Finding a Content Management System solution – Part 1

I am having a lot of conversations with people about “content management”, “knowledge management”, and “records management” these days.  Some of this is because of products like Microsoft SharePoint® and OpenText.  If you are having these conversations, you may be wondering “why it is so hard to find a good solution?”

Part of the problem is that “technology is not the only part of the solution!” People and processes are actually more of the key than most of us would like to admit. I have seen hundreds of failed attempts to put in a Content Management system only to watch it fail because neither the people nor the processes were really addressed with the solution.

It may sound overly simplistic but to select the right content management system or CMS an organization needs to define clearly what it means by “content,” “management” and “system.” For example:

  • Content can be almost anything in today’s world that you could find on the internet; documents, graphics, images, videos, sounds, maps, books, source code — anything that can be digitally stored
  • The core management components that Gartner, as reported by Content Manager, includes in enterprise level content management systems are:
    • Document management – check-in/checkout control, version control, security and library services
    • Web Content Management – ability to dynamically manage and content authoring, ease of use
    • Records management – ability to comply with legal or regulatory rules, archiving and retention automation and compliance with organizational policies
    • Document capture and imaging and managing paper documents – entire scanning process from paper to electronic format
    • Document-centric collaboration for document sharing and supporting project teams – including permissions
    • Workflow for supporting business processes and routing content, assigning work tasks and states, and creating audit trails of who did what, why, when and how
  • A system ties together operating platforms and software. A content management system should be flexible and integrated so that data need only be entered once.  It should also be extensible – as needed, maintainable and robust or fault tolerant with an easily comprehensible user interface.

Content management systems can be costly to develop, so most organizations choose to purchase, rather than build.  I am amazed at all of the “solutions” that companies are selling – check this list out if you want your head to spin:  Wikipedia list of Content Management Systems. The first step in picking a solution is the decision to go open source or proprietary. Here is an interesting article that provides a comparative feature list of three popular, no-cost content management systems: Drupal, Joomla and WordPress – An Introduction to Content Management Systems. Of course, free software on your server or in the cloud, still requires effort to tailor to your company’s needs, prepare and load documents and employee training.  And it may not have all of the features that you really need based on process and people usage.
If you want to look at the top company supported products on the market, I found that Gartner has a viable list of these – check out the CMSWire magazine’s extract on Gartner’s top picks
While I could spend a lot of time talking about the strengths and weaknesses of different products – there are plenty of vendors and articles that will already do that for you.  And as I said, the tool is NOT going to solve your problems by itself.  I would rather focus on the aspects that many organizations miss when they want to get serious about implementing an Enterprise Content Management System (ECM).

Let’s talk about the way to get your organization successfully using CMS and make it a part of your culture.  Too often I meet with an organization that has implemented a CMS from the Top management or IT perspective and I must say – none of these is ever successful.  User adoption is terrible, the solution is not integrated into the daily culture and process, and there is often no support for the processes that are needed in true knowledge and content management (Read support as People).

I really like it when I walk in and the organization has actually hired a Knowledge manager and given them resources to make the CMS solution, process and culture successful!

In my next post I will present 10 questions that you need to ask when choosing your tools and implementation strategy. I have gone to some experts to get their advice and will highlight what they think.

The Importance of Social Networking – How and Why

How many of you thought this post was going to be about Facebook, LinkedIn, twitter, and BLOGS??  Wrong! My thoughts today are about the value of old-fashioned social networking, as opposed to tweeting and posting to online services like LinkedIn and Facebook. Building a network of professional contacts involves personal contact – putting a face, or at least a voice, with a name. Creating your personal network takes place over years and requires a lot of effort from you to maintain.

Why bother with networking?
Let’s say you are at a professional conference (I assume that many of us still go to those). The presentations have finished for the day, your backside is tired from sitting and your brain is in overload. Should you,
(a) Go to your room and take a nap?
(b) Swim or jog for an hour to clear your mind and relax your body?
(c) Attend the optional meet-and-greet in a downstairs conference room? Or
(d) Go and catch up on all the email and work that got assigned to you today?

Given the topic of this post, you can guess that I recommend C – attending the meet-and-greet.

The informal nature of these business/social meetings gives you a chance to know people from other organizations and companies, often geographically dispersed. These people share your professional interests and often possess skills or knowledge that you may need someday. Moreover, these folks want to know you too and for the same reasons. Having a direct contact in an organization or from a location may help you solve a future management challenge or get a trusted recommendation.

Networking inside your organization is valuable also. In larger companies, many people never meet others in the organization that can facilitate solving problems or getting resources. Networking within the organization, by participating in extracurricular activities or just keeping up with folks with whom you worked on previous projects, gives you a starting point when you need help or information. People often return phone calls or schedule meetings more readily with people they already know.

OK, another scenario is that you have been invited to the OnRamp High Tech Happy Hour down on Sixth Street this Thursday at 5:30.  So once again you have to decide if it is worth going.  Or how about the professional association meetings held in your town? We have PMI meetings, ACM chapters, American Management meetings, and many professional get togethers here in Austin.  You have to go and meet people in a social setting or in a mutual interest in order to get to know them.  You will be surprised how many people I meet who later I reach out to for help with a problem that I am having. 

And let’s not forget to socialize with the people in our own organization.  Some of you work for large companies or say the government.  When you have a chance to reachout to people you don’t work with on a day to day basis it helps you form what we call a network. 

Maintaining a social network made easy – well easier
You do not have to spend countless hours on the phone, golf course or at lunch to maintain your social network. You do need to spend some thoughtful time touching base and maintaining the contact. Like what?

  • Share interesting professional articles. Add a short personal note – “thought you might like this”
  • If you happen to hear about an achievement of a social contact – publishing an article, getting a promotion, winning a contract – send a short “Congratulations” note.
  • Try – really try – to remember the names of people in the organization that you interact with occasionally and use their name when greeting them in the hallway, cafeteria or if you happen to run into them outside of the office environment.
  • Create a presence on LinkedIn or other professional association sites and provide brief updates on your activities and interests. Invite those you meet into your list of connections.
  • If you are capable (time and resources) of helping a new contact accomplish an objective, do it. Perhaps you can answer a question or recommend a resource or even complete a task, your assistance will be remembered and valued.
  • Send a note that is not work related, such as a “Happy Holiday” email or share a good joke or cartoon with a member of your social network. Use this sparingly, since the relationship revolves around shared work interests.  If you do not know the person well enough to understand his or her sense of humor or culture, better not to follow this suggestion than offend someone.
  • If you are having a project wrap up celebration, invite some of your inside social network contacts who may have peripherally helped in the project’s success.
  • If one of your network contacts posts a professional blog, send a brief, “saw your blog post on XYZ; appreciated your insight.”

Some additional reading on this subject:

Getting connected is not such a scary thing!  
9 Steps toward effective networking
Professional Networking

If you have additional recommendations on maintaining a professional social network, I hope you will share.

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