The selection of a Content Management System

And what house construction has to do with it.

The selection of a Content Management System

Do you know the saying: “The first house you build for your enemy, the second for your friend, and the third for yourself“?

How did you feel back then when you were preparing to select a turnkey home builder? You considered construction companies, visited an Expo for prefabricated sample house models, visited various construction company reference customers at their homes, etc.

You've read a lot, seen a lot, invested a lot of time, and spent so much money ... so close to decision time and now you feel queasy. Have you considered everything, and did you ask all of your questions? The house fits your current situation, but what about in 3 years, and what about in 5 years? How far along are you with family planning, and will you still be with your current employer in 3 or 5 years? Can your career ambitions still be satisfied within your current region in 5 years? You see: Question after Question.

It is exactly the same for companies and documentation departments when they choose a Content Management System. Anyone wishing to introduce a Content Management System faces the difficult task of selecting the appropriate system from among the many on offer.

The selection and implementation of a Content Management System has to be planned carefully; after all, there are big implications. It's not just about the new tool and the technology behind it. Above all else, it’s about optimised and leaner editorial and translation processes, interfaces to other systems within the company (e.g. EDM, PDM, ERP, PLM, CAD), and new processes that lead to new ways of working. In total, it's more about psychology than technology.

You must consider:

  • your own requirements for document structuring and modularisation, block size and metadata
  • the required editorial processes
  • any workflow functions for internal release or the translation and terminology processes
  • the knowledge of which processes are common (and therefore should be easily achievable) and which, because rarely used, may be a little more complicated

All of these factors must be known and considered before speaking to and negotiating with system providers.

The goal is to find and introduce the optimal system, and to do so in a vendor-neutral and independent way. Therefore, a project always begins to expose exactly what your requirements are.

But if we think again about the phrase, "The first house you build for your enemy, the second for your friend, and the third for yourself": You don’t want to implement a Content Management System three different times ...

So you probably need a partner who has successfully selected and built several "homes", based on their practical experience, so that you can rely on the experience and knowledge of the partner when selecting and implementing a Content Management System; both the positive aspects and to learn and consider the pitfalls of selecting and implementing a new system.

So how would you proceed?

The prerequisites for a successful system implementation:

  1. Conduct a Process and Modularisation Workshop. The focus of this Workshop should be on modular content creation and the associated requirements for an appropriate Content Management System and its related processes.
  2. Create a requirements catalogue and specifications for the future system. In doing so, you can also familiarise yourself with the developments made by the VDMA (the "Introducing a Content Management System in Technical Documentation" Guide) as well as the tekom (CMS study "Selection and Implementation – Systems on the Market").
  3. Create a weighted rating matrix. The result should be an Excel spreadsheet with categorised requirements, which should also be sent to each system supplier (with a request to comment on each item).
  4. On the basis of the specifications, offers should be obtained from various potential suppliers.
  5. Evaluate and compare the various offers.
  6. Create a shortlist of 3-to-4 system providers.
  7. The system providers should then present their solutions on the basis of your specifications, the appropriate processes, and their sample data in a half-day Workshop. During the Workshop, the basic functions of the various systems should be presented, as well as questions that have arisen, in order to complete your evaluation.
  8. After discussing the results and weighing the advantages and disadvantages of the individual systems, the future CMS should be selected.
  9. The configuration of the system should be based on the process Workshop. The creation of templates or configurations from a layout designer.
  10. Training.
  11. Accompanying the system implementation process comes on-the-job training, encompassing both data processing and migration tasks.
  12. Control, and the constant improvement of editorial processes within the CMS.

We hope that we have shed some light on how to properly choose a Content Management System in the right way – with both security and transparency. So you can say: "Thanks to a structured approach, you choose the first CMS all by yourself!"

Michael Bos
Blog post Michael Bos
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