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Matching Content Management Scale With Function

Tips to make sure your next upgrade will accommodate your company’s growth.



By Chandra Johnson-Greene
09/14/2009

One of the most important things to consider when planning your next CMS upgrade is the rate at which your company’s needs might change in the future. At the time of the upgrade, your Web site may offer a range of content types, such as articles, blogs and videos, but as content platform options grow, your company may want explore how other opportunities might fit into your content management needs, such as podcasts, social networking and even syndication deals.

When b-to-b publisher Reed Business Information wanted to swap out its in-house legacy CMS system for a third-party solution last year, the company was looking for a new system that would give them access to the latest CMS technology and allow them to increase their efficiency. “Our old system wasn’t flexible and didn’t allow us to expand the way we needed it to,” said Traci Young, VP, product development, RBInteractive. “For example, it allowed us to input articles, blogs, videos and podcasts, but we didn’t have the ability to take those mediums and build pages around them.”

Hearst Digital Media, on the other hand, was starting from scratch three-and-a-half years ago when it wanted to split its brands’ online presence away from iVillage. “We were pretty lucky that we got to start from scratch,” said SVP/CIO Debra Robinson. “There was no legacy system, so there were a lot of opportunities to learn from other companies.”

What both publishers did have in common, however, was that they wanted to have systems that were both scalable and flexible. FOLIO: asked Young and Robinson to offer their opinions on how to make sure all options are accounted for when the time comes for a CMS upgrade or overhaul.

Open Source = Flexibility

Choosing an open source CMS system, Young said, allowed RBI to add functions as they found them necessary. “When we were putting together the new system, for example, we integrated WordPress, which is a standard open source blogging tool,” she said. “With the legacy system, we had a proprietary blog tool that made it hard for external bloggers to use. Implementing WordPress streamlined the process.”

Robinson said an open source system allowed Hearst to build its system within its own framework. “We didn’t want to be reliant on software vendors for upgrades or deal with licensees,” she said.

Think About Interchangeability

Hearst’s system, which consists of content management, marketing, promotion and ad management, and circulation marketing, is built with a bundle of solution software (database management system, web server, operating system and scripting language) —or a LAMP stack— that works together, but allows the company to have even more flexibility. “It allows us to change modules in and out,” she said. “If we want to move to another database or if we wanted to change the presentation layer for the Web, we could.”

Give the Tech Department a Break

One of the best ways to ensure that the tech department is staying on top of new growth issues is to let editors, marketers and other teams have more control within the system. “If they have more control, they won’t keep coming back to tech for changes or requests,” Robinson said. “Let the team instead worry about new modules and functionalities.”

Prioritize the Most Desirable Functionality

Instead of trying to implement all of the functions you want your upgraded system to have, it might be best to create a “wish list,” according to Young. “You don’t want to further delay getting the initial system rolled out,” she said. “There are so many functions that your company will think of along the way that might make it harder to get the system deployed. Think about creating a ‘phase 2’ list before attempting to do everything at once. ”

By Chandra Johnson-Greene
09/14/2009







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