Managing content can yield enormous rewards, but it requires a continuous improvement model.

I was recently testing a website with customers when a simple error became evident. I told the website manager about the error and he said they had already noticed it and would fix it in the next release. This was a basic error that should have been easy to fix. However, the website was being managed as a series of mini-projects. It will be over two months from the time the error was identified to the time it gets fixed.

I know of a hugely successful website where changes are made several times a day. I know of another website that has achieved four times the industry average in lead generation because of a continuous improvement model. In fact, I can't think of a successful website I've dealt with over the years that hasn't had a continuous improvement management model.

It's the big shift, the big challenge, and it's particularly an issue for large organizations. In 2010, it is surprising how rigid and inflexible many web content management systems are. But the biggest problem is the rigidity of management thinking when it comes to content.

Most content management models terminate at publication. Once the webpage or website is actually published, the project is complete. Huge quantities of print content are still being taken and being reproduced on the Web because that's the quickest and cheapest option. Localization is in essence a sweatshop activity for content. The whole drive is to reduce costs rather than increase value.

Properly managed, content has fabulous potential to deliver value. But too many organizations treat their website like a coalmine when they should be managing it like a goldmine. As web professionals we must continue to build the business case for the investment in a continuous improvement model. The value is unquestionably there.

I've been involved in building and managing websites since 1994 and I have never been more enthusiastic about the future of professional web management. This is the age of the new web professional, one who is analytical and service oriented. They test relentlessly and are constantly observing their customers. They are constantly refining their webpages and manage based on facts, not opinions.

It is very hard to do most of these things if you are burdened with a rigid content management system. But the rigid content management system is often a symptom of a rigid project management culture. It is equally surprising how many marketers still see their websites as brochures dominated by big, valueless stock images.

But the world of web management is shifting. More and more web teams are realizing that web management is about continuously improving a relatively small number of pages, not administering large quantities of content.

Of course, the ultimate goal is not managing the content itself, but rather managing your customers' top tasks. Content will support top task completion. The strategic management focus should be to continuously improve top task success rates.

[Recommended Reading: Web Optimization -- 3 Key Elements of Task Based Website Management]