When investigating content management systems, many companies bring in multiple vendors for demos, and then choose a product and cross their fingers that it will all work out. Unfortunately, this is a common scenario, but there are resources that can help CIOs who are confused about the array of options and variables that require consideration. The tools and resources I've collected here should give you the information and guidance you need to make more informed CMS decisions.
Fight confusion with facts
The Atomz CMS Buyer's Kit (CMBK) is a set of tools and documents that provides a resource for managers and leaders involved in the challenging and complex task of selecting the right CMS. Atomz Corporation is a leading provider of Web-native content management and site-search applications that enables enterprises to deliver the right information at the right time.
“The kit is based on the experience of people who have spent years analyzing needs, gathering facts, and then creating a process for making the right decisions," explained Steve Kusmer, Atomz CEO. "Imagine that a very smart colleague in your industry just completed a rigorous, six-month CMS purchase process and offered to share all of the research and insights he or she gained. That was our goal with the CMBK."
Experience has shown that customers who establish a well-defined process to acquire a CMS are significantly more satisfied with the final result.
The kit includes a rich variety of information:
- Downloadable and easily customized presentations on the pros and cons of a CMS and the CMS selection process
- Sample memos and e-mails to help you communicate about a CMS within your organization
- A spreadsheet calculator to compare the total cost of ownership of different CMS approaches
- Links to other leading CMS vendors
- An updated list of links to CMS news articles and reviews, ROI research, white papers, and other insightful information on the effective use and acquisition of CMS
To top it all off, Atomz will even send you a wall-size poster to help your organization prioritize product criteria and select the right CMS.
A report that offers principles, products, and (best) practices
The CMS Report is an objective, detailed primer on the process of planning, selecting, and implementing a Web content management (WCM) solution. The "CMS Report," which costs $895, is published by CMSWatch, a wholly owned service of CMSWorks, a content management consulting and training firm established in July 2001.
“If you're looking for a CMS, you can spend months or years looking at the CMS landscape and still get nowhere,” explained Tony Byrne, author of the report and a content management consultant and trainer. “In fact, I know companies who have spent years paralyzed by the array of product choices in front of them.” The "CMS Report" can help tech leaders build a practical template for action and help CIOs anticipate and answer questions they're likely to be asked, especially the tough ones from your CFO.
This 140-page report provides what Byrne calls the "3 Ps" of CMS: Principles, Products, and (Best) Practices. “In my experience, companies looking for a CMS solution pay attention to one, or perhaps two, of the "Ps," but not all three, as they should,” explained Byrne. “In particular, companies focus on selecting products, but in reality, the software that you license ends up being less than a third of the overall solution.”
The report also includes:
- The CMS lifecycle. The report breaks down the CMS lifecycle into 16 steps, analyzes different approaches to each, and then provides a checklist of questions to ask.
- Content management product comparisons. Plain-English evaluations of 22 of the most popular WCM packages are provided to help you select the solution that best meets your company's needs. Readers can find updated two to three page comparative surveys of each package, as well as short descriptions of more than 20 other products across seven vendor categories. “We don't pretend this is the final word on what makes sense for any particular buyer,” said Byrne. ”But it’s helpful in shortening vendor lists and clarifying what questions to ask.”
- Action templates. These templates outline a detailed plan for the technology selection process and dealing with critical change-management issues.
- XML information. A special appendix examines the growing importance of XML in CMS, and helps you understand what "XML compliance" truly means.
Stephen Higgins, a thought leader and principal consultant in the field of content management, purchased the "CMS Report" to get a third-party opinion on several CMS products. Higgins has assisted Fortune 1000 companies with their business strategy, ROI, business process development, and architectural design of content management and commerce solutions. Previously, he was the director of business development with Granitar, a CMS solutions consulting firm.
“The report absolutely lived up to my expectations, especially the format. It gave me some insight into what the tools were like to work with, and it brought more objectivity into our consulting practice, as well as confirmed our experience with several of the featured CMS products,” he said. The report offers objective insight, which is important, as Higgins' company advises clients on the different systems on the market.
“It said the good things as well as the bad, something some analyst reports tend to shy away from to avoid offending clients that pay for their services,” he added.
Yet Byrne doesn’t expect people to purchase the report without a preview of a free report sample. More information on the report is also available at the CMSWatch site. Here are some excerpts on topics ranging from editing online content to specific product reviews:
On Webmaster bottleneck
"[There is] a new phrase entering the common vernacular: 'Webmaster bottleneck.' We think this label is a little unfair. If only one person or a small team can place content on a large corporate Web site, publishing schedules will surely suffer, but it is typically symptomatic of broader deficits within a company concerning inadequate tools, knowledge, and authority..."
On editing your content for the Web
"Commercial firms are beginning to realize what media sites have already discovered: the online medium rewards those site owners who edit content toward shorter attention spans, at least at higher levels of a sitemap where people tend to graze impatiently. This presents a challenge for organizations that wish to 'single source' their content and publish exact replicas in different formats. The Web version typically needs additional editing, even if this just means additional paragraph breaks. Your WCM package can enable you to insert a copy-editing step in the Web production workflow, but it cannot edit down your content for you."
On architectural choices among the enterprise vendors
"Another significant trend is taking place among the 'Majors.' They are moving away from their own proprietary application servers to 3rd-party app server vendors (BEA, ATG, IBM) to obtain, among other things, better J2EE compliance. They are shifting slowly and somewhat uneasily, though."
On Interwoven TeamSite
"A key differentiator is the product’s ability to work with your existing Web system as static files, enabling you to avoid—or at least postpone—chunking, stripping, cleaning, and classifying your existing content to put it into a database or XML. The idea here is that you accept the messy commingling of presentation and content and attack reusability later. Of course, the longer you postpone that day, the more it will cost..."
On Microsoft Content Management Server
"Curiously, there is no automated or batch MS Office integration, although users can drag and drop content from Office documents to placeholder areas while retaining formatting. Perhaps this is because the system does not natively store content as XML (although it can be exported as such), and therefore would not necessarily know what to do with an MS Word file that was structured with stylesheets..."
On open source CMS
"We urge that you look for open source projects with velocity and staying power. One reason why project velocity and staying power matters is that open source WCM packages actually require substantial integration..."
Additional useful resources
In addition to the hefty reports mentioned above, there are other online resources that can help foster a better understanding of CMS and implementation efforts.
The Metatorial CMS Planner is a comprehensive, hands-on companion to the best-selling book, Content Management Bible by Bob Boiko, president of Metatorial Services, a Seattle professional services company focused on content management education and consulting. The planner, which costs $200, will help guide your team through the content analysis and planning phases of implementing a CMS. It also helps you to uncover and organize the needs and constraints of your particular situation so that you can base CMS product decisions on solid, relevant information. The Metatorial site also offers a free reference document, Content Management Systems—The Selection Process, that gives you a quick overview of how you should select a CMS.
Another good CMS resource available online is How to evaluate a content management system, a white paper written by James Robertson, managing director of Step Two Designs, a knowledge management consultancy in Sydney, Australia. Robertson specializes in establishing knowledge management systems, information design, usability, and XML development. The cleanly laid-out and easy-to-read paper offers good tips and insight that can guide you to a better CMS product choice.
Share your CMS resources
If you know of a good CMS site or resource, please send it in to TechRepublic and we’ll add it to the list!