Selecting a Content-Management Solution
Because Web content management does not have an out-of-the-box definition, what one looks for in selecting a content-management solution is difficult to specify. Clearly each definition of content management must be based on the characteristics of the content and the goals of the business model. Certain features of the content-management system may be critical to your business model, whereas others are not. About 100 different compa-nies sell content-management solutions or components. Some are XML based, and some are not. Content-management solutions range from inexpensive desktop solutions to mil-lion-dollar solutions.
So where do you start? What do you look for?
First, you should begin with business requirements. Today, justifying the investment in a content-management solution must have clear benefits. Will the system save money for the company? Will the system position your company to be more competitive? Will the system position your company to develop new product offerings based on content reuse or new kinds of content-based products?
When you have clear business requirements for the system, you will want to make a decision about whether to purchase an integrated system or whether to integrate the sys-tem yourself. You can try to determine whether any off-the-shelf system comes close to meeting your business requirements. If it does, you should study the areas where the integrated system does not meet your requirements. Can you live with these deficiencies? Is it possible to customize the system to meet your requirements? What impact on your business goals will these deficiencies have?
If you cannot select an off-the-shelf solution, you must then look at the options for inte-grating your own custom system. You must also consider the capabilities of the informa-tion technologies staff within your company. Are they capable of integrating a complex system? Will you have to hire consultants to do the integration for you? You must under-stand the components that could be integrated, weigh those against your business requirements, and determine which components/functionalities are must-haves. Then you must narrow the field. If you choose to integrate a system, always be aware of the cost. At some point the cost may exceed the benefits that you seek!
Investigate the following features of any content-management solution (these features can be critical):
Cost of implementation
The ability to provide ongoing support and services
Is the Solution Standards Based?
As you select a content-management solution, you should look for systems/components that use XML and other Web standards for messaging, content coding, and metadata cod-ing. These are likely to be most flexible and easier to integrate than proprietary solutions. Always make this a priority.
When selecting a content-management solution, you must always consider the perfor-mance of the system. System performance can make a real difference in how positively users view the new system. In addition, performance impacts real dollars and cents in your business. How long do backups take? How quickly can content be assembled for online delivery? How much downtime can be expected? When does the number of users begin to affect the speed of the system? Ask vendors for benchmarks. Conduct them yourself as part of your selection process.
Can the System Scale?
Before you select a content-management system, you should have some projections for the growth you expect. Do you expect to add a significant number of new users? Do you expect to increase the volume of the content on the system significantly? Do you expect to add new kinds or configurations of content output from the system? And most impor-tantly, can the system meet your future goals? Will it cost more money? How much?
Cost of Implementation
In selecting a content-management system, you must have a clear understanding of what comes with the system and what must be added in order to implement the system as you have specified. During the sales cycle, all things are possible. During the implementation of the system, you might find hidden costs for which you had not budgeted. Must you add new components to get the functionality you need? How much will this cost? Try to understand all implementation costs up front.
Of course, once a system is installed, you will need to have ongoing support. A good Web content-management system will not be implemented in a day or even a month. The solutions provider will be your partner. Therefore, be sure you select a good one. Content-management systems are mission critical, so you need the assurance of having a good support and service team behind you. How many people are in the customer and technical support teams for the system you have purchased? Is the company stable? Is there an office nearby? Can the vendor support your investment over time?