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Content Management

  Article published in DM Direct Special Report
February 26, 2002 Issue
  By Cindy Gramann and Barbara Gulten

What is content management? Good question. A variety of products claim to provide content management, where the meaning, but the definition is not very clear. The majority of content management solutions focus on production, review/approval and deployment, but features often vary by product. Some solutions focus on page delivery and personalization as well. Most of them claim to follow open standards and integrate with everything under the sun.

The content on a Web site is a most valuable asset. Content must be updated frequently to keep visitors coming back. A content management (CM) system will allow you to focus on producing quality content while automating some of the operational tasks. You can reduce operational costs, increase frequency of content updates and improve the quality and amount of content that is presented on your Web site.

Why Use It?

Many companies are interested in finding a tool that can automate content management processes and increase the productivity of non-technical contributors. The biggest benefit of CM is that non-technical users can submit content without creating having technical bottlenecks. This is very important for the time- pressed environment and Web sites that are customer driven. Other key benefits delivered include automating approval and deployment of content. In general, these benefits can be grouped under five categories:

Managing Web Assets

  • Content can come from a variety of sources including both file and database assets. You can even integrate with assets from legacy systems or syndication services.
  • Some products enable you to store content in both XML and relational databases. XML provides a lot of flexibility. Relational databases provide security, concurrency, normalization and other benefits. Both allow separation of content from presentation.
  • Content authors can often use the tools of their choice when creating content.
  • CM software can automate meta data creation and storage which enables companies to organize content and improve customer searches.


  • Most CM solutions provide a user interface for managing tasks. You can automate the creation and assignment of task lists, e-mail notification and approvals. Tasks can be assigned to individuals or groups. Tasks can be manually initiated (e.g., Joe, create this press release for our unexpected declaration of bankruptcy) or automated (e.g., deploy content to our five production Web servers at 3:00 a.m. everyday). Workflow can often be customized, but it is best to keep it simple.
  • An audit trail and history of content changes changes can be maintained which enables content providers to better track and control content changes.


  • Templates are designed for either entering content or for presentation. Templates that are created for entering content are designed for non-technical end users to contribute content. Some products claim to automatically create content entry templates for you, but you should be very thorough when evaluating this feature to make sure it meets your needs. Presentation templates are used to combine content with presentation and display the end result to Web site visitors. Presentation pages often consist of components, which are templates included within a template. Components are useful for assets such as banners and footers which that are displayed on many pages throughout a Web site.

Source control/versioning

  • Many CM solutions also provide source code management capabilities such as versioning, merging changes and identifying conflict resolution. A good CM solution will allow you to keep versions of the entire Web site, or snapshots in time, allowing you to roll back at any point.


  • Most CM solutions automate content deployment. Some also offer automated archival/expiration of content.
  • Some CM solutions also have a runtime component to handle page delivery. They offer caching strategies for improving the performance of your Web site. This can be especially beneficial if you have a lot of database content that doesn't necessarily change much during the day or throughout the week. By using a caching strategy, Web pages will be served faster because each customer will not be hitting the database for every page request.

What to Keep in Mind?

Contrary to what vendors are likely to tell you, CM software is not an out-of-box solution or a silver bullet to resolve all of your problems. There are crucial factors to consider such as implementation, testing, expectations, and workflow and integration with other products.

Implementation: Do not rush the implementation. You are likely to spend a lot of time configuring and customizing any CM solution for your individual needs. Many companies and organizations that have gone through implementing a CM solution would testify to this. Plan enough time to for implementing and thorough testing.

Workflow: Keep it simple. You can spend a lot of time developing an elaborate and complex workflow only to find the no one wants to use it. You can not automate everything; therefore, automate what makes sense. CM software will not help you define your workflow and approval processes, business rules, roles and responsibilities. It is very important that you define these and incorporate them into the implementation.

Integration: When considering integration with new technologies (e.g., wireless devices and services), adopt a forward-looking approach. Syndication and globalization are increasing content growth and complexity. Consider how content management can impact and be impacted by partners, suppliers, business units and multilingual customers and offices.

Expectations: Manage expectations. End users and management often think content management software will make their lives much simpler. In reality, end users often had a technical person who took care of the deployment for them. They may view CM software as adding an additional step to their process. Encourage them to view this an opportunity to have more control over their content. To help ensure end-user buy-in, invite them to evaluate CM products for ease of use and intuitiveness.

CM Products

There are a variety of CM products in on the market these days. These products fulfill different niches and have different features. A word of caution is to research and find the best solution to suit your organization's needs. Here are just a few of the CM software products that are available in the market:

Intervwowven - TeamSite (http://www.interwoven.com/)

Gauss - VIP Platform (http://www.gaussinterprise.com/)

Vignette - Content Management Server (http://www.vignette.com/)

Polar Design - InsightBuilder Pro (http://www.polardesign.com/)

WebsiteASP - OmniUpdate (http://www.omniupdate.com/)

Corevue - Corevue CMS (http://www.coravue.com)

Documentum - Documentum 4i WCM (http://www.documentum.com)

A list of CM tools: http://www.intranetjournal .com/tools/km.shtml

A CM solution can be expensive depending on your needs. Including the cost of software licensing, training and support services, the price tag can range from $200,000 to $2 million.

This is not to say there are not less costly solutions, but most comprehensive and well-supported solutions will not come with a small price tag.


As you can see, there are a variety of factors to consider and range of products to choose from. CM products have changed quite a bit over the last few years. Consider the improvements in products, customer expectations of your Web site and pace of e-commerce in Web world. Content- intensive Web sites can tremendously benefit from having a CM utility. After all, for today's Internet users, stale content is one more good reason not to return to a Web site.

If you consider content as a major asset, and you want to maintain freshness and create stickiness on your site; you can benefit from using CM. The reality is that many products have varying features and you need to focus on what fits best into your environment and future business strategy. Analyzing and determining what product would will best suit your circumstance best is worth the time and resources.


For more information on related topics visit the following related portals...
Knowledge Mgmt., Business Intelligence and Content Management.

Cindy Gramann is the technical lead responsible for implementing interwoven content management software for a state government Web portal. She can be reached at Greenbrier & Russel, Inc. at (608) 261-4370 or cgramann@gr.com.

Barbara Gulten is a Java developer and project manager working as a consultant for Greenbrier & Russel, Inc. Gulten currently consults at the State of Wisconsin Department of Electronic Government, developing the Wisconsin.gov portal. She may be reached at bgulten@gr.com.

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