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Friday, January 6, 2012

Share, Collaborate & Empower - Unlock the CMS

SilverStripe: The Complete Guide to CMS Development (Wiley)

The scenario is all-too familiar: Someone from marketing wants to post information about a new product and a photo to go with it on the company website. In order to do that, they must first email text and an image file to the webmaster, who then posts the content. But once it is posted, the CEO reads the content on the Web and sends an email to the marketing person about changes and updates that must be made. The problem is that the webmaster is out of town for a week and can’t be reached. Meanwhile, the legal department is fretting over liability issues associated with the Web post.

In the same enterprise, someone from the sales department emails an expense report with copies of scanned receipts to a manager for approval, who then sends the document to accounting. But because there are some issues with a hotel bill and some copies of receipts are missing, accounting sends the expense report back to the salesperson, who must then change the report and begin the process over again

These are only two real-world examples out of a magnitude of potential cases that illustrate content collaboration, and more importantly, how inefficient it can be. However, CMS (content management system) software can help, by allowing users to more easily complete work tasks and processes that require input from several parties.

WHAT CMS IS
CMS allows users to access a single Web-based interface to collaborate on content that is shared and made available to those that need to access it on a real-time basis. In this way, CMS can facilitate the management of content and workflows that require direct input from two or more users. Common features of CMS include the ability for users to edit and store content with a shared template.

In addition to updating websites or processing expense reports as described in the example above, CMS can be useful for a number of tasks. These might include processing and creating invoices, contracts, bill of lading, purchasing orders, customer records,
policy documents, or any content that requires input from different users.


For website updates, CMS allows users to make changes to content on a template, while others can make changes to it without having to rely on the webmaster to complete the task. Expense reports are filed and stored with scanned receipts, which anyone who needs to can process and change as needed.

LOW-HANGING FRUIT
Enterprises commonly get their feet wet with CMS by using it for Web publishing. This is because almost all businesses have a website and they need an efficient way to update it on a regular basis, which CMS can help them to do more efficiently.

As with the first scenario described above, users without access to CMS often have to post content by emailing it to the webmaster. The webmaster also has to intervene anytime changes must be made. Instead, non-technical users can use CMS to post and publish content directly on a commonly shared template in a matter of minutes. Anybody who needs to change the content or approve it prior to publication does so on the same template.

As a real-world example, CMS has lead to significant improvements in the management of the website for the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis at the New School in New York, says Bridget C. Fisher, who works as an associate director for the Schwartz Center For Economic Policy Analysis (www.economicpolicyresearch.org) at the New School in New York. Posting new Web content used to be very difficult and complex, but now it is easy and straightforward, she says.

Fisher’s team uses Joomla (www.joomla.org) for its CMS website needs, which she says is free to use as an open source alternative while installation, training, and design costs totaled $12,000. “With CMS, [our team] can actively engage in putting content up on the website,” Fisher said. “Previously, it was terrible and complicated. I had to call up the Web department at the university just to do anything.”

Fisher also says that CMS has streamlined how content is collaboratively created
and posted. While she describes herself as a non-technical user, Fisher says she is able to complete advanced tasks for the site by herself, such as the warehousing and archiving of research papers, posting video content, creating search functions, or adding blog rolls. While they take more time to complete than posting text and pictures, they are not overly complex or difficult with CMS. “Before CMS, I had to go through the webmaster to do these types of things, which I usually would just not have time to do,” Fisher said.

One of the beauties of Web CMS is that different users who need to can access content with an Internet connection. For Fisher’s team, anyone can add or collaborate on the development of basic or feature-rich content by accessing the website template from any
Internet-connected PC. Previously, content for the SCEPA website could only be uploaded from a single computer— which required the help of the webmaster. “With [Web] CMS, you can update content anywhere,” Fisher said.

LOW-HANGING ROI FRUIT
When it comes to finding ways that CMS can generate a direct ROI, CMS for website-content collaboration represents “low-hanging fruit,” says Alan Weintraub, an analyst for Forrester Research (www.forrester.com).

“Content on the website that is meant to drive commerce and customer satisfaction is all about making the customer or the external party’s experience with your company richer as a first entry point,” Weintraub says. “It is easy for someone to justify expenditures and
implementations on external customer engagement. You can actually attribute ROI directly to customer satisfaction [by using CMS] for websites.”

Indeed, enabling enterprise users to more effectively develop and enrich website content by improving how they manage their websites with CMS can ultimately help to form more direct ties to customers.

“There is a strong affinity between what you do on the website and what you do in your stores or retail establishments when you are helping your customers make purchasing decisions or are trying to make them more loyal,” says Melissa Webster, an analyst for
IDC (www.idc.com)

CMS also has its use for those who need to collaborate on content internally on an intranet. However, demonstrating ROI is more difficult for intranet projects or collaboration on internal content than it is for Web-based CMS projects, Weintraub says. This is because intranet CMS applications are not used to boost revenues, he says, which websites can be made to do by improving customer reach. Still, CMS for intranet applications can certainly help enterprises reduce costs by making certain business processes more efficient Intranet processes that require collaboration by several parties that can benefit from CMS include transactional applications, such as the creation of invoices, contracts, and bills of lading, Weintraub says. “For internal [collaboration], CMS can work for anything for which you are acquiring information and integrating it into a back-office system while automating the process,” Weintraub says. “It’s going to have an easier and high ROI because it is really hard to do those things [without CMS]. You can show efficiencies and speed to process.”

When drafting contracts, for example, someone in sales can upload agreement terms and other client-specific information into an existing contract template. A sales supervisor can check the contract’s terms and make changes before the legal department adds its input by making final changes directly to the content on the template. This can be done anywhere where a user has a Web connection. “For these types of applications with [CMS], I can cut out approval steps so my ROI might be getting a contract approved faster and expediting the workflow process,” Weintraub says

CMS for internal applications is often very industry-specific, Weintraub adds. Examples include CMS that is geared for electronic medical records for healthcare organizations, student regards for schools, or policies for insurance vendors.

Microsoft’s SharePoint (sharepoint.microsoft.com) represents a low-cost option with which SMBs can become acquainted with CMS for intranet applications, Weintraub says. While it lacks the features of more high-powered CMS alternatives, the software offers an affordable option with which SMBs can share and collaborate on content.

If an enterprise finds that SharePoint serves as an efficient way for users to collaborate on content, it can then build on the application. “You can later matchup what your requirements are and what SharePoint does and then you can supplement it, since CMS vendors offer hooks to SharePoint with [compatible CMS packages],” Weintraub says.

THE RIGHT FIT
The business processes for which CMS is used can vary tremendously. Some work groups, for example, might use CMS to collaborate on drafting legal documents, while human resources might take advantage of it to update HR records, and another department will need it to collaborate on website content. Consequently, CMS vendors will often tailor their offerings to meet the needs of a particular business process.

The common thread among different versions of CMS is how they facilitate content sharing and collaboration among user groups. But how they do that, their specific features, and the designs of the different interfaces can vary, which is important to keep in mind when making purchase decisions. “There are very different content needs and workflows to think about [in an enterprise] when selecting CMS,” Webster says Certain industries can also have specific requirements for CMS features for intranet use. “The needs vary between pharma vs. government vs. healthcare vs. financial vs. manufacturing and so on,” Webster says. “And then [within these industries], there are different business functions.”

Reflecting the fragmented needs of the market, several hundred vendors offer CMS. Microsoft, OpenText, and Oracle are among the largest players. But unlike other software markets, in which a handful of players dominate the sector, hundreds of smaller players collectively command a large share of global CMS sales, often by meeting niche needs certain industries and enterprises have. Popular open source alternatives also exist, which include offerings from Drupal and DotNetNuke, as well as Joomla.

Given the wide range of available CMS versions and the typically very different features they offer, enterprises need to determine exactly what their content-collaboration needs are when making purchase decisions.

“It is a very wide area,” says Jeffrey Mann, an analyst for Gartner. “So take a step back and decide what it is you really want to do and look for the CMS tools that can help you do that instead of just looking at the base technology and deciding how to apply it.”

A single vendor will also likely not serve as the best fit to provide an enterprise with all of its CMS needs. Since different flavors of CMS are often better geared for often-unrelated business processes, a single vendor may not be able to adapt its version of CMS to meet all the requirements that a particular business or industry might have.

“Organizations need many things. You might get them from the same CMS vendor, but you also might not,” Webster says. “There is also really no downside by using a different vendor for various content-management applications.”

A CULTURAL SHIFT
A potential stumbling block enterprises face when adopting CMS is that it has the potential to disrupt how users accomplish work tasks.While the disruption obviously is not supposed to be a bad thing as CMS should ultimately make certain processes more efficient, users may need to take a while to adapt to the changes in the ways they work. The webmaster, for example, may

not be keen on losing some of his job responsibilities to co-workers who start uploading content or even changing page layout while users may be happy to continue emailing content for posting. In accounting, someone in charge of payroll records may not like the idea of converting a tried-and-tested paper-based archival system to an electronic one that can be shared and accessed by many users

“With CMS adoption, there is a learning curve,” says Weintraub, “but there is also a huge cultural changemanagement issue.”

An enterprise may install CMS, yet users might try to continue working the way they used to by bypassing the CMS system if they can, especially in the early stages of its rollout.

“Due to the fact that people have done it their own way for so long, whether it is by sharing documents on drives or other things, they don’t have to go directly to the new CMS system, because they can find ways around it,” Weintraub says. “There are ways around managing internal documents, for example, because there is always an alternative-storage mechanism that lets you get around the system.”

The task for CMS software trainers is to demonstrate to users how changing the ways they do their jobs can help them to become much more productive. During the training phase, it is important that users are coached on how it is important for them to make CMS part of their daily work processes in addition to teaching them the mechanics of how it works.

“It is not so much a learning curve as it is a cultural issue of getting people to move from a very informal structure for managing their content, to a more formal structure for managing their content,” Weintraub says. “Getting people to adjust the way they work is more difficult.”

Adoption usually is faster for Web content than it is for internal applications, Weintraub says. “In the Web world, you empower people to post their own content and you give them templates and workflows to allow for that content to go through. People also tend to quickly adjust to using a template to drop in a [word processing] document or text,” Weintraub says. “But in the internal CMS world, asking people to adjust the way their organization manages, shares, [and collaborates on] content is a lot harder.” ●

source:PC Today January 2012


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