Category Archives: Governance

What is the value proposition of CMS/WCM?

by Matthew Johnson

I just wanted to provide a brief reply to this basic question I get from various clients. Why should I use a CMS? Many clients who are new to CMS/WCM, view the solution as just another repository or database.  I continually get this response, why can’t we just put the content in Oracle, or SQL Server etc… well you can… but that is not the primary objective of a CMS and it will not get you the economies of scale in content management.  A CMS is supposed to enable a “Management System” which involves:

  • Operations Management & Governance: (Strategy, Policies, Roles, Responsibilities, Workflow, etc)
  • Content Development: (Content Editing, Reuse, Search Engine Optimization, Channel Agnostic and Specialization)
  • Content Repository: (Content Storage, Source Code Storage)
  • Content Distribution: (Cross Channel / Cross Infrastructure Deployment, Integration Services, Transformation/Template Services)

Many companies jump right into repository and integration mindset.  AKA, how do I store some content and get it onto the site.  Well this is a great idea, but to get value out of a CMS, you must set up the operational infrastructure and governance model to sustain a CMS.  If you focus on repository/integration, you are only solving specific technical problems for most often one defined channel like one web site, not larger scale and business specific operational needs.  Most often this approach involves a reduced set of resources that know how to store and integrate the content for a specific channel.  The result is a CMS that can be leveraged by only a certain subset of resources and then limits the reuse of content.  I do not know how many times I have seen a multi million-dollar CMS implementation that only can be used by 4-5 people and only use 30% of a CMS’s capabilities.

A CMS is supposed to empower your Content Management Model to allow more people to participate in the content process, whether its content production, viewing, reuse, and deployment.  A properly deployed CMS solution will also enhance a short time to market for content integration/distribution into new channels.

Key questions to ask yourself before you begin big CMS projects are:

  • Who participates in CMS requirements? (It should not be controlled by IT only)
  • Have you developed your Content Types and Content Hierarchies?
  • Have you defined your roles and responsibilities (Who are editors, content contributors, QA, support)
  • Have do defined your existing workflows and how they can be mapped to a CMS?
  • Is you content semantic and portable?
  • Are you planning to transform your content so it can be used cross channel?
  • Do leverage in context view of content?
  • Do you use Data Capture and Presentation layer template technology?
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Success is Content Distribution, but be careful.

by Matthew Johnson

The last decade has been a time of radical change in content ecosystem.  Users used to primarily consumed branded content thru one or few of “on-domain” channels like  This hub and spoke ecosystem focused on how to lure as many potential or current users to on-domain properties to consume content that conveys the company’s value proposition.  Companies presented online users with emails, micro-sites, and advertising with the goal of getting as many users to click thru into their “walled garden” (large .com sites).  Within these large walled gardens companies could leverage web content management tools to share/distribute large blocks of html and metadata across organizational silos.   However, times have changed, the advent of web 2.0 and social media changed how content is being consumed.  Walled gardens that follow traditional on-domain methodologies are being torn down and in its place are social media, open networks, new aggregators, API frameworks, and widgets.  A critical success factor is no longer based on getting people click thru to on-domain content but how well content has spread virally across the Internet using a channel most relevant to a user.

However, many CMS solutions unintentionally bind content to specific channels of consumption, aka  Content Types created in Interwoven, Drupal, Alfresco, SiteCore, and other products need to be strategically created to anticipate and plan for new and developing channels of content distribution.  Content types needs to house semantic and simple content to alleviate distribution across news sites, facebook, mobile apps/mobile web, and emerging channels like XBoxes, Digital Signage, Set top boxes, podcasts, etc.. I see the issue over and over again, companies create a global content types to meet a current or generalized need and then start up the content production line using dreamweaver or WYSIWYG editors.  Content which looks like it can be reused, cannot be reused because the content types do not provide the metadata, guidelines, governance, structure to give the content agility.  Content should always try to be agnostic of channel.  Content should be so semantic that is can be easily dropped and restyled using CSS or XML transformations.  I can say it over and over again, its all about the content types and their hierarchies.  CMS projects should not always jump straight into technical integration and performance testing.  True performance is how you expand the reach of your content across the web, not drive to a specific site.

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Information Technology vs. Business Needs in CMS

Business Strategy and IT Alignment
Image by Alex Osterwalder via Flickr
By Matthew Johnson

In the last 10 years, I have seen a common theme in fortune 500 organizations in regards to Content Management Systems (CMS) and-or Web Content Management (WCM) solutions.  Many CMS projects begin with a misalignment between the objectives of the business (Marketing, Finance, Operations, Silos, Product Groups) and information technology. It is essential that a CMS/WCM solution be started with all parties having common and clear set objects and performance measure for CMS success.  CMS initiatives should always reflect an organizations long term business strategy (Internet, extranet and intranet etc…).  However, more often than not, the CMS reflects a general interpretation of business needs by I.T.  Why would I say this?  To start,  most CMS initiatives begin to assuage a general need across the company.

For Example:

“The business would like shorter time to market for web content change and decrease the need and dependency of resources from I.T.”

“The organization would like to reuse and share content across the organization and gain efficiencies and reduce duplication of effort across departments.”

Do these sound familiar? Well this is common sales pitch for a CMS.  However, these needs are typically paired up with vague performance measures that quickly attempt to define measure for ROI and before you know it, you have a CMS budget and the project begins.

According to Gartner’s atricle “Tactical Guidelines for Narrowing Your Choices When Evaluating WCM Vendors” from December 2008:

1.  More than 65% of the Web Content Management teams were unaware of their organizations’ high-level, nontechnical objectives.

2.  More than 95% of Web Content Management related inquiries involved teams that had not identified specific, measurable metrics for their WCM initiatives.

This research validates my professional experiences and points to an overwhelming trend in companies that enterprise level CMS/WCM projects are executed without clearly identifying the needs/wants of the business and the key performance indicators of success.  In fact, many CMS/WCM projects are designed and executed from a technical point of view within information technology communities. Information Technology groups are measured by ROI of their systems and resources shared across the organization.  I.T. traditionally tries to develop a “general”  CMS solution that can be shared across the organization as to achieve economies of scale in content management and support resources.  For example, many WCM initiatives revolve around solutions that allow business units to leverage

  • Generic Presentation Templates for HTML/JSP/ASPX Generation
  • Generic Content Types and Metadata
  • Generic Tag Libraries or APIs for integration with legacy systems

However, this “one size fits all solutions” directly or indirectly conflicts with the expectations of business units that are moving toward a more segmented/targeted solutions that deal with customers at a more granular level.  Many business units interact with the web and see all the new technologies dealing with Analytics, Segmentation, Targeting, AJAX, Flash, Silverlight, Video, JavaScript, Facebook, Social Media, and RSS. The business units then ask the internal I.T. group on the time and effort required to get these features into the CMS/WCM solutions.  What is the result…. push-back!!!

Why do they get push-back?

  • The key performance measures of I.T. conflict with the business needs of the client.
  • I.T. focuses on centralization, support, and reuse while the business units wants segmented, targeted, and custom solutions.
  • I.T. just spent 2-5 years developing a CMS infrastructure to meet the requirements of five years ago and architecture cannot support current needs that demand quick, agile, custom across multiple distributions channels.
  • The current infrastructure is just now getting return on investment and the CTO/CIO are under pressure to squeeze every last dollar out the current infrastructure before significant improvements are made or rebuilt.
  • Traditional I.T. projects require 6-12 months before customizations and modifications can be brought online.
  • Most enterprise CMS/WCM vendors (Microsoft, Interwoven/Autonomy, FileNet, Documentum, Oracle) move just as slow as internal I.T. organizations in delivering more relevant and rich feature sets to meet current and future needs.  Therefore the CMS vendor architecture itself cannot support the business requirement  (Now I know most vendors will directly disagree with this statement, but its true)
  • Due to this push-back, many business units tend to see their internal CMS controlled by I.T. efforts as slow moving, difficult to use, and political.  As a result, we see growth in software and as a service (SAAS) solutions being leveraged by business units, such as marketing, to go around their internal information technology departments.  This is especially prevalent in situations dealing with social media, user submitted content, and moderation.

In order to prevent and-or lessen these issues in regards to CMS initiatives, it is essential to create and develop a cross-department CMS team that has a common set of high level non-technical business objective agreed upon.  These objective must be measurable and have specific targets to measured against.  Once done, technology and business will be on common ground for successful cross-organization CMS experience.

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Governance Modeling and Success in Content Management (CMS)

Governance Modeling and Success in Content Management

By Matthew Johnson
Technology Director
Razorfish CMS Center of Excellence

Over the past 15 years, content management has grown and evolved across organizations.   Content Management Systems (CMS) are now shifting from a product driven solution owned by technology departments to a mission critical digital communication system used by marketing and business units to directly execute on initiatives.  CMS has grown from document and web management of the late 1990s to a series of tools and processes of today to manage and distribute content across the web via blogs, twitter, social media, web-sites, email, mobile, etc.

Why do Content Management System projects cause so much pain in Enterprise Scenarios?

Large-scale CMS initiatives commonly fail to meet the short and long run expectations of business users.   Expectations usually revolve around the establishment of a simple, efficient, powerful, and relevant content management process (or content management framework).  This content management process will provide the enterprise with the operational tools to quickly create and deploy professional, high quality, and rich digital content.  However, many CMS solutions engender low satisfaction rates due to a discrepancy between what business users want and what they get.  A CMS will only deliver the promised business value when attention is paid to the non-technical issues of governance.

What do users want?

Efficient and intuitive ways to quickly add, update, share, re-use, and deploy large quantities of content across various distribution channels.   These channels consist of various online B2B, B2C, and B2E properties, which include web sites, micro-sites, widgets, mobile applications, extranets, intranets, blogs, email, and traditional media (e.g. print brochures or direct mail).

What do they get?

An expensive, complicated, often confusing content repository that is perceived to be out-of-date with current trends.  The very reasons for adoption of the content management system–decreasing time to market, increasing efficiency, and improving content agility are often the criteria the implementation fails to meet.  Many large-scale CMS solutions become rigid, creating operational and technical bottlenecks.

Governance is the Foundation of Successful Content Management

Why do most organization fail to get what they want out of a CMS? A majority of CMS initiatives are executed without proper governance models being established prior to product selection.  A majority of CMS initiatives prematurely dive straight into technical design and development, with the project leads hoping that the CMS software product’s features and capabilities will solve operational requirements.   More often than not, internal organizational pressure to deliver on time and to limit political discussions on content ownership, accountability, process, and cross-departmental collaboration cause governance model definition activities to be shortened or skipped.

In my experience across many Fortune 100-500 organizations, either external technical consultants or internal technology departments have defined and driven CMS initiatives.  Technology consultants seem to be the logical choice and are selected for their subject matter expertise and proven experience with delivering various product driven CMS solutions.   These subject matter experts quickly conduct interviews, assessments, requirements, and detailed designs over a typical project duration of 6-12 months.  In theory, these tasks are used to identify the strategic short- and long-term content management needs of the organization.   However, most of the time, these consultants are placed into situations where the client organization has limited or no expertise in operations management of large-scale cross-channel content repositories.  Business users and leadership typically do not have professional backgrounds in periodicals, journals, magazines, and newspapers.  These content-based industries are accustomed to the requirements and demands of effectively managing content assets, and have gained experience with the fundamentals of content management governance.

But most organizations are new to content management.  They do not have specific departments, roles, goals, and metrics directly tied to content production, oversight, and publishing.  This situation creates a significant gap for CMS design and implementation projects, since the core problem is a missing set of processes, operational guidelines, and skill sets, not just the need for a good tool.    Technology consultants are typically skilled in information and software architecture of various CMS platforms, but not in operations modeling and governance.  This results in a solution being designed from a primarily technical point of view and not specifically designed to meet the needs of a business user and their operational environment.

A governance model is essential for enterprise-wide content management initiatives that cross organizational boundaries and involve large numbers of employees and projects.  Successful content management solutions are driven by governance–that is, by people working together—not by technology.  Operational problems emerge from failures in day-to-day decisions about how content will be managed, as well as unclear assignment of roles and responsibilities.  The decentralized nature of many enterprise content management systems often leads to lack of clear ownership, inconsistencies in use, duplication of efforts, and strong dependencies on technical resources.

What are the benefits of a strong governance model for content management? Strong governance provides an operational and content centric foundation that facilitates growth, increases quality, and improves collaboration across organizational boundaries.  The end result is content that is more customer/user centric, better managed and maintained.   The sections below break down various strategic and significant areas that are affected by governance.  Each section explains the current state on many organizations and their problems, followed by a summary of a future state that can be achieved once a governance model has been established.

Benefits of Governance and CMS

The sections below break down various strategic and significantbusiness areas that are affected by governance.  Each section explains the current state on many organizations and their problems, followed by a breakdown of a future state once a governance model has been established.

Governance and Strategic Alignment

Current State

  • No clear alignment of the organization’s various content owners with brand’s strategic direction
  • No set governance body to administer  content and terms of use across channels
  • Low awareness of content inventory by other departments (Marketing, Public Relations, Finance, Accounting, Digital Agencies, Advertising Agencies)

Future State

  • Clearly defined objectives and alignment with strategic directions and goals of the organization and brand
  • Clear governance structure, roles and responsibilities regarding content management
  • Clear ownership and accountability for various content assets

Content Creation and Editing

Current State

  • Ad hoc and unstructured – leading to duplicate content, inaccurate, out-of-date, or conflicting content
  • Technology, vendor, or product specific processes that may not be adopted by the business users at all – because real-life work environments, workflows, resource allocations/skillsets and training needs have not been taken into account

Future State

  • In-depth planning and scoping
  • Standardized yet customized processes and workflows across the organization and external vendors
  • Faster time-to-market of relevant and fresh content

Content Quality and Compliance

Current State

  • Technology-driven structure of content directories, taxonomies, metadata, content types, and authoring interfaces
  • Inconsistencies in content across channels and organizational units
  • Inconsistencies in terms of use and presentation of content across channels
  • Content that does not communicate current branding or align with messaging
  • Duplication of content and efforts across the organization
  • Non­compliance of content with organization guidelines

Future State

  • User-friendly and business-driven content type definitions, taxonomies, and metadata that can be shared and re-used across business units, for greater adoption
  • Content alignment with segmentation, brand, and organizational messaging
  • Greater consistencies in use of content across channel
  • Consolidated, streamlined, and up to date content
  • Delivery of a more a consistent user experience
  • Compliance with organization standards (such as legal requirements, messaging, branding, accessibility)

Organizational Awareness

Current State

  • Lack of awareness of content life-cycle process
  • No proper process for creating and updating content
  • Lack of awareness of responsibilities and requirement for maintaining content
  • Lack of promotional calendar/ lack of awareness regarding how to market and promote content to targeted channels, customers, partners, and other departments

Future State

  • On­going communication and collaboration among business units, partners, and other organizational departments
  • On­going communication and liaising with agencies on roles and responsibilities
  • Higher quality online and offline content distribution channels via structured and operationally efficient content management

Building a governance model

Goal Setting

Once an organization has identified developed a general content management strategy and vision, it’s imperative to then define a set of specific that address governance needs.  These goals typically include the following:

  • Create a process that improves time-to-market of new and existing content
  • Create a formal decision-making process that is accountable, strategic, rational, balanced, and consistent
  • Provide the organization with a framework to identify, prioritize and manage content modifications and enhancements
  • Establishes a vehicle for communication regarding content management up, down and across the organization
  • Enable the sharing of content and resources across the organization
  • Create an organizational body that can oversee “shared-cost” investments and avoid duplicative work

It is important that these goals are communicated and aligned to business needs.  Executive sponsors must clearly dictate their definition of a goal and their expectations from each department to properly align objectives across organizational boundaries.  In enterprise situations, where different organizational units have vastly different priorities, objectives, and performance measures, it is essential that a clearly defined goal be presented to all stakeholders.

For example, the needs and wants of technology and business units can be in direct conflict.  Technology departments often focus their goals around centrally-controlled solutions that maximize return on investment and closely align with specific architecture and resourcing guidelines that were establish months to years before a CMS project was initiated.  The systems and processes that technology groups deem acceptable may be in direct conflict with the operational needs of business units.  Once a common set of goals are agreed upon in definition and scope, the cross-organizational units will be on common ground to participate in the design and development of a governance model that supports content management.

Governance Structures

When it comes to governance, there are many of operational/reporting structures that an organization can adopt.  These can include:

1. Hierarchical

Hierarchical Structure is based on the concepts of division of labor, specialization, and unity of command. In the context of CMS, key content decisions and approvals are made at the top and filter down through the organization. Middle content managers, writers or content contributors do the primary production and deployment of content to various channels. Continue reading