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Key Lessons Learned In Implementing A Cms Solution
By Mary Galoski Parsons
Implementing a Content Management System (CMS) can be like a well-orchestrated dance – with the right partner, good choreography and supporting resources, you can move to an automated workflow seamlessly, with few missteps. That’s not to suggest that implementing a CMS is effortless. On the contrary, an effective solution involves a keen understanding of your organization’s culture, business requirements, technical capabilities and willingness to foster change. But if you plan effectively, you can eliminate many of the challenges others have faced. With over 20 years of experience implementing various CMS Solutions, we at XyEnterprise have learned a few things along the way.

Ready, Set, Pilot

Prove you can reduce the time, cost and perceived risk associated with a new implementation. Sound familiar? It’s one of the reasons pilots have evolved as a way to test the waters before making a buying decision.

So how do you know when a pilot is right for your organization?
There are many factors to consider, including your own state of readiness. Resources, be it people, time, funding or equipment, as well as data availability and management authorization
all play a key role.

XyEnterprise has learned that the most efficient and cost effective pilot is a Phased Implementation as it allows the deployment team, end users and management to realize system
progress and benefits in an accelerated timeframe. In a phased implementation, you and the vendor together define and codify the requirements and responsibilities, and commit resources
necessary to configure, test and deploy the system for production use. Staying focused on your overall goals and objectives during the implementation phase allows for uninterrupted progress
from phase to phase.

Migration - Not just for the Birds

Many CMS projects include changing the format in which your content is written, processed, and stored. Often that means migrating from an unstructured authoring environment like Word or Frame to XML, a structured format that lends itself to automation and reuse. Three important lessons we’ve learned to help facilitate a more seamless move to XML:

1- Choose a CMS that can manage both structured and unstructured content — this gives you the flexibility to introduce the new CMS while you maintain a managed environment for your existing content; then phase in new XML authoring tools/processes over time.
2- Plan for the conversion of your data — whether you do the conversion work within your company or outsource the conversion work to specialists, it will take time to move your existing content into XML. With proper planning your CMS project will stay on schedule.
3- Understand the structure of your content — take the time to analyze your content and understand its structure. Doing so will enable you to make sound decisions about how you might componentize content, how you will manage and reuse those components, and what provides the biggest business payoff in your new managed environment.

Know Thy Self

You'll want to understand your organization's strengths and determine the responsibilities you'll keep in house versus those you'll ask your vendor to do. Knowing how much technical work you want to own will help solidify the role you want your vendor to play in the short/long term. Take time to explore such cultural issues as
whether your company has deep rooted processes, or an environment that is used to adapting to shifting conditions. Do departments work autonomously or collaboratively?
If the implementation will represent a significant disruption to "the way we've always done things", take steps to prepare the organization, and select team members who can
strike the balance between preserving the good elements of existing processes, while remaining open to innovation.


individual strengths are on the team? Select a team leader or evangelist that is open to change, and can lead others accordingly. The right candidate will bring that innovative spirit to design discussions, helping to preserve important processes and
workflows, but also shedding unnecessary steps. Being technically courageous and sales savvy are also key attributes as this person will help to drive acceptance throughout the organization.

One final requirement is support. It is critical that this evangelist be supported by high level sponsors to ensure business goals and metrics are clearly defined and communicated.

Should You Be Your Own General Contractor?

Implementing a CMS solution seems pretty straightforward. So, why not become your own general contractor?

Implementing a CMS has a lot in common with building a house. You need a solid foundation, accurate blueprints and someone to make sure everyone adheres to the plan, schedule and cost.

Similarly, the blueprint for a CMS implementation needs to be a detailed implementation plan that defines the requirements, expectations, functionality, critical success factors, and roles
and responsibilities for the project. Equally important, the plan should identify requirements that are out of scope so everyone is clear on what is not being done.

The general contractor for a CMS implementation is the Project Manager who not only helps coordinate and develop the plan, but oversees the project throughout the implementation
process. When things get off track, and they will, the Project Manager provides the early warning, calls together the required parties, negotiates appropriate plan accommodations and
moves the project forward.

Optimally, your solution provider should offer these services. The ROI in cost, time and success makes this a sound investment. Still want to do it yourself? It can be done, but you might want to talk to someone who tried building a house on their own – most wouldn’t do it
the next time around!

Moving Forward

Selecting and implementing a CMS solution can be one of the most important projects your IT department will undertake. Choose your vendor wisely. Communicate your expectations, assess vendor strengths relative to your business needs, and consider the
level of service you’ll want for implementation, and beyond. By selecting a vendor that best mirrors your organization’s culture, business processes and content management requirements you’ll have taken a critical step in implementing an effective CMS solution.
Mary Galoski Parsons
Director, Marketing Communications XyEnterprise
Component Content Management, XML publishing, and intelligent content delivery from XyEnterprise


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