Thursday, September 21, 2006

Return to Content Mangement: 7 reasons for CMS

Regular readers of this blog may recall my on-off deliberations on Content Management Systems (CMS) – like this entry from last November.  Well, I’m at it again, this time I’m trying to come up with a simple solution for a better corporate intranet.  One thing I have learned is that talking of Content Management Systems this confusing, simply this is not a very useful name.  The problem they is content management covers such a wide field that when I say “content management” I mean one thing and when you say “content management” you mean to indifferent.

In fact we already have some widely used tools for content management, namely a hierarchical filing system (whether on our own PC or a shared network drive) and web-servers like Apache.  Given these the question becomes why do we want something more than these?

Well in the last few months I’ve thought of seven reasons why you might want to go beyond these basic tools.  And once you know why you want to go beyond these tools you can start to think about just what it is you want when you say "content management system".  So without further ado here are seven reasons why you might want a CMS.

1. CMS as a better Web server

In the same way that desktop publishing software represented a better form of word processor it seems CMS systems represent better web-servers.

2. CMS as a better filing system

Directories, folders, files and dryers are good but they are also complicated and it is easy to lose stuff.  Therefore having it “managed” is appealing.

3. Re-purpose content (re-purpose not re-use)

Sometimes we want to use the same content to different purposes.  For example technical authors write manuals and some of that content could be extracted and put into a help file, or online help system.  Similarly marketing literature may appear on the Internet, public website and in sales brochures.

4. Regulatory compliance

An increasing number of firms need to keep track of their documents and correspondence for audit purposes and to satisfy legal requirements.

5. Document life-cycle management

When is a document past its best?  When is a document to be replaced?  How do know that the latest version?  How do know document needs updating?

6. Version control documents

This follows on from the last two points but is worth calling out in its own right.  On a filing system (VAX and similar excepted) there is one document, if you want to version the document you have add a number to the file name and remember to update it.  This is laborious and complicates things especially then you need to track which version was in current at which time.

7. Document archive

Overtime all organizations collect more and more documents.  Many of these documents aren't needed on a day-to-day basis, in fact they are in a way day-to-day, but you need to keep them for reference purposes or because they might just contain some gem of knowledge that is useful sometime in the future.  (Again this tends be related to regulatory compliance but not always.)

So there are seven reasons why you might want a CMS.  It is not an exhaustive list by any means, in fact I’d welcome some more suggestions.

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