Improving Web ROI With a CMS

Today literally thousands of vendors compete in the Knowledge Management (KM) and Content Management System (CMS) space, and they make a wide array of conflicting claims of the benefits of their various products. To cut through some of this clutter and shed light on the real possibilities of driving enterprise return on investment through KM/CM, this column will briefly review the justification for KM/CM projects and provide two concrete examples – one of a failed CMS implementation and one of a success.

Benefits of Implementing a CMS

The theoretical justification of Knowledge Management is fairly clear --- knowledge (about production processes, sales opportunities, safety enhancements, etc.) is almost every organization’s most critical asset. Equipment and inventory can be insured and replaced, but the knowledge of how to make an organization successful can’t. Knowledge management promises to make an organization’s knowledge available to everyone in the organization, instantly.

To the extent that Content Management supports Knowledge Management, implementing a CMS promises the above benefits and at least two others:

Productivity gains. With Content Management, the duties of people in the organization become more focused. IT professionals are free to focus on technology, not on getting content onto the Website or intranet. Designers focus on overall design of templates, not on the design of particular items of content. Content authors focus on authoring, not on the technical or design aspects of getting content published. Finally, administrative overhead can be dramatically decreased by CM’s ability automate workflows.
Quality of content. The time from authoring to publication can be shortened, providing fresher, more relevant information. Allowing those most familiar with content to edit and post it reduces errors, and removing the bottleneck of having all content flow through a Webmaster encourages new content creation.

CMS ROI Examples

In the real world, these promises sometimes come true, but at least as often they don’t. Acme Media Inc. (a composite of two real CMS implementers I’m familiar with) wanted to host a web site that would publish works of emerging authors. After reviewing trends in technology, AMI elected to purchase a CMS “mega-system” to support the new site. The new system was based on a technical platform new to AMI’s IS department, but in line with its then-current strategic technical direction. The results were not what AMI expected. The predicted flood of content did not materialize, largely because AMI required copyright agreements that deterred potential contributors. What content there was took so long to make its way through AMI’s editing process that it was outdated by the time it was published. The unfamiliar technology was eventually scrapped by AMI’s IS department.

Widget Enterprises Inc. (another renamed but real CMS user) took a different approach. WEI management set a strategic direction to make use of KM/CMS, but chose to be flexible in implementing this direction. Rather than starting with enterprise-wide changes, WEI pursued several short-term, focused projects aimed at:

  • Eliminating real procedural bottlenecks to publishing information on the Web and corporate intranet.
  • Making information that WEI already spent a lot of time and money providing to customers and internal team members available on line.

For example, rather than having IS move files between their several testing and staging servers every time a press release came out (as they had previously done), WEI used content management to allow the PR department to publish their own content. Also, they allowed engineers to directly update product data for their Website, thus increasing accuracy, improving service, and reducing rework. The results of WEI’s efforts were cost savings in customer support, more up-to-date content and less drain on IS resources.

The lessons of these two examples are clear. First, CM projects should focus on areas where there is a real need to publish useful information and where the existing process is too slow and cumbersome. Second, CM and KM may in the long run completely change an organization, but they don’t have to start on a large scale. Focused projects to resolve known problems using straightforward solutions are usually a better way to get started than implementing a mega-project.

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