Key Lessons Learned in Implementing a CMS Solution

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December 2008

Key Lessons Learned in Implementing a CMS Solution

CIDMIconNewsletterAuthored by The XyEnterprise Marketing and CS Teams

The XyEnterprise Marketing and CS Teams consists of:

Kevin Duffy , President and CEO

Jennifer Goodman , VP, Product Management

Jon Parsons, Director, Product Marketing

Carol Bumbaca, VP, Customer Support

Mary Parsons, Director, Marketing Communications

Implementing a Content Management System (CMS) can be like a well-orchestrated dance—with the right partner, good choreography, and supporting resources, you can move to an automated workflow seamlessly, with few missteps. That’s not to suggest that implementing a CMS is effortless. On the contrary, an effective solution involves a keen understanding of your organization’s culture, business requirements, technical capabilities, and willingness to foster change. But if you plan effectively, you can eliminate many of the challenges others have faced. With over 20 years of experience implementing various CMS solutions, we have learned a few lessons along the way.

Ready, Set, Pilot

Prove you can reduce the time, cost, and
perceived risk associated with a new implementation. Sound familiar? It’s one of the reasons pilots have evolved as a way to test the waters before making a buying decision.

So how do you know when a pilot is right for your organization?

There are many factors to consider, including your own state of readiness. Resources, be it people, time, funding, or equipment, as well as data availability and management authorization all play a key role.

XyEnterprise has learned that the most efficient and cost effective pilot is a Phased Implementation as it allows the deployment team, end users, and management to realize system progress and benefits in an accelerated timeframe. When you divide your plans into phases versus one humongous event, you can more realistically meet key goals in a more compressed timeframe and then implement supporting goals over time.

In a phased implementation, you and the vendor together define and codify the requirements and responsibilities and commit resources necessary to configure, test, and deploy the system for production use. Staying focused on your overall goals and objectives during the implementation phase allows for uninterrupted progress from phase to phase.

Migration—Not just for the Birds

Many CMS projects include changing the format in which your content is written, processed, and stored. Often that means migrating from an unstructured authoring environment like Word or FrameMaker to XML—a structured format that lends itself to automation and reuse. There are four important lessons we’ve learned to help facilitate a more seamless move to XML or one of the more prescriptive standards like DITA or S1000D.

  • Choose a CMS that can manage both structured and unstructured content—this gives you the flexibility to introduce the new CMS while you maintain a managed environment for your existing content; then phase in new XML authoring tools/processes over time. This selection is especially useful when implementing a DITA-based solution.
  • Plan for the conversion of your data—whether you do the conversion work within your company or outsource the conversion work to specialists, it will take time to move your existing content into XML, while preserving content and adding richness that will help you manage the data better. With proper planning, your CMS project will stay on schedule.
  • You may determine that in the end not all of your content is worth converting. Find a repository that will allow you to preserve and manage your legacy data alongside your new content.
  • Understand the structure of your content—take the time to analyze your content and understand its structure. Doing so will enable you to make sound decisions about how you might componentize content, how you will manage and reuse those components, and what provides the biggest business payoff in your new managed environment.

Know Thy Self

You’ll want to understand your organization’s strengths and determine the responsibilities you’ll keep inhouse versus those you’ll ask your vendor to handle. Knowing how much technical work you want to own will help solidify the role you want your vendor to play in the short and long term. Take time to explore such cultural issues as whether your company has deep rooted processes or an environment that is experienced at adapting to shifting conditions. Do departments work autonomously or collaboratively? If the implementation will represent a significant disruption to “the way we’ve always done things,” take steps to prepare the organization, and select team members who can strike the balance between preserving the good elements of existing processes while remaining open to innovation.

What individual strengths are on the team? Select a team leader or evangelist who is open to change and can lead others accordingly. The right candidate will bring that innovative spirit to design discussions, helping to preserve important processes and workflows but also shedding unnecessary steps. Being technically courageous and sales savvy can also help to drive acceptance throughout the organization.

One final requirement is support. It is critical that this evangelist be supported by high-level sponsors to ensure that business goals and metrics are clearly defined and communicated.

Should You Be Your Own General Contractor?

Implementing a CMS solution seems pretty straightforward. So, why not become your own general contractor?

Implementing a CMS has a lot in common with building a house. You need a solid foundation, accurate blueprints, and someone to make sure everyone adheres to the plan, schedule, and cost.

Similarly, the blueprint for a CMS implementation needs to be a detailed implementation plan that defines the requirements, expectations, functionality, critical success factors, and roles and responsibilities for the project. Equally important, the plan should identify requirements that are out of scope so everyone is clear on what is not being done.

The general contractor for a CMS implementation is the Project Manager who not only helps coordinate and develop the plan but oversees the project throughout the implementation process. When things get off track, and they will, the Project Manager provides the early warning, calls together the required parties, negotiates appropriate plan accommodations, and moves the project forward.

Optimally, your solution provider should offer these services. The ROI in cost, time, and success makes for a sound investment. Still want to do it yourself? It can be done, but you might want to talk to those who tried building a house on their own—most wouldn’t do it the next time around!

Moving Forward…

Selecting and implementing a CMS solution can be one of the most important projects your Documentation Group and IT department will undertake. Choose your vendor wisely. Communicate your expectations, assess vendor strengths relative to your business needs, and consider the level of service you’ll want for implementation and beyond. By selecting a vendor that best mirrors your organization’s culture, business processes, and content management requirements, you’ll have taken a critical step in implementing an effective CMS solution. CIDMIconNewsletter