Managing Content Management

“Make content owners responsible for their content.” That’s long been the mantra of web content management. IT departments and business units have embraced the concept. Highly-evolved enterprise content management systems (ECMS) have been designed so that content owners can manage their own content.

What many of us have come to realize is that enterprise content management operates under two fundamentally different rules from other enterprise systems.

Difference 1: Content is created in Production.

In a traditional enterprise application, code is developed and tested in a non-production environment and promoted through environments to a production system. Well-managed applications are supported by a set of non-production environments, each carefully configured for development, testing, disaster recovery and the like.

While code promotion is the same in an ECMS, the exact opposite is true for content. Content creators and editors work in the production system. The ECMS provides a content deployment process to publish the content to a live site, but the content is not promoted from a non-production environment into production. If production content is needed in a lower environment, it must be demoted, not promoted.

Difference 2: Content owners, not IT, change the system.

IT is normally responsible for configuration and change management, user access and permissions management. IT policy, process, and governance structures have all evolved to a culture of IT control over enterprise applications.

Again, ECMS is different. Content authors, editors and managers can use complex content types that change the behavior of portals, web sites and other applications that use and present content. Content management groups can, and often should, control user access and permissions – both within the ECMS and through personalization of content. Powerful workflow capabilities can be modified to meet changing business rules for how content is created and published. The organization and responsibility for the integrity of content resides outside the IT organization.

These differences create conflicts between the IT and business owners of an ECMS. Some of the more common conflicts are:

  • Disputes over who owns the application
  • Inadequate support funding because no one person is responsible for the full scope of support
  • Arguments over accountability when something goes wrong
  • Problems coordinating code releases in an environment of constant content updates
  • Challenges finding the root cause of problems
  • Insufficient business continuity because disaster recover sites lack current content
  • Gaps in documentation, training and end user support

These conflicts may seem irresolvable and they certainly are daunting.

We need a different approach to managing content management. Creating the right management structures and processes begins, like all change, with recognizing the problem. You will hear more from me over the coming months about both the dimensions of the problem and solutions you can bring into your organization. And I encourage you to make this a dialogue. I’d like to hear from you about your challenges and – even better – your successes. In the meantime, look for the next entry in this series, where I will look specifically at configuration management for an ECMS.

Niels Nielsen About Niels Nielsen

Niels believes that Information Technology is as much about information as it is about technology. Before becoming an IT consultant, Niels had a first career in publishing and draws on that experience to help clients use information and technology to meet their enduring enterprise needs: make decisions, teach, learn, ensure compliance, satisfy customers’ needs, increase productivity, improve quality, and so forth. As a Washington DC-based Practice Manager, Niels applies these beliefs for clients in government, non-profit, telecommunications, hospitality, media, and other industries.