What Is a Web Content Management Solution?
Thinking back on the time I've spent considering Web content management (WCM) applications for my own institution, my mind is mush as I slog through reams of industry product reviews and my own pile of notes from vendor presentations and phone calls. It's funny how my notes at the beginning of this process sound excited and cheerful, compared to my most recent notes that resemble a deer in the headlights of a fast approaching train (or, in this case, an overzealous sales person). I'm tired, and I'd like to believe the vendors are tired of calling and making a pitch.
As a Web site grows to require the "care and feeding" of a team of contributors, writers, and developers, the need for a content management system is identified. Why?
* The site has grown beyond the ability to manage it as a collection of static HTML pages.
* More people (non-technical) wish to participate in publishing content to the Web.
* More functionality is required to serve Web site users and site developers.
* Increased collaboration is required between content creators and Web site developers.
* Standards need to be implemented for look and feel and how participants structure and define their information before publishing to the Web site.
* Content repurposing is required to serve several audiences to the Web site.
* Increased capabilities are required to deliver content through different modalities, such as hand-helds.
WCM sounds like just the silver bullet you've been looking for until you realize that current definitions of content management remind you of the joke about three blind men describing an elephant. The descriptions vary widely and depend on your point of view.
This column and my next will be devoted to reviewing and choosing a Web content management (WCM) solution. This first will help define the WCM product class and familiarize you with some required WCM vocabulary. I'll also discuss the necessary planning leading up to a review and selection of a content management solution. The second will discuss the current market for WCM and the criteria you should consider before making a decision.
DEFINING CONTENT MANAGEMENT
According to Forrester Research, "Content Management is a combination of well-defined roles, formal processes, and supporting systems architecture that helps organizations contribute, collaborate on, and control page elements such as text, graphics, multimedia, and applets."
If you've been growing your own content management capabilities over time, you may find that having to program each new functionality requires more time than you or your staff have available. The demands of your constituency require you to make changes in order to better streamline the process of developing the site to allow increased participation by content contributors. This means you need to make it "easy" for non-technical participants to actively publish content to the Web, providing friendly tools to do so and removing the bottlenecks that can occur between Webmaster and content contributor.
If the idea of allowing the masses to contribute to your Web site resembles a tsunami approaching the beach, you needn't be alarmed. Increased participation also means formalizing the process by which users can contribute content.
WCM solutions offer sophisticated functionality that goes far beyond managing simple HTML pages. They streamline the front-end process of managing content through well-defined workflows and templates, and allow more effective management of back-end processes to include defining, standardizing, controlling, staging, routing, storing, and delivering content. A core foundation of most con tent management systems is a data base to store all assets of the site, including templates, graphics, content, and code applications. The majority of these systems use relational databases like Oracle and SQL Server. …