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By the time you reach this page, you will have already read your way through numerous new product announcements and feature articles of the highest quality. The challenge for the columnist is to find a way of grabbing your attention when you may well not be a regular reader of the column. How about this: Reading my column this month could save you thousands of dollars as well as enhance your career prospects.

So, you have decided to keep reading! This month I want to go back to a subject I covered in the July 2002 issue, the implementation of a content management strategy, and highlight three invaluable resources that will be of assistance to you in achieving the best possible content management solution. Organizations are increasingly considering purchasing content management software, but with virtually no idea of what is involved in the selection of the software or the implementation issues. In February 2001, the Gartner Group published a report on "Implementing an Integrated Document Management Strategy," which suggested that planning and development of such a system will account for at least 65% of the start-up costs of a typical IDM system. The report also suggested that the typical implementation period for these systems is between nine and eighteen months. The result of the unique characteristics of large-scale document and content management systems is that an organization has to spend a considerable amount of its budget and time before gaining even an initial sense of what the CMS will deliver. Thus, anything that can reduce the risk and increase the potential benefits will be most welcome.

CMS Metatorial Planner
The first of the three resources that may help is the CMS Metatorial Planner, published by Metatorial Services Inc. It is designed as a companion to the Content Management Bible that was published by Hungry Minds Inc. in 2001. The author of the 966-page book is Bob Boiko, president of Metatorial Services Inc. and a teacher at the iSchool at the University of Washington. The erudite and readable book is an essential purchase for anyone trying to understand just what a content management system does.

Now Boiko and fellow author Rita Warren of ZiaContent have gone one step further with the CMS Metatorial Planner. (Metatoria, as Boiko defines it, is using metadata in a content management context.) The 168-page guide is designed to help organizations cope with the complexities of the analysis and planning phases of the project. Among the 15 sections of the Planner are Securing a Project Mandate, Cataloging Audiences, Designing Content Components, Analyzing Personalization, and Analyzing Staffing. The PDF Planner also comes with a number of Word templates. These enable a team to work through the sections of the Planner, and then paste the outcomes of the analysis work into the templates for review and subsequent incorporation into a "Request for Proposal" from vendors.

The processes involved are illustrated with reference to a case study and very clear instructions are provided on exactly what information needs to be collected at each stage in order to define the system requirements. The Content Management Bible forms an integral part of the Planner, so a team working on a project needs to have both open at the same time.

The immediate reaction on seeing the work involved is that surely there is no need to do every step, but in reality that is exactly what has to be done. It could take several months to complete the work packages outlined in the Planner, even with a team-based approach which is essential for such a project. The cost of the Planner is $300, though at the time of this writing, there was an introductory offer of $200. (www.metatorial.com)

Content Management Requirements Toolkit
After the Planner guides you through the analysis and planning work, comes the time to write the tender document itself. All too often these documents turn into a list of functionalities that are then issued to vendors with a request to tick the relevant boxes. This is not a very sensible approach; the number of ticked boxes is no measure of how the system will perform within a specific environment. Somehow, all the analysis undertaken through the Planner has to be condensed into an RFP, which is clear in the way it sets out what is required, but also enables vendors to propose a solution, rather than a set of modules.

Although the Planner goes someway to this objective, I would also recommend the Content Management Requirements Toolkit, developed by James Robertson, Managing Director of Step Two Designs Pty. Ltd. based in Sydney, Australia. Like Boiko, Robertson has been involved in CM projects for some time, and writes from practical experience. Like the Planner, the 64-page Toolkit comes as a PDF file and also as a set of Word templates. The Toolkit deals with Content Creation, Content Management, Publishing, Presentation, and Contract and Business. In all, the Toolkit covers 112 elements of an RFP.

The $375 Toolkit does overlap with the Planner somewhat, but this is both inevitable and desirable. The only area where both the Planner and the Toolkit are both a little light is on the issues involved in integrating external content into a content management system from a service such as Factiva or Moreover, but to be fair, this is a substantial subject in its own right. It should also be noted that both handbooks are geared towards content management, rather than a document management system where there is a significant volume of scanned documents being received by the organization, and requiring integration into the document workflow (www.steptwo.com.au).

The CMS Report
At the conclusion of the process, you will end up with a specification that will enable you to make an informed decision on the relative benefits of the solutions proposed by the vendors. Incidentally, the Gartner Group report mentioned earlier suggests that the RFP should be sent to ten to twelve vendors, with perhaps half this number responding. The problem that now has to be overcome is deciding on which vendors to include in the initial round, at a time when there are some issues about the long-term future for some companies in this business sector. This is the time to turn to The CMS Report, authored by Tony Byrne, who wrote an article on the CMS industry in the April 2002 issue of EContent.

Although Byrne does cover some of the issues included within the scope of both the Planner and Toolkit, the strength of The CMS Report is that Tony sets out the main features of the leading CMS packages in a format that makes feature comparison much easier than spreading out product brochures on the Boardroom Table. In all, Tony includes 22 of the leading Web content management packages from U.S. vendors, and some 20 other products. Organizations based in Europe should note that to date Tony does not include European vendors, such as Tridion, Gauss, Mediasurface, and SER. The cost of the Report is $895, and as with the Planner and the Toolkit, the Report can be downloaded from Byrne's site (www. cmswatch.com), as well as EContent's site (www.econtentmag.com).

Investing to Survive
Assuming that you have stayed with me from the beginning, you are now probably wondering why I indicated I could save you thousands of dollars and yet suggested that you spend $1,500. The answer is that by investing this amount in these three reports you are going to be able to save in terms of wasted time, inadequate analysis, and the selection of an inappropriate CMS application. You may regard this as a considerable sum of money to spend on reports, but even if you are only planning to spend $150,000 on CMS (and that will not buy you much), then I am suggesting that spending 1% or less on quality guidance will bring substantial rewards. (Have a look at the business case ROI at www. steptwo.com.au/products/toolkit/case/ index.html!) The other option is to hire a consultant, and for $1,500, you will probably get one day of consulting time. However, even with these reports, you are likely to benefit from retaining a consultancy. Armed with the framework provided by these reports, you are much more likely to get the best from consultants, the knowledge base of your internal team, and, most importantly, the content management system you decide to invest in.