February 20, 2001, 4:34 PM — Companies of all sizes are suffering from poor -- or worse, nonexistent -- CM (content management) practices. Increasing numbers of business lines within an enterprise must feed the content stream -- from Web sites to e-business transactions, swapped among internal sources or shared between business partners. The need for speed when accessing and disseminating this swelling amount of corporate knowledge has reached an all-time high.
A CM system eases this burden by delivering fast searches and quick data retrieval of corporate collateral, not unlike a library's card-catalog system. Further, it enables any data source, such as a Word document, PDF, or multimedia file, to be seamlessly transformed to meet delivery requirements across a variety of channels and client devices.
To borrow Java developers' popular mantra, a CM system allows data to be written once and deployed anywhere. But this advantage is not without its pitfalls.
Although seemingly clear-cut, putting a CM solution together can be an arduous and expensive undertaking. And don't be surprised when it even involves a substantial shift in corporate culture as employees must adapt to new workflow mechanisms. Take heed: Unless employee buy-in for the CM system is total across your organization, your goal of encapsulating your corporate knowledge will fail.
The rewards of a successful implementation, however, are worth all of the elbow grease. A CM system will help any company enhance the efficiency of its workflow and the availability of its resources, at the same time improving its readiness to conduct e-business.
Also, with proper planning, a CM system will streamline internal processes and allow customers and business partners to readily assimilate data. Ultimately, an increased opportunity for ROI is gained by being able to more rapidly build new partnerships.
Finding the right solution
When shouldering the burden of content management, you should consider several key elements to ensure the success of your CM strategy.
To begin, many large organizations already have well-developed EDI (electronic data interchange) applications in place, which seem like a good starting point to build a CM system. But on the contrary, most EDI programs demand a sizeable amount of reprogramming to make them available to Web-based applications.
The time and cost necessary to develop a homegrown CM solution to go with that EDI application would put you at a competitive disadvantage if your competitors quickly move toward Web-based CM systems. This is particularly true if you're looking to incorporate new vendors, customers, or application technologies into your solution.
Therefore, the best CM system for most companies is a boxed solution, such as Vignette's, that combines the structure of EDI with Internet-ready aptitude for e-business, including Web application interfaces.