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Five key steps will enable Web content management strategy success

Analysts say an effective Web content management strategy begins with clear goals, stakeholders enabled to create content, usage guidelines and a team tasked with driving adoption.

The most important step for any enterprise developing or overhauling its Web content management strategy is to have a clear understanding of the project’s business aims, according to industry experts.

“You have to think first about your business goals. … What is it about the way you provide customers access to your products, people and services you want to change,” said Melissa Webster, the program vice president for content and digital media technologies at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

Understand your business strategy
“The first big issue people struggle with is that they approach it as a technology problem and oftentimes don’t have a clear business strategy for why they are doing it in the first place,” said Scott Liewehr, lead analyst in the Web content management (WCM) practice for Gilbane Services of Cambridge, Mass. “So many times the foundational building blocks are not in place.”

Companies can determine what the ultimate goal of a WCM strategy is by asking what they want such a system to do. “Is it about improving efficiencies, speed to market, or is it about allowing you to effectively and efficiently engage with clientele?” he asked. “It is often very unclear, and people want to dig right into implementing new software. … At the end of the day, if you don’t have a good view of what you are trying to do holistically … you are just going to spin.”

Determine ownership of the Web content management strategy
Figuring out what part of or which individuals in the company own the WCM strategy is the next step, Liewehr said. It’s an aspect that must be addressed prior to any kind of software engagement.

“Who gets to make the decisions?” he asked. “It’s really getting your arms around the people aspect of it, the ownership of it.” This is especially true for small and medium-sized businesses, where such ownership comes down to one or two people. However, making that determination is usually easier in such cases, he said, whereas in larger enterprises figuring out that ownership piece can be a struggle.

Organizations can approach it like the wild, wild West, or they can determine control early on.

“Who owns the site? Who is going to be in charge of updating the site?” are important questions to ask early, said Kathleen Reidy, a senior analyst at The 451 Group in New York. “A lot of times, the owners of the content are going to be driving the project.”

This might be a global organization trying to maintain centralized control while giving local offices some jurisdiction for certain site aspects. Or perhaps it’s a company with many different brands, each with its own Web identity. In either case, establishing rights to the content is key.

Establish procedures and guidelines
“There’s got to be some establishment of governance, policies around who can update it, when you can update it, and how logos can be used, that sort of thing,” Reidy said. Whether the aim is to create standard boilerplate for legal information or figuring out how translations will occur, creating guidelines that all stakeholders understand is critical.

“There obviously needs to be some structure in place for review and approval,” IDC’s Webster said. And, to take care of the inevitable disagreements, especially in a large organization, where Web strategy is handled by a team, designating a moderator is a good idea.

“You have to establish an entity like a steering committee or individual who decides or judges any of the disputes that come up,” Liewehr said.

Enable stakeholders to push content
After establishing goals, ownership and the procedures for a Web content management program, it’s essential to have systems for properly publishing and distributing content. More and more, say the experts, it is becoming clear that stakeholders across the enterprise need to be able to do that, and make changes, without involving IT.

“Being able to push content live in a very organized way” is central to an efficient WCM strategy, Webster said. Whether it’s content creation, corrections, routine changes or the ability to build a sub site, tools are available so most anyone can accomplish the tasks.

However, while extending that capability to stakeholders is key, experts should still have control over technical aspects. “I would make sure there’s somebody addressing the system infrastructure who knows more about it than I do,” Liewehr said.

Build a team to drive adoption
Finally, it is essential to appoint an individual or group to drive implementation of a WCM strategy. This step is often skipped, and that can lead to delays or a less-than-comprehensive rollout.

“One thing that gets overlooked is the change management aspect of the whole thing,” Liewehr said. “A communication plan is key to keep everyone updated on progress, what the sticking points are and whether some promises can’t be kept.”

It’s clear that a strategy implementation should have high-level buy-in, Reidy said. Such a project is going to require a budget and will involve change, and high-level support will help enable that.

“While most organizations do understand how important the Web is as a channel, they don’t know how that ties into the business reasons,” she said, “so someone who can connect those points is important.”


More smart steps to take for a smooth WCM implementation
There are other smart steps to establishing a Web content management strategy, said Scott Liewehr, lead analyst in the WCM practice for Gilbane Services of Cambridge, Mass.

To ensure a smooth, efficient deployment of a WCM strategy organization should do the following:

Understand the system's technical requirements with regard to its content model, internal systems the WCM system must integrate with and whether there are aspects that need customization. “The content modeling process is something that, if not paid attention to up-front, will definitely come back to bite you later,” Liewehr said. Consider, for example, whether content will be published in English only. The content model will determine how easily it can be translated to different languages in the future.

How content is stored and at what level will also determine whether a reader will be able to extract just certain aspects that are of personal interest to them. It’s important to think about such personalization early on in the process, Liewehr said.

Finally, plan for content migration. Currently existing content will populate the site going forward, so it is key to have an understanding of content taxonomy. Then, in preparation for the migration, an inventory of existing content is necessary, and a clear plan for how it will be used needs to be hammered out.

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