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The value of content management systems (CMS) can be difficult to quantify and measure. And even if your company can find quantifiable metrics, it can still be difficult to align and contextualize these metrics to actual business value. To assist in this process, our company developed a framework to align the key drivers for CMS investments and upgrades with the business values attained as a result. Based on the deep, multi-stakeholder analysis and our ongoing end user inquiries and interviews for content management in the contexts of legal, big data, and enterprise collaboration, this framework is meant to provide end users with a basic starting point for developing the value proposition for content management.

The 4 Drivers

We found four basic investment drivers leading to the demand for CMS purchases and upgrades. The most interesting aspect of these varied drivers is that each engages a different set of stakeholders:

  • Expiring Technology -- This is typically an IT-driven problem where companies are trying to upgrade their information architectures and move through multiple siloed applications. The cost of support and development has made these investments difficult to use.
  • Resource and Content Accessibility -- The challenge of finding resources and creating content with a consistent and governed approach is a workflow issue that is relevant to line-of-business creators, business process architects and training personnel. Typically, marketing and HR departments are deeply involved with this particular challenge.
  • Enterprise Collaboration and Sharing -- This challenge of supporting cross-enterprise engagement and interdepartmental collaboration is a line-of-business user problem as employees struggle with the design, usability and front-end functionality of the CMS.
  • Regulatory Exposure -- The rate of change for regulatory issues and the reliance on internal tribal knowledge are ever-present concerns for GRC (Governance, Risk Management and Compliance) and security personnel.

In addition, there is the ever-present financial stakeholder who is not directly affected by most of these key investment drivers. Because the investment framework for a CMS is complicated and involves many different potential contributors to business value, the CMS requires buy-in from a team of stakeholders that represents finance, training, GRC, IT and the relevant line-of-business resources to fully represent the challenges. To align these varied needs with the ultimate value, companies must use a variety of metrics that are aligned to each relevant stakeholder.

Breaking Value Down by Stakeholder

For technologists, the key value propositions for improving internal intranets and content management are: reducing the time to launch, contracting the time to develop new portals, reducing or reallocating the intranet management staff, and removing technical obstacles for third-party partnerships. By moving from legacy technologies to modern content management solutions, companies have identified a two-thirds reduction in time to develop new portals and functionality demanded by users and stakeholders. Also, companies have been able to pull between one and five dedicated full-time equivalents (FTEs) by eliminating legacy technical debt and support requirements.

Line-of-business managers focused on resource and content accessibility are more focused on the ability to support more content formats, enable content developers and creators, and support new processes and workflows. For HR directors, this included direct integration with LinkedIn and other social networks from a recruiting and extended community support perspective and workflow management with employment forms and workforce schedules.

In contrast, marketing directors seek increasing integration with other social communities, audio, video and other multimedia content to support campaigns, increase ideation and increase brand equity. The key challenge with these functionalities is that, although they increase departmental functionality and capability, they are very hard to align with direct financial value because they are foundational and operational in nature. As discussed in a prior article, not all business value is directly attributable to a dollar number. This makes direct financial and LOB stakeholder goals hard to reconcile in CMS investments.

At the operational end-user level, the corporate intranet and content management solutions are useless if they are not well-designed and do not promote cross-enterprise engagement. To support end-user engagement, buyers should focus on solutions that have a proven uplift of internal intranet users after installation. This uplift can be measured in overall numbers, increased web-based or mobile usage, or through greater in-system interactions.

Consider solutions with solid examples of companies increasing the volume of posts, comments, messages, page visits, page views and page creation. Also look for CMS solutions where the number of content creators and authors continually increases from month-to-month.

For compliance and regulatory-minded stakeholders, the key to the corporate intranet is simply that it does not result in inaccurate information while supporting key regulatory requirements on a consistent basis. Look beyond security issues to ensure that an intranet is compliant. Security is necessary, but insufficient. To flexibly support a range of compliance issues that vary by industry, geography or business model, companies need to ask how the software in question can be adjusted in real time or right time to support new regulatory issues and how quickly and efficiently user roles can be adjusted based on promotion or termination. These are ultimately workflow and management issues, rather than security issues.

Finally, for financial stakeholders, the real question of an upgrade project is around the true Return on Investment. Although many CMS value propositions are not purely financial in nature, the key value metrics to calculate the financial case should include both key costs and financial value propositions.

Costs typically include the software or cloud license and maintenance costs, implementation labor, ongoing labor, consulting and training. Financial value typically includes reduction or reallocation of one or more intranet management staff, significant reduced development time for new portals of 50 percent or more, and lower cost of training.

Secondary value propositions that may also be financially measurable include a reduced time to hire, improved sales conversions or upsell revenue based on intranet conversations or integration with external social media, revenue from new business units or products, revenue from sales activities managed through CMS, or improved ideation leading to a strong revenue-producing or cost-cutting activities. Depending on the breadth and scope of the content management project, all or none of these secondary values may come into play.

The true value of content management has typically been challenging to measure both because of the breadth of stakeholders involved and the variety of value propositions that come into play. But when you collect the right stakeholders, understand each of their goals and balance financial and qualitative value propositions, businesses can maximize the value of these projects.

Title image by Tripp (Flickr) via a CC BY 2.0 license