CMS Strategy for Enterprises

Introduction

This page

  1. Stresses the importance of an effective Content Management strategy
  2. Provides a guide to the most critical features of a Content Management System
  3. Provides an abbreviated compliance checklist for agencies and internal teams interested in effectively implementing a Content Management strategy

A critical factor in the success of an organization implementing a digital marketing strategy will be effective use of a Content Management system. Search Engine Optimization is critical and at the end of the day, the content of a site is arguably the primary component in driving traffic to a site via organic search.
The two key objectives on a consumer based web should be driving traffic and the conversion of business goals once the consumer is there. The following are examples of business goals that can be realized through digital properties.

  • Cut call center costs by increasing the percentage of consumers that are able to self serve via the web site.
  • Drive revenue through the acquisition of new customers that enter into a business relationship with your organization after visiting the web site.
  • Drive revenue by increasing the number of transactions a customer does with your organization due to ease of use and convenience of online business. A second component of this is reducing the number of transactions the customer is potentially doing with a competitor.
  • Increase the value of the brand through effective communications and promotions.
  • Increase market share through availability of educational materials to help internal employees as well as business partners understand the product suite and which products are best able to serve customers.
  • Reduce costs by automating internal processes thus boosting productivity and capital expense.

Desired Result of Content Management

If we start with the end in mind, it is easier to derive the steps that must be taken to achieve that end.

Content Velocity

SEO Tip: Search engines give weight to fresh content

The most important facet of a content management system is to increase content velocity. Content Velocity is a critical component so a successful Search Engine Optimization strategy and it leads to a dynamic site that consumers visit often. To understand content velocity and how it relates to CMS we have to understand why content management systems exist at all.

Content Management Systems were created to reduce the cost and time to market for digital content publication. Companies have to hire technical talent to build systems but often find they are relying on the technical team to publish new content after the system is launched. An example would be making simple changes to the site menu, terms of use, privacy policy, contact information etc.

If changing such information requires technical staff and or a site release then a new strategy for content management is required.

If content management is done properly, the owner of the information should be able to make changes and publish content without engaging technical resources. Many organizations require approval of content before publication but such approvals are more likely to be handled by business owners, legal reviewers, or an editor.

Content velocity will also give organizations the ability to quickly react to social phenomenon and media events. The financial disaster in 2008 generated a wealth of concern and interest in financial companies and interest. Companies that were able to react quickly to publish information to create assurances and help allay customer concerns were well positioned to handle this event.

As a general rule, if it takes longer than a day to publish a change then it can be said that sufficient content velocity has not been achieved.

Content Compliance

The second most important facet of Content Management is the enforcement of organizational mandates designed to grow and protect the organization. Some common examples are

  • Legal or editorial review - This is especially important for content that carries legal risk such as contests, promotions, financial products, legal policies such as terms of use, etc.
  • Translation - Many organizations are committed to providing information in multiple languages. Content Management Systems often include translation workflows so that new or updated content can be translated to other languages.
  • Required fields - Content systems can help enforce common sense mandates such as document titles, keywords, intelligible URLs, etc. These mandates help an organization meet broader business goals such as Search Engine Optimization that may not seem important to someone publishing an obscure document.
  • Accessibility - Section 508 is the US government standard for adherence to accessibility for disabled persons. The content management system can organize and enforce 508 standards for content.
  • Digital Repository - A CMS is a logical place to put standard assets such as logos, style sheets and other digital assets that should be shared across an organization. When done properly this can foster a spirit of reuse and minimize time spent looking for such assets.
  • Auditing and accountability - By keeping detailed records on content management activities, a greater sense of accountability emerges. In the rare event that negligent or malicious activity is detected, the source of such activity can be readily identified and the content can be reverted.
  • Security - Content Management Systems all enable organizations to restrict content so that only authorized contributors can publish content.

Ease of Use

Ease of Use could perhaps be grouped with Content Velocity because without Ease of Use, Content Velocity cannot be achieved.
There are two facets to Ease of Use; the most obvious being the interface for content publishers. The more obscure facet to the Ease of Use equation is the ease in which content types can be created and modified.
It is absolutely imperative that the Content Management development team be able to create or modify content types quickly. One of the greater risks to a Content Management is the follow business scenario.

  1. A business unit decides to launch a new microsite and they want to be able to manage new promotions for the site using the content management system.
  2. The business unit engages with the web development team and the CMS developers to determine cost, and schedule availability for creation of a new Promotion type.
  3. The CMS developers and web development team identify the ten fields that the Promotion type will have and where the Promotions will live.
  4. The CMS developers return an estimate of $50K and indicate that it will take one week to develop the Promotion type. Unfortunately, they are booked solid so development would not begin for a month.
  5. The business unit does not have the funding needed to build out the new type. The web development team and CMS developers suggest they use an existing type Product that has similar fields. The cost is now only $5K because a new type doesn't need to be created.
  6. The technical team helps enter the first wave of content and the site launches.
  7. Business people go to update their content but they can't make any sense of the data. The title of the Promotion is in a field called 'Product Name' and the URL to the business partner is in a field called 'SKU'. The image for the promotions are in a field called 'Product Med Res Image'.
  8. The business people throw their hands up in the air because they don't understand the system and don't want to break the site. They call the technical team or agency and have them make all content changes going forward or simply stop creating new Promotions for their micro-site.

This is a real world scenario that actually happened and it is not uncommon. The awful thing about what has happened here is that the entire reason for CMS has been violated. The business now has to engage expensive technical talent in order to change content. Not only that, the primary key to success, Content Velocity, has been lost because the business has to involve other groups and individuals when updating content. This may also involve project change requests and expensive consultants.

Functional and Non-functional Requirements

Many Content Management Systems start out as document management systems and are later modified to fit more general content management requirements. There are many different kinds of CMS and it is important to find the right one for the job. The objective for content management of your sites partially includes document management but should probably be more oriented towards web site management. The subsequent sections of this document cover some of the features that are more important for a CMS used beyond simple document management.

It should be noted that many of these requirements will make statements such as 'the system should support'. It is common in software sales to believe that a system can support any functional requirement…given enough time and service dollars. Unfortunately, if a system does not natively support a piece of functionality and it has to be developed for a specific installation, cost, quality, and time to market suffers severely. When we say 'should support' we mean that a new version of the system should not need to be released in the event we need such functionality.

Image Upload

The CMS should be able to support uploading images and associating them with a content type. The system should also allow multiple image uploads for a type. As an example, a user should be able to add an icon and a large image to a content object.
Ideally, the system should also support image validation. The content developer should be able to specify the minimum and maximum resolution and file size for the images. This can help prevent massive images from being accidentally uploaded and creating performance or scalability problems on the server. Last but not least, the system should support automatic scaling of images so that a user can upload a high res image and have the system automatically create a mid-res, and low-res version.
Linking to other Content Types

A common requirement for content types is that they be able to reference other content types. A company such as Coca-Cola for example may want to create a brand type to identify Sprite, Coca-Cola, Fanta, etc. A new type called Promotion could be created that gives the author the ability to choose a Brand that the Promotion promotes. These kinds of relationships are typically represented using a select box or combo box.

The system should support the ability to have a one-to-many or one-to-one relationship between types.

Preview

It should go without saying that users should be able to preview content before publishing to production. The reality of this is that the burden of the preview environment and functionality rests upon the application consuming the content and the developers that support it. It still needs to be said that the CMS should support this however.

Workflow

Workflow often creates more problems than it solves in CMS but it is a feature that should be provided in cases where certain content must be approved by an editor or legal review team before it can be published.

WebDAV

Think of WebDav as the ability to upload a whole bunch of files at once. The importance of such functionality becomes clear when you need to upload 500 files and the CMS system takes ten clicks to upload each file. This quickly becomes an arduous and error prone process.

WYSIWYG

Any CMS system worth its salt should give users the ability to do basic RTF or HTML editing of text within a content type. Ideally, it should also support the ability to limit the tags that can be used.

Encoding

UTF-8 encoding must be supported so that the CMS can handle all languages. It should also be possible to mandate that certain content be in UTF-8. Encoding issues are arguably the most prevalent and costly issues to resolve in CMS.

Reliable Publishing

It should go without saying that when a piece of content is published, that content should make it to the target system reliably. Reliably means that if content fails to publish, the system should be aware of the failure and continue to try and rectify the disparity between the content system and the system where the data is pushed. In the event that a max number of attempts has been reached a facility should exist whereby an administrator can be e-mailed, or notified via SMS. Again, this system should exist 'out-of-the-box' and should not require consulting dollars for 'configuration' aka programming.

System Diagnostics

The CMS should provide a dashboard containing an event viewer that can give administrators and system users the ability to detect and track publishing events and failures. In the event that a test or production system does not have the proper content, such a facility can greater reduce resolution time and prevent outages.
Integration with LDAP or Existing Security System

Introducing a CMS system that requires a separate account for enterprise users is unacceptable. Organizations are already struggling with SSO and introducing yet another system lacking federated login is difficult to swallow, especially if the system does not support user initiated password resets and they are forced to call the help desk. The enterprise CMS should support users via LDAP ideally so that users can access the system with their enterprise ID and password.

Audit Logs

The system should provide the ability to see when content was created, updated, and deleted. User information should also be provided alongside content modification events so that there is accountability.

Compliance Checklist

The following checklist can be used when evaluating current or potential content management systems to determine if they can adequately perform in an enterprise environment.

Requirement Supported
Non-technical associates can easily create, modify, and remove content with assistance from technical resources.
CMS Developer can create new types without a release.
Data validation (date, number, etc. without programming)
Attach multiple images to content types
Constrain images based on file size and resolution
Image cropping and resizing
Link to other CMS types
Preview
Workflow support
WebDAV
WYSIWYG
UTF-8 encoding
Reliable Publishing
System Diagnostics Dashboard
Integration with LDAP
Audit Logs

Conclusion

There are so many excellent Content Management Systems in the market place and many of them are free and open source. The Content Management System used within ING should meet or exceed the business requirements and non-functional requirements put forth by this document. Any commercial system that fails to meet such requirements should be considered ineligible simply because free systems exist that can meet these requirements.

Successful implementation of this Content Management strategy can have broad reaching impact on the ability of the organization to reach consumers and optimize business processes. Both of these outcomes directly affect revenue by either increasing market share or improving execution.