Pam Noreault, ACI Worldwide & Chip Gettinger, SDL
There is a journey to every Component Content Management System (CCMS) deployment, with some good and bad stories to tell. If planned, socialized, governed, and spearheaded correctly, a CCMS deployment will reap benefits for your company and your customers. The key ingredients to making your CCMS deployment successful are as follows:
- A convincing story about why change and why a CCMS is the answer
- Careful budget planning, executive sponsorship, and execution to ensure funding for your project
- Deployment best practices from your vendor and the community
- Quantifiable efficiency gains and process improvements for content creators and reviewers
- Long-term benefits to improving customer experience
- Lessons learned from others
The first step in any CCMS deployment is to put together a convincing story and audit your current processes, resources, and tools. Know the landscape where your writers live and document the facts:
- How many authoring tools and software components are they using each day?
- Are they dispersed around the globe?
- Do they work in silos or do they work collaboratively on company projects?
- Where is the content stored currently?
- How many languages today and in the future?
- Does the company require consistent branding?
These are only some of the questions you should ask. The key to building a convincing story is to make that story match your company’s business goals. If your company has a goal surrounding consistent branding, then you must make sure your story includes some branding details. When you match your story to your company’s business goals, you ensure that the writers, managers, and executives are in the same sandbox.
Why Purchase a CCMS?
There are three obvious reasons to consider a CCMS that depend on your landscape and your story.
1. Churn = Wasted Time = Lost Productivity = Customer Impact
2. Customer demand
3. Support new business objectives
If the inefficiencies incurred by the writers are impacting customers, you need a CCMS. If customers are pressuring you for relevant, focused, contextual content that is in their native language, you need a CCMS. If your company’s growing business requirements are exceeding your current processes, you need a CCMS.
Let’s say you know your landscape, have your story, know your business requirements, have support from an executive and convinced the company to purchase the CCMS. Now, your job is to plan the deployment.
Deployment Best Practices
Deploying a CCMS is not an easy task no matter how simple it looks on paper. What makes it difficult is that the world of business never stops. Even as you are deploying your new CCMS, the writers are still engaged in and delivering projects using the old tools and methodologies. It’s a migration and change management effort that happens over time and it must be planned for a smooth deployment. Since there are many experts who have traveled the road before you when it comes to CCMS deployment, here are some best practices and helpful tips to prepare you for the road.
Rule 1—Trust and Partner with the CCMS Vendor
Your CCMS vendor is an industry expert managing similar successful deployments. You are just driving down the road that your vendor travels every day. You know your business, technical, and timeline requirements and need to articulate these in detail for your vendor. Most CCMS vendors suggest the following:
- Pull a core deployment team together that consists of your company’s employees
- People excited by change and who communicate well
- People knowledgeable about your product content
- People knowledgeable about company processes and customers
- Articulate your business requirements for CCMS adoption and what is expected by your executives and management
- Determine the rollout strategy using a phased approach
- Put a project plan together with firm milestones—some of these may be business commitments
- Report results to all stakeholders every step of the way—over communicate
- Tout successes whenever possible; be honest about challenges and surprises as they are expected
Rule 2—Keep it Simple and Focus on a Phased Approach
- Don’t boil the ocean but focus on incremental steps with milestones
- Don’t try to figure it all out at once as your knowledge will increase over time
- Have a long term vision with a view of phases required to achieve that vision
- Use and interpret your business requirements to support your deployment phases
- Work as much as possible with out-of-the-box standards and supported configurations, as you can make it more complex in later phases
- Work with your content and metadata models concurrent with your CCMS deployment, as each will influence decisions
- Document out-of-scope discoveries for implementation in a later phase or add into your initial phase if required—hold firm on your planning decisions, but build in some flexibility
- Keep processes and decision-making simple and communicate decisions clearly
Rule 3—Follow a Defined Deployment Process
The deployment process includes two rounds of testing. The first is on the out-of-the box CCMS configuration, and the second is on the configured CCMS. Most CCMS solutions allow you to do some configuration to suit your business needs.
1. Train your core deployment team on the out-of-the-box CCMS
2. Create scenario-based use cases and have the deployment team test the out-of-the-box CCMS
3. Determine the CCMS configuration requirements based on testing results
4. Test the configured CCMS with the scenario-based use cases
5. Finalize your CCMS configuration and deploy it
6. Create a test report, and communicate the results to all stakeholders
7. Post your results for new users to review later when training on the new system
Rule 4—Avoid Chaos with Governance
Before you announce the CCMS is ready for production, define a governance process and get it in place. The best way to accomplish this is to establish a Governance Council and provide the charter to all stakeholders. Empower the council members with making governance decisions, communicating, documenting, and rolling those decisions out. Make sure all stakeholders are represented on the council. Key items to consider include:
- CCMS organization and best practices
- Publication creation and naming conventions
- Content reuse strategies
- Image and media guidelines
- Versioning and branching guidelines
- Conditional text and variable guidelines
- Translation coordination guidelines
- Freezing the publication once released
- Authoring and publishing techniques to enhance customer experience
- Extending the CCMS to support new business and additional groups
Rule 5—Create a Training Plan
Once the CCMS is configured and tested with governance in place, you are ready to train the writers on using the CCMS. Use the core deployment team to create and deploy the training. The following best practices ensure that the training rollout will be successful:
- Create module-based training with each module ranging from 15 minutes to 45 minutes
- Make the modules interactive with practical exercises using your system
- Record all standard training for future reference and onboarding of new writers
- Make all training materials available on common sites with other tips, tricks, and CCMS information
- Setup a process where users can provide feedback on the training and offer potential improvements
Quantifiable Efficiency Gains and Process Improvements
Companies that spend money on a CCMS will want to know the ROI. Once the CCMS goes into production, you need to quantify the gains and communicate them to stakeholders. Be sensitive to how you approach this process in your company. There are times when efficiency gains can equal a reduction in force (RIF). Mitigate this fact by putting the gains back into the business to make a difference for customers or new business initiatives you are supporting, and maintaining staffing levels. Typical time and cost saving measurements include:
- Eliminating cutting and pasting content from one publication to another (content reuse)
- Enabling and automating translation management (source and target content managed in one place)
- Eliminating and automating the desktop publishing tasks associated with outputs
- Automating workflows for editing, reviews, and publishing
- Automating content search and retrieval
- Eliminating other authoring tools and storage repositories and consolidating to a single-source
Long-term Benefits to Customers
Ultimately, the CCMS must benefit customers. With customers in mind, have a vision of what new benefits you are supporting with the payback on your investment in a CCMS. Invest that savings back into content creation, supporting new business projects, and think about how you can implement
- Multi-channel and on-demand publishing
- Intelligent and interactive content
- Contextual content for a unique customer experience
- Additional languages without increasing your budget
- Customer-sourced content
- Customer feedback and usefulness ratings
Lessons Learned—End of Deployment Journey
When you reach the end of the deployment journey, don’t forget to document the lessons learned. Think about what worked and what didn’t work. Think about what you would do differently next time around. More importantly, never be too proud to share these items with your stakeholders and with your colleagues at other companies.