CMS: Challenging the Consensus – a debate

This morning we are starting with a debate (or possibly two presentations followed by a conversation as Miles Banbery has just suggested).

It seems a bit strange having this discussion. My impression is that the majority of institutions either have a WCMS, or want a WCMS – I wonder if there is a debate to be had?

First, Piero Tintori from ‘Terminal Four‘ (a web content management system). He is starting by a definition:

Web Content Management system is:

  • Software automation of the tasks involved in publishing and managing content on a website
  • A system that allows users update content on a website

He suggests that WCMS includes blogs, wikis and discussions boards.

Now Stephen Pope (Eduserv) is going to outline the benefits of a WCMS.

First of all, it gets rid of the ‘manual edit’ or ‘corporate cut and paste’. It allows the site manager to enforce standards across the website, and editorial control, with workflow, previews, versioning.

Typically a WCMS will include timed release of material, quality control (e.g. compelling alt tags, tidy html) and accountability (audit trail).

WCMS should allow the separation of content from presentation, granular security, rapid development.

Interestingly Steven Pope is suggesting that data should be stored in xml, and presentation in xslt. This sounds like reasonably good sense, but xslt is perhaps a challenge to existing web developers – someone who has traditionally worked in html may have a steep learning curve to get to grips with xslt (perhaps I’m underestimating people?)

Piero is now back, outlining what life is like without a WCMS. You spend times making minor changes (that the end user can’t do themselves), fixing broken links, restructuring the site map. The central web team can become a ‘typing pool’ which has to do all the webpage changes.

Corporate Governance is something that WCMS can help with – a record of your website through different versions, and an audit trail of what is going on.

Now Iain Middleton from Robert Gordon. He is going to challenge some of the hype around WMCS. He is starting by saying that there is a lot of mythology around WCMS, and there can be many misconceptions about how a WCMS can help the organisation.

He is noting that there can be tendency to implement a WCMS rather than concentrating on the content management process. If there is not a good process, and your users are not engaged with the process, then you will fail in the implementation of the CMS.

He is now outlining 4 ‘myths’ related to CMS.

Myth 1 – the IT solution: So – typically, ‘management’ see the web as an IT problem – and implement an ‘IT solution’ – however, many of the problems are people or process problems.

Myth 2 – enabling the content owners: He is outlining how a CMS does not enable content owners. CMS does not grant users with editorial or writing skills. He says your content owners ‘will break’ your CMS – illegal images (copyright), low quality etc.

Myth 3 – Global changes: you can’t easily make global changes with a CMS. The institution may change structure

Myth 4 – saving money: CMS costs money – not saves it. There are setup costs, staffing costs, ongoing costs, no end in sight – no exit strategy (very difficult to change vendors)

So – what is the solution. Well – you’ve got to look at the following.

CMS is a Huge paradigm shift. There are lots of new things, processes, technologies – this is a big change management challenge.

You need to understand who the clients are, think about how they are going to become effective writers and publishers, you have to introduce quality control audit etc.

So – in conclusion. CMS does not deliver many of the purported benefits. The solution involves people, processes and (last and least) technology.

This was an excellent summary of the issues around introducing WCMS, and food for thought.

Finally in this session Iain Middleton (Robert Gordon). Outlining their experience the aims were to make it easy for users to publish to the web, and introduce a corporate look and feel. He notes that ‘reskinning’ the web site – alledgedly easy with a CMS, was a year long process – not an easy thing to do.

A rejoinder from Piero (the CMS vendor) – he agrees that CMS is not a silver bullet. He would say – WCMS can take away some of the tedious tasks related to Web management – but your organisation has to be ready for it.

A straw poll of the audience finds us generally in favour of CMS and believing it will solve a lot of our problems…

One thought on “CMS: Challenging the Consensus – a debate

  1. one more nice topic in your blog and nice comments too keep it up, If you advise some more related links to topic. I’m very interested in CMS and all its related subjects.

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