As I have tried to make clear in other parts of this series, content management plans have many components and installing a new system, or repurposing an existing system, is only one part. However, systems must be taken into account, because in conjunction with all the other aspects, a well managed and effective system can be a cost effective piece of the content management puzzle. It is important to remember that a new system cannot solve all content management problems.

One of the first tasks, after the company decides to create a content management plan, it is important to review all systems and tools currently in place.

It is important to perform a complete inventory of all systems, software, web applications, etc that have a content management component.

  • Review each system’s perceived strengths and weaknesses
  • Determine who is using each system
  • Identify how systems are being used including hacks and tweaks that have been made
  • Determine overlaps between various systems
  • Identify silos
  • Determine combined cost of systems, including maintenance fees
  • If possible, determine WHY each system is being used

The WHY can be tricky. Systems may be used because that is what was available when a department was formed. Software can be used because that is how an employee was trained. Newer systems might be used because an employee’s boss got a new boss and the new boss likes that system. Systems are chosen because they came up first in a list of search results.

The WHY is when it becomes important to meet with people

  • Survey users – it may be important to target specific users if a tool is specific to a certain department or group
    • ask about current systems
    • try to discover ‘wish list’ systems or functionality
    • find out if employees used software in a different way
    • Ask about information
      • what is stored
      • how it is used
      • when they have problems accessing their own data as well as cross departmental data
      • what external information is being purchased and how is it being used?
      • Survey users again after some changes have been made or a content management plan has started to develop
  • Attend conferences
    • talk to colleagues about what they are using
    • walk the vendor halls and find out what is new and exciting
    • listen to seminar speakers to glean information about creative ways they are using products
  • Talk to vendor-partners
    • are there updates that have not been installed?
    • is the system still being supported?
    • does the company have a current maintenance agreement?
    • who is the regular sales/support rep?
    • are there modules or add-ons that might make the system more user friendly, effective, customizable?
    • do vendor-partners have special offers which can be taken advantage of over time?
    • is training available?

It is important to find out if vendors of entrenched tools can make changes to make products work in a way that furthers the goals of the company. It is also important to find out if they are willing to work to improve their product as you work through your content management challenges. Willing vendor-partners can be the difference in a choice of product. Vendors are partners. They, of course, want to sell their products, but they also want to keep existing clients. It is possible to work with them to adjust tools to meet new needs.

Stakeholders can be the best and the worst when it comes to content management systems. Their friends are higher ups in other companies and they want to support their friends and keep up with the Joneses. Thus, it is important to review new systems in which stakeholders are interested.

  • How do they work with existing silos?
  • Are new systems compatible with existing silos?
  • Are new systems duplicative? How?

Next, a critical step is to identify where content is cross departmental and access is needed by groups with otherwise different functions. This often happens with some financial data. For example, department heads need access to expenditures when compiling their budgets.

  • Where is it important to have information gatekeepers
  • Gatekeepers vs. Content managers

Taxonomies can be an important tool for a company. Review whether or not there are any existing internal taxonomies in use. Next determine whether a department or group has purchased a commercial taxonomy. Taxonomies can be an expensive tool, because of the care and feeding they need. Taxonomies must to be maintained and updated. If they are not being used effectively, training may be required.

  • Consider usage and how well the taxonomies are functioning. Are people adding metadata from existing taxonomies to documents they create and save?
  • Can metadata be searched?
  • How flexible are metadata? Can an employee add any term or are they compelled to choose from the taxonomy?
  • Is someone culling non-standard terms and adding them to the taxonomy or replacing terms with standard terms?

If the company has a well functioning and well maintained taxonomy, consider using taxonomy terms to create a navigation bar on the Intranet, extranet or in other appropriate locations

Data and information owned and created by company employees must also be reviewed.

  • Are tools available already to automatically identify content with certain qualities?
  • Is there a program anywhere in the company to archive previous versions of documents/information?
  • How much stale content must be reviewed and archived?
  • Does saving a document allow employees to create content expiration dates?
  • What does the Enterprise Content Manager want to do about content without metadata?
  • What does the Enterprise Content Manager want to do about content with incomplete or inaccurate metadata?

A potential big problem is content owners leaving the company before a suitable content transition can be created. It is important to immediately reassign content ownership or archive data. This is drastic, however. Try to create a content transition plan and have the new and old owners work through it together.

Finally, products must be discussed. If none of the products you have inventoried are right, or you need an overarching product to place other products under, try to choose a product that is as right as it can be. Understand that no product will be perfect. In addition to “standard” tech products (products popular in technology companies), look to the library world as well. Librarians have been organizing information for years. They have products which can be adapted to your company as well. A couple are:

  • Koha
  • Inmagic/Lucidea Presto

Very popular tech products are:

  • Igloo
  • Jive
  • Drupal
  • some installations of WordPress
  • Drupal

Of course we all know and love 😉 Sharepoint. There are many others. Review and try many to find the one(s) that work for you. Talk to friends and colleagues about their experience using various products.

Information and/or content are valuable company assets. The overall goal of the all pieces of the content management plan I have discussed is to create a coherent set of processes and procedures to make content, data and information secure, findable and useful. Without organization, the content is more difficult to use. Different solutions may be required for different departments or groups. Everyone  has a stake and needs to be involved.