A content management primer

This article will examine what a Content Management System is and give some suggestions to what to consider when buying and implementing a CMS.


Why content management

Managing and controlling documents is an important part of business success. At least a tenth of an organization’s revenues is based around creating, distributing and managing documents like e-mails, spreadsheets, presentations, product manuals and more. The abundance of documents makes it hard to find, share, organize and control them. Content management systems help solve the problems by providing controlled, location-transparent and format-independent access to documents.

Many system vendors have broadened their offers by adding additional technologies to the core services of the traditional document management system. The complementary services could be imaging, ERP, workflow, Knowledge Management and collaboration tools to name but a few.

What is a document

A document is usually a complex entity. It can be an image, audio, and a subset of several separate text documents of any format or a combination of all. Documents can be compound and dynamic, which means that they could be put together from several sources that change independently and are put together instantly and differently when viewing them, depending on by whom, where and when.

Where Content Management Systems are used

Examples where use of content management systems has proved to be of significant benefit include cross-industry applications such as:

  • Customer service, for example, call centre systems support
  • Regulatory compliance support, such as approval for new drugs or financial instruments, or ISO 9000 registration
  • Accounting, such as linking documents (correspondence, orders received, credit notes and despatch documents) with the accounts.

Examples of use in specific vertical industries include:

  • Manufacturing, including handling engineering and maintenance documents, product data management (PDM), tracking revisions and different versions for different products and markets, or preparation and maintenance of standard operating procedures on process chemical plants.
  • Government applications, such as benefits provision and tracking.
  • Transportation and distribution, with its despatch and tracking documents.

Core services of a Content Management System

All CMS provide a set of basic services that are called library services.

  • Depositionregistration and retrieval of documents in the system.
  • Version control – Keeps track of versions in the system by providing version numbering, audit trail and history of documents. The system also ensures that only one person at a time can edit a document.
  • Search – Enables a user to search for documents based on its content or attributes without knowing where the actual document is located.
  • Security – Controls access to documents and what the person can do with it.
  • Deletion and removal – When a document is declared redundant it is removed.

Every document that is stored in the system contains two types of data, the content itself and information about the content (also called metadata). Metadata can be information about the owner of the document, when it was created, if it is part of another document, who can access it, title, document number, its status in a lifecycle and so on.

Choosing and justifying a Content Management System

Companies should follow this eight-step guideline if they are to successfully choose and implement a Content Management System.

  • Analyse the business need – this is where most of the work should be done. Time spent here is rewarded in the end. This is where you spend the time learning what content management can do, what the vendors can offer and making the business case. Try to focus on the major business benefits and expand usage to include further functions after implementation.
  • Write an initial User Requirement Specification – this should be focused on the business objectives, not on implementation details.
  • Pre-implementation audit – measure current performance as the basis for CMS benefit assessment.
  • Invite suppliers for Request for Quotation.
  • Evaluate the proposals and consider all aspects. Do not focus solely on the software provision but how the final solution will be derived and maintained. Ensure that the proposal meets your real needs. Look at suppliers’ commercial and market strategies, not just technical capabilities. You need to assess if your supplier will be able to support you in two to five years’ time, as well as meeting your present need.
  • Conduct a pilot – Formal implementation of the CMS is made. It is essential to provide evidence of the business value by conducting a pilot and to capture lessons learned. It is at this stage that one can measure the business value, cultural impact and implement improvements. Do not forget to involve the end-users!
  • Post-implementation audit – once the system is up and running, it is vital to see if it is meeting the business needs – this is often neglected, in which case the system can fall into disuse or disrepute.
  • Update and adapt the content management applications in light of the audit. This is an iterative process that should be done regularly during the lifetime of the system.

Athena Solutions can help your company in any or all stages of choosing and implementing a Content Management System.


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