Improving Web ROI With CMS: Making Content Management Pay

Organizations that choose to implement a Content Management Systems (CMS) always expect to increase productivity and improve Web ROI by improving the quality of Web and intranet content. Because these are often seen as “soft” goals, organizations often fail to measure ROI and take a hard look at the costs and potential pitfalls of CMS projects. This column will outline some of these costs and pitfalls and suggest approaches to managing them in order to ensure success.

CMS System Cost

 There are thousands of CMS on the market today, ranging from the $500,000 enterprise-level “megasystems” to freely downloadable open-source systems. Regardless of the cost of the software itself, however, most if not all systems involve significant total cost of ownership. Often overlooked costs include installation support, additional hardware, database software, training and documentation. Furthermore, these direct costs may only be a small part of the total cost of implementing CM. In many organizations, a CM implementation involves profound organizational and cultural changes whose costs may dwarf the direct costs of acquiring and implementing a system. All of these costs should be evaluated when choosing to implement a CMS, and the project should be planned accordingly. In practice, this may mean starting with a small project and expanding scope as knowledge and experience are gained.

Ease of use

 CMS projects commonly fail because users do not embrace a new system. Often, users feel that the new system is more cumbersome than the process it replaced. In order for the benefits of a CMS to be realized, users must feel confident and comfortable with the system, and their duties must be simplified rather than complicated by it. The CMS should also simplify the administrative process of getting content approved and published. The system should be able to automatically generate approval requests to individuals with approval authority, and users must be able to easily edit, revise, resubmit and create new versions of content.


In some ways, ease of use and flexibility are at opposite ends of a continuum. The key is to deploy a system that allows sufficient flexibility for both today’s and tomorrow’s needs, but not excessive flexibility at the expense of ease of use. CMS projects may fail because management selects a flexible solution that leaves users feeling overwhelmed with complexity and choice. Selecting a system exclusively for flexibility will lower ROI and frustrate users.

Ease of administration

By their nature, CMS systems are complex. If the system is not easy to administer, the additional IT burden will quickly cut into the productivity gains realized elsewhere. A successful system must provide easy-to-understand web-based administration screens permitting common tasks to be performed easily.

Workflow automation

It is estimated that a manual submission and approval process adds 70% to the time required to get an item of content from draft to publication. A properly designed CMS can dramatically decrease that time lag by automating the workflow processes, but automating a bad process will not make it better. In fact, an excellent CMS package can generate user frustration if the process it automates has bottlenecks. To ensure success, use the CMS implementation as an opportunity to simplify workflows and challenge multi-layer approval processes. To minimize risk, take a phased approach to workflow re-design and evaluate progress at regular intervals.


Distributing the ability to generate and publish content more widely throughout the organization requires ironclad security. The system’s security model must be sufficiently rigid to require that content authoring, approval, and publication authorities be specifically granted, by language and by type of content.

Open API

Needs change. Even with an excellent system selection decision today, protection for tomorrow’s unanticipated requirements should be provided. A well-documented and well-designed application program interface ensures the ability to modify and extend the system as required in the future. The keys here are to review documentation and test before you buy and also to make code or configuration changes that will hamper future upgrades.

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