Bret Freeman
Vasont Systems

So, you are thinking of implementing a content management system (CMS) sometime in the future, or maybe you have already started the process. You know all the problems that content management systems can solve, and you have read about all the functionality that content management systems can provide.

But after you implement the system, how will you know that it’s working? How will you know that your system is living up to its full potential and truly improving your business processes? Or, perhaps the most intimidating question, when the executive team wants a report on the results of the implementation, how will you quantify your progress?

When beginning any business project (especially those involving a large investment), it is important to identify your goals, or what you hope to achieve in completing the project, before implementation. Unfortunately, many of the goals that most people associate with a content management system are qualitative rather than the quantitative goals that the executive team prefers. Qualitative goals are relevant when identifying why a project needs to be completed, but they are difficult to measure. Quantitative goals are best for measuring and reporting progress.

Goals will always vary from organization to organization (rightfully so), but there are two basic quantitative goals you should include as part of every content management system implementation.

First, organizations implementing a content management system want to maximize content reuse to take best advantage of content already created and ensure that time is not wasted writing duplicate content.

Second, organizations want a return on their investment (ROI). No CFO enjoys seeing his company’s money dropped down a black hole. It is important to be able to demonstrate how an investment will pay for itself over time. Discussing the expected ROI is an important part of every business decision.

Content Reuse
Your first goal is to maximize content reuse. But how much content reuse should you shoot for? Implementing a content management system should consolidate your content volume drastically—lowering the amount of content you manage on a daily basis. For example, a recent study of clients shows that the Vasont CMS achieves an average of 71% content reuse. After implementation, the system cuts content volume down to one-third of what it was before implementation simply by cutting out duplicate content and storing each piece of content only once.

This percentage varies from organization to organization and from industry to industry. Manufacturing companies tend to reuse a lot of their content, sometimes 90% or more, while publishing companies may reuse closer to 50% simply due to the nature of their content.

How do you determine if you are getting maximum content reuse? Ideally, the content management system should calculate this information. Vasont provides a built-in content reuse report that details the reuse of each component. Other vendors may provide alternate ways to measure your organization’s level of content reuse.

Return on Investment
What should your target be for achieving ROI on your content management investment? In most situations, your system should pay for itself in a year or less after full implementation. Time and money are saved by
writing new content and editing existing content
searching for content and digital assets
managing translated content
translating content
converting data
tracking, monitoring, and “pushing” schedules
shortening production time for new projects (possible new revenue streams)
supporting clients

Remember, hours saved equals money saved. For example, before implementing a content management system, authors might spend hours writing copy that already exists somewhere in the organization. After the content management system has been implemented, content is consolidated and stored in one repository, making it easy for authors to find and share information. Authors save time by reusing content that has already been approved, freeing time to spend creating new content or doing other tasks. Thanks to the content management system, the organization will get more productivity out of each author, saving money and contributing to the ROI.

How do you calculate ROI? As always, it varies from organization to organization and by the size of the CMS implementation. However, the key elements you will need to know are
how much money your staff is compensated per hour (including benefits)
how much time they spent on specific tasks before using a CMS—such as creating new content, searching for existing content, monitoring workflow, redlining documents, tracking versions, and converting data for multi-channel publishing
how much time they spend on those tasks after fully implementing a CMS

Translation costs may also factor into your ROI calculations. Some content management systems can help you automatically manage translation costs and help you ensure sure that no content is ever translated twice. This savings, of course, varies from implementation to implementation, but remember that any money that you can save on translation costs will improve your ROI.

Using the information you have collected, you can calculate how much time your staff members are saving by implementing the content management system and then convert it to cost savings. Based on those estimates, you should be able to get a rough idea of how long it will take the content management system to pay for itself. To get more detailed numbers, ask your content management vendor for help. They may have an ROI calculator or spreadsheet that can help you determine the appropriate numbers for your organization.

Reassess From Time to Time
From time to time, you should reassess your content reuse and ROI goals to make sure they are still relevant to your organization’s needs. Your goals may change as your business needs change, so it’s important to review them at regular intervals. These periodic reviews will also allow you to know if you are on target to achieve your goals and tweak your processes where necessary. Keeping upper management aware of your progress is important so that they can see the value of the content management system and how it is benefiting the organization—just make sure you speak their language, quantitatively.