The CM Professionals Community of Practice

Oct 05, 2004

In February 2004 several CM experts were invited to present a one-day workshop on CM for Information Architects at the IA Summit sponsored by AIfIA and ASIS&T in Austin, TX. The CM professional in attendance were quite envious of AIfIA (the Asilomar Institute of Information Architecture, an international community of practice created by Lou Rosenfeld, Christina Wodtke, and other IA luminaries.

So we asked Rosenfeld and Peter Morville to help us create a similar community for CM and Rosenfeld, Bob Boiko, Ann Rockley, Tony Byrne, and I were able to hold the founding meeting there in Austin. Boiko suggested we list 50 CM Pro names, prioritize them, and ask the top two dozen to join as founding members; we wound up with great analysts and consultants from around the world, including Martin White in the UK, Gerry McGovern from Ireland, Erik Hartman in the Netherlands, James Robertson in Australia, and Frank Gilbane in the U.S.

Who's In? Who's Out? What's a CM Pro?
We wrestled with the group's mission for months. At one point it boiled down to a single sentence--"Become a respected international authority regarding content management theory and practice." We disagreed about who would be invited: Would it be just top professionals or thrown open to anyone trying to improve content management practices within companies and organizations of all kinds? We ultimately decided that the latter would serve the community best.

We debated member benefits and possible deliverables and decided on several: Create and maintain industry mailing lists; publish an email newsletter; formulate a glossary of technical terms; a calendar of CM-related events; recommend best practices and design patterns; maintain a resource library and a professional directory of practitioners; operate a job board; and organize face-to-face summit meetings at international CM events. An overriding goal was to be a community-led platform that would facilitate the ongoing refinement of CM theory and practice, including a Web site, discussion forums, knowledge wikis, and syndicated Web services.

So we wrote bylaws, fashioned after AIfIA's, designed to get the membership to elect a new Board of Directors after our first CM Summit in late November at the Gilbane Conference on Content Management Technologies in Boston.

As an international organization, we tried to overcome the difficulty of planning meetings by using state-of-the-art collaboration tools. The main methods were: Zero-cost telephone conferencing (thanks to, our own Web-based presentation tools that allowed anyone in the meeting to turn the pages, screen-sharing tools from, and constant reporting of all work to Web pages on a prototype Web site that any of us could edit. We recorded our meetings, encoded them as Real Audio, and streamed them live to members who did not want to spend expensive hours on the phone, then re-encoded them as MP3 to archive the content.

Are We CM Pros or KM Pros?
In the process it became clear that (at least in terms of content) the CM Pros Web site was less a content management problem than one of knowledge management. We had to hope that people would share their hard earned knowledge despite cries of "What's in it for me?"

We carried on and gathered some preliminary resources from CMS Review including lists of books, magazines, articles, seminars, and conferences. That site offers a substantial glossary of CM terms, but these require a vetting process for approval by the organization. Of utmost importance to the founders, however, was to identify proven practices in the field and publish our recommendations for "best practices." All these efforts involve gathering knowledge, capturing it, and publishing it. We debated providing all of the content for free or putting it behind a members-only login and wound up doing some of each, but the final policy will be decided by the membership when it reaches its natural size.

As our CM Pros organization grows, we will work closely with other organizations that share many of the same goals--such as ACM, AIfIA, AIIM, ASIST, STC, UPA, and others. We will coordinate our thinking about recommended standards for best practices with them and with standards organizations like ANSI, DIN, and ISO. We hope to work closely with graduate schools who are training the next generation of information professionals.

In November, some of us will meet face to face in Boston at the first CM Summit. We will videotape and webcast the event to those around the world who cannot be there. We welcome input from the CM professionals out there and aim for this community to practice what it preaches--and share the best practices to make our community stronger.