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In CMS Fundamentals, James Williamson defines content management systems (CMSs) and explains their role in web site development. The course demonstrates the different CMS solutions available today, including WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla; reviews CMS terminology and best practices; and shows how to develop a content management strategy. Guidelines are also included for evaluating a potential CMS, whether hosted or self-hosted, open source or proprietary, and choosing a CMS based on a specific need or focus.
So far, we've take a look at the basic features, terminology, and functionality of a CMS, some of the things that you should consider when selecting one, and examined a few of the systems in a very crowded web CMS marketplace. In this chapter, I would like to explore the overall process of content management in a little bit more detail. Jeffrey Veen once said "Content management isn't a software problem at all. It's a process problem." I couldn't agree more with that. Having a content management strategy in place prior to selecting a CMS is more important than most people realize.
Often, people or organizations will pick a CMS with the expectation that it's going to automatically solve all their workflow issues. This approach almost always leads to disappointment, or in the worst case a decision to scrap the CMS and go with an alternative solution. In most cases this is not a failure of the CMS; rather, it's a failure to recognize that content management is a process that needs to be examined, planned for, and executed in a way that fits the organization and the nature of the content itself.
It doesn't matter if you're a single individual needing to find a more efficient way to reuse an update content or large organization needing to create, track and repurpose content over multiple channels. If you don't have a plan in place prior to selecting a CMS, you allow the CMS to dictate your process, not the other way around. With that in mind, let's take a look at the overall process of content management before we discuss some of the individual concepts in greater detail. Since we're going to be looking at a general overview, not all the steps are going to apply to your individual needs.
So, examine the process closely and determine for yourself which aspects of it applies to your situation. The first step, and the one that's most often overlooked or ignored, is assembling a multidisciplinary team to review or oversee the content management for your organization. Now this usually happens because people will either just assume they know how the process should work, assume that the person in charge of web development will handle it, or perhaps worst of all, simply fail to see the importance of it. That's a shame, because without this step the content management process tends to lack direction and clear purpose.
For smaller organizations, this could be a single individual, but in medium- or larger-size organizations, this should be a small team that is populated with members from across the organization. This should include people that will work day to day with the systems along with decision makers. The team should audit the current content management policies and workflows, identify problems, and then structure a content workflow that's ideal for the organization. One of the best ways to do that is identifying and then consulting with any department that creates, works with, approves, or touches the content in any way.
While this could be a one-time assessment, it's a better idea to keep this team as a living body, to the monitor and oversee workflow over time. This makes it easier to identify inefficiencies before they crop up or predict how needs might change. Once the internal processes are reviewed, the team can then begin to craft strategies for content workflow. The team should focus on both the content itself, as well defining the workflow for how internal teams are going to create, publish, and organize the content. The content strategy should focus on identifying all types of content that will be created and managed by the internal teams and how this should be organized and categorized.
It's at this stage that categories, tags, and other types of metadata should be identified and structured, as well as how relationships between content types should be defined. The workflow strategy should focus on the path of the content as it moves through the organization. Content should be tracked from creation to injection to editing, approval and finally, publishing. Flowcharts should also track how content is to be edited, versioned, archived, or repurposed. Defining this process will help identify all the teams that are part of the management process and help to clearly define their roles.
All of this should then be analyzed through the filter of what's achievable in your organization, taking into consideration factors like manpower, corporate culture, and the commitment level to building an efficient constant workflow. It's at this point that you should start architecting your CMS. This could be something that you build internally, the result of customizing an existing solution, or the result of searching for and finding a CMS that's going to enable your workflow. By seeing content management as a process and then identifying how this process should work within your organization, you can find a CMS solution that enables your organization to work the way that it should based on its structure and content needs.
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