Content management workflow diagram
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In a recent exploration of the issues behind the fall off in content engagement on social media over the past three years, it also became clear that enterprises are struggling to manage increasingly large bodies of content. In a tech space where content management systems have been around for 20 years, it seems bizarre that this should be a problem, right?

Content Management Challenges

However, it is also true that during the ‘noughties’ the role of content management systems, and enterprise content management systems (ECM) became less clear with the rise of cloud computing and content management, or content services as it has become known, in the cloud. The rising tide of data, though, has meant that more than ever, content management systems are playing a key role in supporting enterprise business and marketing efforts. In fact, according to new data from Nucleus Research entitled, The 2018 Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Technology Value Matrix, ECM systems are increasingly integrating with more recent technologies like analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and even Blockchain. The research found a growing trend towards AI and machine learning as well as automation to manage the growing sprawl of data and exponential proliferation of content across organizations.

The research also points out that vendors are moving away from inflexible monolithic platforms to solutions that can manage data across all facets of an organization, both locally and in the cloud. Leaders in this year’s ECM Value Matrix include: Box, Digitech Systems, Laserfiche, Microsoft, M-Files and Nuxeo. The report also found that in addition to AI and automation, the use of metadata is making content management easier, more efficient and more flexible. Vendors are making advancements in metadata capabilities, making for lightweight solutions with usable interfaces that manage content across solution-agnostic repositories. This puts a stronger focus on analyzing data to gain insight and derive more value.

If, as we understand it, a content management system is a computer application that supports the creation and modification of digital content and typically supports multiple users in a collaborative environment, CMS features vary widely. Most CMSs include Web-based publishing, format management, history editing and version control, indexing, search, and retrieval. By their nature, content management systems support the separation of content and preparation. So how are organizations using CMSs and what are they looking for? Her are six items that kept popping up when we asked organizations what they were looking for in a CMS.

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Content Editor

Sam Pollard is Head of Technology at Venn Digital, a UK-based digital marketing agency that has built its own content management system. “As a Digital Agency, our CMS is at the core of what we do. It needs to be user-friendly for clients, but easy for our developers to work efficiently with. The digital world is fast-paced, so having a flexible and extendable CMS is crucial and means that a website can be built without limits and be adaptable in the future,” he said.

The most important element of a CMS, he said, is that it is easy for the non-technical content editor to quickly change or add content and pages on their website. It needs to be easy to find pages through searches or listings and ensure content can be changed on the actual page so users can see exactly what they are changing. New pages need to be created easily, through simple clone methods alternatively users can build from scratch with drag and drop modules. Also, making settings and tag changes easy for SEO is important, either inserting them automatically or manually.

Site Structure

From a more technical view, making changes to a site's structure, HTML, CSS and Javascript must be simple to allow users to work as efficiently as possible. Systems with no back-end coding are a good addition, which means it's easy for anyone with basic HTML skills, from project managers to designers and developers, to build new modules or tweak fields and templates.

Data Management

Finally, retrieving information from the client website is also important for a good CMS. Content management systems should also provide the ability to run reports and download data from on-site capture forms and traffic information as well as a fully customizable dashboard showing reports, traffic and usage stats. This information should be downloadable into 3rd party marketing tools for further analysis.

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At-a-Glance Features

At-a-glance features might include quick alerts, task widgets, announcement blocks that can be dismissed, or traffic light statuses. Arranging multi-layered information in one page requires a unique content strategy, said Nigel Davies, founder of digital workplace software, Claromentis. “Known as 'glanceability', it is about presenting important and bite sized relevant content in a way that can be easily understood and acted on without information overload. Having information that is easily digestible in a glance also helps users 'on the move' who may have bad connections or limited bandwidth," he said.

For Davies, the ability to create and manage team content is also a key requirement for any content management system. In particular, he said that a CMS needs to give intranet administrators the option to create content for different teams as well as content for all. It’s the same principle that social media platforms use — feeds full of irrelevant updates will turn users off.

Managing Complexity

There are two key capabilities that content management systems need to offer organizations, Matthew Mercuri, Partnership Specialist at Montreal, Canada-based digital agency Broadsign said. Those two things includes simultaneously allowing creation complexity while, secondly reducing management complexity. “The reality is that the good CMS make it easy to do creative, wonderful and complex things while ensuring it's not too much of a convoluted or complicated process to put in place,” he said.

The better CMS adapt to the style of each individual operator while maintaining data and goal integrity between the entire team. Functionally speaking, that means two CMS operators can utilize the same CMS to accomplish mutual or separate goals, while arriving at those goals with different thought processes. CMSs that are modular with tags and APIs stand ahead of others.

Strong Permission and Workflow Features

Organizations also need to deal with redundancy while respecting the business protocols. “Ever have a piece of content that went live and wasn't approved by the correct managers?” he asked. By way of response he said that CMSs need to provide redundancies that are aligned to a brand's voice, their rules and regulations for communication.

Strong SEO Features

Jason Scott is Digital Marketing Specialist at Archway Cards, an online store operating out of the UK. He says that a content management system can either make or break a website’s success in organic search performance. “A good CMS will organize pages in a fashion that allows search engines to crawl your site seamlessly,” he said. “If a search engine can easily identify and index new pages, this will boost your organic performance.”

It's also worth noting that, the CMS is also largely responsible for creating the code that sits behind the scenes. If this code is bloated, it can reduce overall site performance and slow down page load speed. Page load speed is not only an important ranking factor, but it's integral to user experience. If your site doesn't load quickly enough, users will not stick around.