The CMS Myth

website cmsLike a miracle drug, web content management promises to cure all your website ills. It all sounds great, but is the CMS more magic elixir than miracle pill?

So you're marching toward a web content management system (CMS) with the firm belief that it's the cure to what ails you and your website. The CMS vendor product sheets are alluring; their demos captivating; their feature lists entrancing. You're convinced that your editorial nightmares will be fixed as soon as you can empower the entire organization to publish their own content.

Like some sort of miracle elixir, a web CMS for many organizations is the tonic for their online ills. And, there are abundant examples that validate the promises coming from the CMS software market. It all looks so easy facilitate and streamline web publishing enable online marketing power internal collaboration/communication deliver interactive web experiences publish to global audiences.

The Little Secret

But then you discover a little secret: When it comes to web content management systems there's a treacherous gap between fantasy and reality that threatens to derail your project.

The gap is filled with what ISITE Design likes to call "The CMS Myth." It's actually a number of myths that we've consistently identified during our 10 years of designing and building CMS-powered websites.

This isn't a clear-cut case of truth-vs.-fiction. Today's CMS platforms really do provide a massive array of tools, features and widgets capable of transforming your web presence and providing relief from website headaches. Every day we recommend content management systems to our clients and have built a robust practice around CMS to help our clients succeed.

The myths aren't particular to a single vendor or platform. But they are all equal-opportunity threats. Like the common cold, the myths can lay low any organization if their resistance is not up. More importantly, by recognizing and addressing these myths early in the process, organizations can increase the likelihood of a successful content management and website deployment.

Myth ##1: "CMS is a technology consideration"

Reality: Yes, CMS is a software technology, so it's easy to see how many organizations treat this first and foremost like a technology purchase. Match a CMS to your platform, throw the project at the IT team, dole out the software seats to marketing, and you're cooking with gas.

However, as the web has become the hub for all marketing activity, strategic ownership of websites has shifted from IT to Marketing. With CMS as the heart of your website, it is mission critical to ensure it is planned and deployed in a way to support your marketing initiatives and overall web strategy.

The core reality of any CMS project is to not underestimate the power of strategic planning. The truth is, far too few organizations recognize that a CMS is a core element, an enabler, of a strategic web initiative. They may prioritize the technology decision, but quickly discover that a CMS isn't all about technology. It's about the smart use of that technology in the context of your business' organizational structure, brand and revenue stream. It's about planning an information architecture that supports your business and user needs. It's about aligning your search engine optimization strategy with the CMS taxonomy and structure. It's about focusing on the right internal editorial structure necessary for success.

These are just a few of the strategic considerations to take into account long before you buy a CMS. Prioritizing these items before tearing off the shrink wrap will increase your chances of success with CMS. That's the reality.

Myth ##2: "CMS will fix your editorial and content challenges"

Reality: If only this were true. Most websites are cobbled together by a hodge-podge of content creators, editors, department managers and marketers, who, like it or not, are part of your editorial process and workflow.

Organizations often believe their problem is a bottleneck in website publishing and that by allowing more users to publish data, they will unlock great content deep within the company. While there is certainly some truth to this belief, opening up the publishing without a content creation strategy and strong editorial process usually creates more problems than it fixes - namely an inconsistent voice, disjointed user experiences, content errors, typos and a lower quality of overall web content.

Editorial and content challenges almost always emanate from poor or total lack of process behind the scenes of a website. Before you consider a CMS implementation, figure out the flow, timetables and responsibilities for those ultimately responsible for creating, editing, approving and publishing content, whether site-wide or in a specific area of the site. Ownership breeds responsibility. Use this to your advantage.

Myth ##3: "A CMS can be deployed quickly"

Reality: Sadly, quickly is a relative term.

As with any technology integration and deployment, there are varying levels of project work that go with a CMS deployment. Our experience holds that most CMS adoption initiatives are coupled with a wider-scale website project meant to bring the site into the 21st century. When you're hatching your CMS plan, also consider the project elements that you'll likely need to address. Beyond your strategic planning how about your site architecture how visitors experience your content and find the paths they want to travel on your site? Design is a major factor: How do you want to convey your visual brand on the web? What about functional applications, interactivity, messaging, and integration with other systems like CRM? Not to scare anyone off, but it's easy to see the project spiral out of control with the CMS being just a small piece of the whole. Alternatively, organizations that try to rush deployment usually cut corners on strategic planning and pay the price post-launch.

It's important to right-size your approach to CMS and understand what you're getting into before you start. Content management can be a wonderful tool and true competitive advantage for an organization when done right.