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Do You Need a Content Management System?

Written By: Hans Mercx
Published On: November 29 2004

Introduction

The ongoing drive to save time and money drives organizations to look into content management. As the costs of software and implementation range from almost free to millions of dollars and choosing the right vendor or system is vital, this decision can be daunting.

The term content management: What does it mean?

Content management is a phrase you hear everywhere these days. Companies claim they "do content management" and vendors say that they sell content management software. People who hear about content management often think about how to create a web site. The text, images, movies, etc., that are shown on web sites are the actual content indeed, but content management entails more than meets the eye.

Prior to explaining what content management is, it is useful to define the word content. Content is essentially any type or "unit" of digital information that is used to populate a page. It can be text, images, graphics, video, sound—or in other words—anything that is likely to be published across an intranet, extranet, or the Internet.

Where does content management come from?

Currently, information, communication, and digital networks have made a major impact. In this society, there is much information available. A company needs to acquire and structure information that exists both within and outside of its own four walls.

Where does this need for information or this need for content come from?

It can be said that the buzzword of this era is content. Before content, the hype of the late eighties and early nineties surrounded documents. As companies were producing large volumes of information by the end of the eighties, and while business boomed for products like Word, WordPerfect, Excel, and Lotus 123, organizations faced an increasing need to organize documentation. Rather than printing and storing hard copies, the documents required digital storage. The market responded with the creation of a powerful software tool to manage this process. These solutions became known as document management systems (DMS).

By the end of the nineties, the terms changed from document management systems to content management systems (CMS). A lot of DMS vendors suddenly called themselves CMS vendors since the main difference between document management and content management is the fact that document management deals with the document in its entirety, while content management focuses on the individual parts that make up a document or even a web page.

Both systems follow the same basic rules, workflow and processes. However, due to the evolution of the Internet, companies began to be more focused on managing the web site at the content rather than document level. This caused the market to shift from document management systems to content management systems.

Content management is not just about tools

Content management is more than just a software tool. It is very much about the individuals involved, and the processes and the organization as a whole.

The content management process entails collecting, managing, and publishing the content by combining rules, processes, and workflows. It is a discipline that manages the timely, accurate, collaborative, iterative, and reproducible development of a web site.

Why use a content management system?

Web sites were, in the past, built and maintained by a handful of persons within a company. The process of publishing text was a fairly simple process. Most web sites were simply electronic versions of a company brochure and understanding HTML was necessary to make even simple changes to single words on the web site. This process of maintaining web sites was labor intensive and not only made it difficult for other IT departments to publish content, but interfered with the use of other IT skills and products.

Nowadays the Internet, intranets, and extranets are dynamic with internal and external information about the company and its products, business solutions, and services. This information cannot be maintained by only a few people, moreover maintaining it would take too much time to deploy as new content to the Internet.

Content within organizations and on the web continues to grow exponentially. Organizations are struggling with maintaining their web sites and locating, and sharing a variety of content. Today organizations need more than simple content delivery. Businesses need to maximize their processes and optimize their value. Improving business efficiency, reducing costs, and operating risks motivate the implementation of content management systems.

Enterprise content management helps organizations accomplish this by enabling better access to the content, optimizing their business processes, and connecting database applications with the actual people.

What are the benefits of using a CMS?

A CMS allows a company to realize several benefits; it

  • Improves customer satisfaction by having correct information

  • Maintains a high level of quality and consistent information on the web

  • Enhances productivity by permitting for content to be re-used over multiple web sites

  • Enhances productivity of webmasters in the areas of redesign and functionality

  • Results in faster response time

  • Facilitates controlled workflow, built up around the company's processes and policies

  • Leads to increased productivity among employees

Meet the business goals with the requirements

Before one looks to investing in a CMS, it is important to clearly define business goals. Defining what is important to meet immediate business needs, as well as long-term goals is often cited as the most challenging of tasks for an organization. What does the business want to accomplish by implementing a CMS? The answer to this needs to reflect the long-term strategies of the organization.

To define the business goals, the organization should perform a thorough analysis and ask itself some questions that well define its requirements. You need to understand what goals and expectations you have that drives the need for a CMS. What problems will the CMS solve? What is the cause of these problems in the first place and what is the anticipated impact of the CMS on your organization?

The scope of the CMS will need to be well defined also. Boundaries for the business goals will need to be set. If the scope is too broad, too many vendors will meet the criteria. This only hampers the selection process.

After defining the business goals, the requirements need to be gathered. Your business goals should provide a clear view into the requirements. Each and every single requirement should reflect a specific business goal. It is important that not only short term requirements are met, but also future requirements should be taken into consideration when selecting a CMS.

Make sure you structure your requirements into categories, such as content creation, content management, and content delivery. This will make the list more manageable. It should cover all aspects of the CMS life cycle.

What makes up a CMS?

What makes up a CMS?

A CMS can improve content publishing, efficiency, and productivity significantly. Specifically, a CMS offers a range of benefits and tools including

  • User-friendly, web-based access and use

  • Decentralized authoring, allowing many authors in multiple locations

  • Document version and time controls

  • Content approval workflow

  • Database and template creation

  • Dynamic page generation

  • Link management

  • Document conversion

  • Personalization

  • Access control and built-in security

  • Usage analysis

  • Template and design standardization

Vendors will offer a variety of these or other benefits. It is definitely in the company's best interest to determine which system and vendor suits the organization best.

Conclusion

Selecting a CMS can run a company millions of dollars. It is therefore very important that the right software package is selected to meet your business goals and needs. That is why it is crucial to set up the business goals and make sure all stake holders are involved in the process.

Spending enough time on the initial phases will reduce the business risks inherent in selecting the most appropriate CMS.

There are several factors to consider when selecting the appropriate solution for your organization. If you want to maximize the chances of choosing the most appropriate solution for your organization, be sure to research and speak with the appropriate solution providers. TEC will be launching a new evaluation center on enterprise content management systems shortly. If you have any questions or comments about the type of information you would like to see, feel free to contact our analyst, Hans Mercx at hmercx@technologyevaluation.com.

 
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