The Perils of Implementing Content Management

I can’t remember how I came across this article, but I just found it in my bookmarks. It’s a lengthy piece in PC Magazine from September 2002 entitled “From Chaos to Control” covering the challenges of implementing a Content Management System. It reviews the main products and gives six important lessons that I hope they won’t mind me printing here in full. These are valuable lessons:

1. Picking CMS software before developing solid requirements and a business case. When this happens, technology ends up driving your business processes rather than vice versa. Convert some of the resources you are currently expending on software evaluations into a deeper examination of your own content and business needs.

2. Not getting a clear mandate from the top to proceed. Doing this is hard and can be expensive. Not doing so can be costly in the long run if support is pulled mid project. Get business-line leaders on-board. You’ll need their strategic direction and a mandate for change.

3. Underestimating integration and professional service needs. Budget two to four times the cost of a software license for consulting, customization, and integration. A lot of additional coding is needed to glue everything together.

4. Hiring inexperienced developers to integrate and extend the software. Having great developers with CMS experience implement mediocre software is almost always preferable to excellent software in the hands of novice integrators.

5. Depending entirely on an outside company to make changes to the system. Involve your own technical people closely in the initial development, even if you are outsourcing the integration. And don’t skimp on training; it’s expensive but worth it.

6. Thinking your migration will be painless (despite what your CMS provider may tell you). Don’t make it worse. Start to prep yourself for a CMS by cleaning up your HTML code and organizing your content. This will take you longer than you think.

Those of you who know what I’ve been up to for the last year or more will know that I can only echo these issues fully, from deep within! I had a piece published in Computing a while ago on this topic, with the notable quote “Content management is not something you buy, it’s something you do”. If you let the technology lead, the job will never be done the way it needs to be done.

Over the last year, we’ve battled with content management systems and tools trying to get the right product to handle multiple government websites. In the end, after a lot of evaluation, none were able to do the job we needed – and we knew that we had the job right, so we ended up doing it ourselves. The fruits of that long labour will soon be visible and then we’ll see later in the year if it was really worth it. I think it will be, but you never know. Once it’s up to see, I’ll talk more about it but until then I’ll have to be a bit quiet.

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