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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.
Often, a CMS implementation will fail not because the CMS itself is bad, but because it doesn't support the roles and permissions that the organization needs for its workflow. Many CMSs ship with only a handful of limited user types, and if those roles don't fit your organizational needs, there is always going to be deficiencies in your workflow. That's why it's important to properly define roles within your content management workflow very early in the process. This way you can identify the roles and responsibilities you'll need the CMS to support and anticipate how those might evolve as the organization grows.
As you identify these roles, think about how they need to interact with the CMS and the types of permissions they'll need in order to be effective. You want to create an efficient, well- defined series of users and permissions that's going to result in an effective CMS. While no two organizations are the same, there are user types that are consistent across most content management workflows. When evaluating roles within your own organization, it's helpful to start with these, identify which of them that you'll need, where roles might overlap would be combined, and whether new roles need to be established to improve the content management process.
First, most content management workflows have content creators, often referred to as authors. These individuals are responsible for writing articles and blog posts, injecting content into the system, or updating previously written content. The responsibilities and permissions required by this group are going to depend largely on their role within your organization. Do you have authors that are outside of your organization, such as freelancers or contractors? Or are all of your authors in the same department or will they come from multiple departments? Should your authors' access be restricted to only their content or should they be allowed to access other authors' content as well? You may find that in asking these types of questions that you have multiple author types that require different degrees of permissions within the CMS.
Editors are users who will review, edit, approve, or mark up content for revisions. In some cases, editors will need to have the ability to publish content, while in others there might be another layer of approval between the editor and the live content. The editorial process is a frequent bottleneck in publishing workflows, and you should evaluate the needs and permissions of this position carefully in an attempt to prevent that from happening. Understanding the types of tools your editors will need to properly communicate with authors and other team members is also an important part of helping to define the necessary capabilities within your CMS.
Publishers are in control of getting approved content live on the site. Probably because not every workflow needs publishers, this group is among the most overlooked group in terms of properly anticipating the needs and permissions required to make them effective. The roles of publishers will vary widely from organization to organization, so if publishers are required in your workflow you really need to put a lot of thought into how this group is going to operate. For example, will publishers act as project managers in your workflow, overseeing the progress of individual projects from start to finish? Will they act more as traffic managers making sure that content is always on time and routing content from step to step? Or will publishers act more as content assemblers, routing approved content to the proper location and template structure within your site? About the only thing that is consistent with any of these approaches is that publishers are responsible for having the final say for when content moves from draft status to live content.
In addition to the Author, Editor, Publisher workflow model, it's not uncommon to need user groups that are important to the process but don't fit neatly into any one of these boxes. This might be something like an asset manager who is responsible for collecting and managing digital assets and documents that support your content. You might also have an approval process that requires legal or marketing approval. These might be brand managers or legal advisers that act in a manner similar to editors, but require a very narrow set of permissions. In some organizations, a translator or a continuity manager might be required as well.
The fact is, without understanding an organization's needs, there's no way to accurately predict exactly what user types and permissions will be required. So, once you've taken the time to review your workflow and content path, you should be able to identify all the different types of users you'll need and the tools and permissions they'll require. At that point, you'll be able to accurately evaluate whether a content management system's user group and permissions will give you the level of control you need to properly manage your workflow. In some cases, you'll be able to use the preset user types, while in others you'll need a greater level of granular control.
Either way, examining those roles will help you refine your workflow, help to find ways to avoid bottlenecks and inefficiencies, anticipate how needs are going to change over time, and prepare people for what their roles will be within your new CMS. It will also give you an invaluable set of requirements that will assist you in choosing a CMS that's right for your specific needs.
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