully immersed in CMS technology-managing enterprise content in a database-or engaged at earlier stages, it’s important to know enough about the subject to communicate at different levels of your organization about industry trends and how they relate to your objectives. Expanding your knowledge of CMS technology allows you to evaluate best practices and lessons learned and to ask the right questions as you implement and develop single sourcing solutions. This article provides a snapshot of CMS technology and explains important considerations to help you make better documentation-related decisions. Specific topics include
- CMS types
- Customizing CMS implementation and single sourcing for your business size
- Ongoing assessments of business requirements
- A team that knows the right stuff
As an overarching concept, the term CMS casts a wide net and engenders many interpretations. To some who have encountered CMS obstacles, the term might carry monolithic overtones. Understanding varied types and applications of the technology, however, can assist you in making practical decisions in your organization. Documentation teams, of course, must become adept with the publication CMS, which supports the automation of complex publications in multiple formats. There are a number of other CMS types:
- Customer relationship management enables companies to manage customer data (profile, product, configuration)
- Integrated document management supports the management of documents (reports, memos, publications) across the enterprise; less amenable to granular elements
- Knowledge management supports the management of both structured and unstructured content
- Learning CM supports the transfer of web-based training materials in multimedia formats
- Transactional CM enables online e-commerce transactions, including inventory, pricing, and shipping
- Web CM automates creation, delivery, and updating of information on the web
Larger businesses might experience the overlapping of CMS types. For example, technical documents produced out of the publication CMS might feed both a knowledge management and web CMS in the same company. Ideally, an advanced CMS network will repeatedly repurpose content chunks from one CMS to another. Smaller businesses, or those just getting started, of course, will focus on more basic implementation strategies. For this reason, it’s important to understand your business size and complexity to appreciate the best CMS implementation approach.
Customizing CMS Implementation And Single Sourcing for Your Business Size
No matter what your business size (see Table 1), managing content is not only possible but also probable-and at multiple levels. As shown in Table 1, businesses of all sizes rely on many of the same strategies and activities-the common denominator being structured writing (consistently labeled, modular text) and content mapping (analysis to promote content reuse). So if investment in a CMS seems more feasible at a later point, the groundwork of structured writing and content mapping can be your center of attention-requiring only your current resources as a starting point.
Though many organizations assume that larger companies have a greater capacity for integrating a comprehensive CMS and single-sourcing strategy, the truth is that integration, no matter what the business size, involves trade-offs, as indicated in Table 2.
In terms of implementation as a decision factor, smaller organizations are more flexible and can act faster than larger ones, which are often encumbered with formal processes and bureaucratic chains of approval. Red tape and spending restrictions in support of favorable quarterly results also make CMS purchases difficult in large, publicly traded companies. And when it comes to product features, the “luxury” CMS-theoretically within reach for larger companies-can be more complicated to operate and administer. In the end, every business category has its own set of challenges and trade-offs to confront when considering CMS investments. Place emphasis, then, on clearly understanding your business, knowing what CMS options meet your needs, and understanding at what pace to integrate various solutions.
Ongoing Assessment of Business Requirements
Understanding the needs of your business is essential, whether you are planning to purchase or have already purchased a CMS. As circumstances change to meet market trends, no business can afford not to consider its requirements on an ongoing basis. Because every organization is unique, there is no list of ideal requirements.
As organizations expand and contract, the CMS topics you should assess and re-assess include
- Site (off- and on-site/multi-site) and system requirements, which often change with acquisitions; budget constraints (often vary per quarter); product usability; training; license fees; ongoing maintenance costs; storage and archiving requirements
- Business process and workflow modifications, including roles and responsibilities, as new technology is implemented and continually refined
- Content delivery types to be managed (which can change over time):
- Text (books, pamphlets, brochures, and white papers, for example)
- Graphics and multimedia
- Scripts, applications, and other software components
- Transactional content to generate dynamic web pages and downloadable files (PDF/RTF files)
- Requirements of stakeholders in key functional areas (IT department, for example)
- Compliance with corporate governance
- Another perspective (for example, someone outside your organization, especially as your business changes)
- Dynamic priorities (ensure agility by shuffling the order)
- Risk management and contingencies in the case of technology snafus
- Proactive management of vendor service and support
- ROI (based on initial content-reuse assessments)
A Team That Knows the Right Stuff
As organizations implement CMS technologies, the need for new roles and expertise emerges: developers or coordinators of a document type definition (DTD), an eXtensible Stylesheet Language (XSL), and the CMS, for example. Each CMS component elicits varying degrees of engagement from members of a documentation team. Table 3 distinguishes key CMS components and their impact on standard roles in the organization: writers (W), managers (M), editors (E), illustrators (I), and production administrators (PA). The manager role can also encapsulate information architects (IA).
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