Paul Trotter, CEO of Author-it Software Corp., is a man who knows what he is talking about. If you don't believe me, just take a look at his bank balance.
He just published a White Paper on the implementation challenges presented by Content Management Systems as a whole. It ought to be required reading for boardroom-types, IT managers, webmasters — just about anyone whose job entails management of digital content.
But for those just waking up to the fact that they need a CMS, and are fretting over the issues involved in getting it up and running, you might want to take a look.
Trotter points out that the problem of enterprise content management systems is that while potential “efficiency” benefits are almost incalculable, the challenges presented by implementing such systems are so daunting and potentially complex that poor decisions at and before implementation can drastically curtail these advantages.
So the initial stages of setting up a CMS architecture are absolutely vital.
The paper breaks down the implementation challenges of CMS into seven categories:
Control and Management
Management of financial data underwent a revolution from the 1980's onwards, from hand-written ledgers, to rudimentary spreadsheets, to more manipulative tabular forms, to advanced financial software.
Such a revolution, argues Trotter, has never taken place for other forms of content.
Word, for instance, is little more than a 'paper-simulator', offering linear storage capabilities and little connectivity.
CMS can be considered as an effort to move content creation out of the 'paper simulation' phase, and into the far more powerful database stage.
Migration of content from old, sterile formats into more useful ones can be daunting. Particularly in a mature organization which could have years of content that needs converting.
The Import functions of different Content Management Systems vary greatly, and if there is a lot of archive material which needs to be converted to, say, an XML-based format, migration capabilities will be of huge importance to users.
Migration is always a messy job: Trotter cites examples of documents which might have been written by an employee who, instead of hitting [Return] at the end of a sentence, instead jams down the space-bar until they come down to the next line.
This kind of botched formatting plays havoc with automated content migration and importing to object-based forms.
CMS vendors, says Trotter, tend to gloss over this issue, sometimes shrugging their shoulders and suggesting that the client creates the content anew. (Or they offer to migrate content for up to US$ 15 per page.)
Investment in a CMS is one of those things that can be difficult to justify to The Suits. The advantages are real but intangible. The process can be long and arduous. Explaining the issues involved can be difficult. Older, more traditional executives may not appreciate the true value of information management.
The People Factor
People don't like change. If they are comfortable using MS Word, that's what they are going to use.
Enabling code-based exports might entail load times a fraction of a second longer, more crashes and other issues. If people don't understand the benefits, they will see the implementation of advanced CMS as a needless complication.
Many enterprise solutions embed their tools in familiar content-creation apps. But fundamentally CMS is a 'two-part sell': the company must be sold on the product, and the individual users too.
Fear of Obsolescence
There might be hostility emanating from persons in the organization who feel like the new system is taking over parts of their old job. A simpler, more stable, streamlined content creation process will make the 'go-to' IT troubleshooter on the floor feel less valuable, for instance.
Trotter recommends not indulging such persons: “often, people who perceive themselves as indispensable must be left behind for a system to take hold. Other times, it is possible to make the person 'indispensable' in another area.”
Life can be tough. But evolution is crucial.
Content creation when a CMS is introduced becomes a team sport. Employees who are used to working on a document from beginning to end may be irked by this. If Guy A thinks that Guy B in the next cubicle writes terrible technical documentation, there may be friction when you let him get his claws on Guy A's lovingly crafted material.
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