Ever heard the phrase “the new CMS will solve all these problems”? It’s popular with Digital Managers, IT project people and the sales guys from the latest on-trend software company.
If you have heard that phrase, did that new-beaut content management system actually solve the problems your digital team was suffering?
Not all of them, am I right?
Depressing I know, but there’s a good reason why simply rolling out the latest “cloud-based”, “AI-driven personalised customer experience” platform with “industry-leading digital asset management tools” won’t fix all your digital experience and management problems.
Your problems aren’t caused by the software. The cause is something much closer to home. And it’s a pretty common one, that’s been around a lot longer than the world wide web or Google.
Why am I picking on people?
There’s a pre-digital saying that I quite like. “A bad workman blames his tools.” That’s as true today, in our real-time, AI driven, CX personalised world as it was back when Thatcher was something other tan an ex-UK prime minister.
I’m not trying to talk down the hard work digital teams put into building and maintaining quality digital collateral. I’ve run digital teams, so I know how hard they work to get it right.
The tools they need to do so aren’t all built on 1s and 0s.
Now don’t think I’m against the new tools and functionality the Adobes, Drupals, Oracles and Joomlas of this world keep dreaming up. I love ‘em. The things we can do around personalisation, device-specific content and digital asset reuse are amazing. They blow my little HTML-coding mind.
But they’re not going to fix the core problems that plague many digital teams, they may mask some of your issues and alleviate the pain, but they won’t fix them.
What’s my problem?
So what are these problems I’m banging on about? Well might you ask.
Let me answer that question with some of my own:
- When was the last time you looked for an image in your DAM and found the perfect one, first time, no problems? I’m not talking about an image you loaded five minutes ago, I’m talking about raw, optimistic search.
- How confident are you that every page on your website is up to date, relevant to your users and compliant with current industry regulations? Every page, not just the top tiers of your nav.
- Do you know who has access to your CMS and what each of them can do in it? Really? Everyone? How many ex-team members still have logins to your system? If that number is zero, I’m really impressed.
Even the best, most advanced content management systems are simply big databases full of templates, content, assets and code. They succeed or fail, based on how we set them up and what we do with them.
Governance is king
What I’m getting at here is this. It doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles your new CMS has, if you don’t have a robust governance plan embedded at every level.
Sounds a bit ‘content police’ doesn’t it? It doesn’t have to be. Mostly, you just need a set of ‘how we use this thing’ rules that everyone knows, agrees to and follows. This is easily done if the content team are the ones who write the rules in the first place.
Personal ownership is a beautiful thing.
So what does a governance plan look like and how is it going to solve all those problems?
Let’s break it into its component pieces, shall we.
A governance plan is simply a list of rules around the who, what and when of your content.
The who is all about roles and responsibilities. For each type of content in your CMS, including the code that runs the CMS, you need to decide who can do what to it.
- You want your manager to be able to review the articles you write, but not edit them. She’d have Readaccess to content articles.
- Now, your manager has OKed your article, you need the content producer to finalise it. He needs to format the article and publish it to the site. He’d have Read / Write / Publish access.
Each person who uses the CMS needs their own login, role and responsibilities. Once you look at all the people who need to Read, Write, Publish and Administer your site, this can get quite complicated.
Also, people come and go from companies, and move from role to role while they’re there. When someone starts, they need access to the CMS. Each time they move, someone needs to check if they still have the right access. When they leave, their login needs to be deleted.
Get it wrong and you could stop people being able to do their jobs, or worse you could accidentally allow the wrong person to edit and publish content onto your site.
Get it right and everyone can do their jobs and no-one’s going to publish the CEO’s personal phone number on the home page.
The what of your plan covers a multitude of sins. It can include:
- Types of content you need to manage.
- Naming standards so all your content is consistently labelled – a must if you want to find anything later.
- The metadata you need to tag and classify your content, so you can find it, group it and assign it to the right workflows and review cycles.
- Places you want to put your content – websites, eDMs, print and billboard advertising – and the devices it needs to appear on.
- Steps your content needs to go through to be published – workflows.
Each of these needs to be mapped out and agreed to by the whole team. Everyone who uses the CMS needs to know what they can upload, what to call it, where it’s going to appear and how to get it through a workflow.
In an ideal world, these ‘whats’ are meticulously mapped out during the rollout of a new CMS and shared with the whole team. In a not-so-ideal world, some ‘whats’ are left out and “sharing” is more of a concept and less a reality.
In almost all situations, after the rollout is complete, the ‘whats’ are neither revisited nor actively communicated again, until the next CMS revamp.
When you think about the profound impact those ‘whats’ have on the usability and flexibility of your CMS, it’s a bit mind-blowing how little attention is paid to them.
When is all about currency. When was a piece of content created? Is it still current or relevant? When should it be reviewed and when retired?
As Gerry McGovern is fond of pointing out, we are far better at creating content than we are at deleting it. Yet, out-of-date content can harm us far more than content that hasn’t been published – clogging our SEO, giving our customers incorrect information and eroding our brand.
Each piece of content, be it an article, an image or contact form, needs a ‘when’ – a review date.
If you team applies a Review, Rewrite, Retire strategy to all the content you have published across your digital landscape, you may just end up being the only crowd with 100% accurate, relevant, legally compliant content on the world wide web.
You think I’m kidding? There are very few sites out there that don’t have at least a little bit of out-of- date content. Try finding some on your favourite site – 5 points for each page more than 12 months between edits.
One plan to govern them all
So that’s what makes up a governance plan:
- Who can create and edit content.
- What they can create.
- When they should edit it.
It sounds simple when you put it in three bullets, but those three words can spell the success or failure of your content management lifecycle.
The way we do things around here
Agreeing on your Who, What and When is half the battle. To win the war against content chaos, your Who, What and When need to become the ‘way we do things’ for your CMS. Each person who uses the CMS needs to know:
- Their role in the CMS – what they can and can’t do in the system.
- What they are creating – and how to name it, tag it, where it’s going to be used and how to get it approved.
- The content’s shelf-life – when they will need to review it.
Sounds like a big task? It is. But believe me, it pays off. Invest some time creating your Who, What and When and spreading the word and you’ll reap the benefits. Up-to-date content, fewer ‘help’ calls from your CMS users, easily findable content, no more griping about the ‘crap CMS’.
Sounds a bit more doable now, doesn’t it?
Can I still have a new CMS?
I’d be the last one to stop you getting a shiny new CMS with integrated digital asset management, personalisation, A/B testing and all the other bells and whistles. Hey, buy two – I’d love to have one myself.
Just make sure your bosses don’t think that getting a new CMS means you can skimp on your governance.