I remember when our daughter got her first two wheel bike, a silver and pink job with glitter tassels, a pink woven basket across the handlebars and big training wheels. How excited she was, how enthusiastic she was about riding -- especially when mom or dad held on to the back of the seat to control forward motion and give her a sense of security with this new thing.


I remember too, that she took a long time to migrate off the training wheels and had no interest in riding up hills unaided or going faster than what’s required to keep forward momentum.

Eventually, she outgrew the little bike and wanted a grown up bike just like her friends: a mountain bike with the knobby tires, shock absorbers and 21 speeds. And doting parents that we are, we obliged with a new bright orange mountain bike that came with a price tag well above our comfort zone for a bicycle.

She rode the new bike infrequently -- mostly with us, but was not comfortable using the gears, not interested in going up hills and not enjoying it in any manner close to how it was intended to be used.

How to Inspire Adoption?

Her experience migrating from the kiddy bike to the grown up mountain bike reminds me of a recent migration effort at a large unnamed insurance company that had a fresh install of a brand new Content Management System. Getting our content providers to use the new system felt a lot like getting our daughter to use the new mountain bike with all the features.

I led the efforts to get the new purchase approved and installed and get all the content and functionality migrated across to the new platform. Our users were less than enthusiastic about the idea of distributed content. Why should they do it themselves when the CMS team always did it for them?

The users wanted the advantages of the new features that came with the Enterprise CMS, but had no interest in a distributed content model -- a problem for this insurance company since our entire strategy around the new system was to distribute it quickly in order to cut content production costs and cycles.

Of course like the mountain bike, we had all the bells and whistles. Our new CMS had no knobby tires, shock absorbers or 21 forward speeds, but we did have dynamic content capabilities, better granularity for defining roles and permissions, a superior WYSIWYG editor with roles based switching between full HTML and simple HTML views, plug in modules for all kinds of new functionality, improved transaction processing and the use of taxonomy to define presentation logic -- all stuff we clamored for and agreed was needed to manage a high volume content operations environment.

Getting our content providers to use the new system was not an Entperprise CMS problem, it was a business problem and it threatened to undermine our efforts towards leveraging the functionality we fought to gain in the new system. Our content providers still had the training wheels on, and the CMS team grew weary of holding on to the back of the seat to provide that comfort level our providers were accustomed to. What to do?

Distributed Content to Get Up to Speed

Our migration plan took several months to implement. During that time, we were doing "dual content entry" -- entering content on the current and new system to keep content in-synch for the future launch date.

To complicate matters, our content providers now had plans for boatloads of new content to add that would be "beneficial" in the new system. We were in danger of being overwhelmed and in need of a plan to get our providers on board with a distributed content model.

That plan took the form of business processes and templates outside of the CMS toolset that streamlined how they gave us content updates. Specifically, the CMS team designed a set of Word templates that were unique to each type of template we had in the current and new system. Those templates used tables with detailed labels and instructions in the table headers that explained the details about each block of content.

For example, a Word based article template had fields to account for Title, Teaser Title, Body, Related Links, Keywords, Navigation, Publish and Expiration Dates, etc. The headings above each of these fields used the exact name of the fields in the Enterprise CMS and described where the content would surface and any character restrictions as to number of characters allowed, acceptance of special characters (like percent, copyright, ampersand) and described where the content in the field would surface.

All our content providers had to do was type (or paste) their content into the respective fields in the Word document and ship the document off to the CMS team for upload.

We then guaranteed our content providers that if they used the Word templates to submit all content changes, then we would guarantee (thru a formal Service Level Agreement) that their content would be published within a narrow time window.

This accomplished two things: 1) it took the guess work and myriad changes in content out of the workstream, and allowed the CMS team to make content changes via a cut and paste operation. More importantly, 2) it got our content providers used to the names of the fields within the CMS templates, the different types of fields and how they worked together to surface and link content across the site.

We shopped these new templates out to our business partners and got their agreement to use the new Word templates to fill in content for us, while the CMS team would make content changes in the old and new systems.

When the time came to finish the migration and distribute the content to the business users, they were now familiar with the content rules: where content lived and what was linked and related to it, what character and field length restrictions were applicable to each field, and how and where each piece of content would surface.

From Early Adopters to Advocates

Our next step was to identify one or two early adopters in each business unit that were enthusiastic about wanting to use the new system. Those we selected saw the content provider role as a way to take on more responsibility in their groups and increase their visibility to management for promotions and new opportunities. Over the course of several months, each line of business identified and funneled all of their content work thru these early adopters.

With several months of experience using the new Word templates, we then trained these early adopters with a detailed PowerPoint slide deck and about an hour of hands-on time in the new system (in a staging environment) where they could play with their content. As they got comfortable in the new CMS, their enthusiasm for the toolset was infectious and they became advocates and internal trainers for the new Enterprise CMS platform with their respective business units.

In these months, the content request queue dried up, requests for access to the system increased and our roles on the CMS team morphed away from making content updates to more pressing issues: managing user related problems, troubleshooting permissions, fixing content errors and working on building out new functionality in the system.


A success? Yes. Easy? Well, no, but manageable.

And now this insurance company has a fully distributed content system with dozens of content providers, a streamlined operation and a very quick turn-around for making content changes, since the changes are now made by the business, not the content team. There’s more than one way to gain buy-in and acceptance for a distributed content model. This method, as simple as it sounds, worked for us.

Our daughter? She finally got comfortable with the new mountain bike, but it was a lot like getting our content providers to use the new system -- with baby steps and a string of cumulative successes. After several sessions of peddling around playgrounds and parking lots for extended periods of time, each time in a different gear, she finally got to the point of understanding the advantages of all these gears and learned to change the gears herself.

Over time, she gained confidence, learned to keep up with mom and dad and try out different types of terrain (using all the gears). She learned how to go up hills easily in lower gears and by slowly increasing our riding times and the types of places we rode to, we all got there as a team.

As parents, we learned patience and consistency in helping her adapt to the new bike. She’s now fully capable on her new mountain bike and can keep up with the grownups and her friends on bike treks. Maybe we should introduce her to content management systems.

Our latest family addition is a new puppy, a cheerful and energetic Dalmatian who has decided not to eat or drink -- at all -- unless the entire family is in the same room eating at the same time. She seems determined to starve herself if we don’t all eat together as a family at every meal. I’ll let you know how that works out!

Title image courtesy of iofoto (Shutterstock).

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