Our Department is Different!

If you’ve been through an enterprise CMS rollout, you’re probably familiar with these four simple words.

“Our department is different!”

This is a common and legitimate response from groups used to managing their own websites. They argue that their needs are so specific there is little chance a common template can work.

After all, while the CMS adds new capabilities for many groups, it ultimately takes away control. This can cause, shall we say, tension (to put it nicely). Yes, we’ve seen tears shed, fists pounded and even jobs lost in these situations.

It’s understandable, really. Because it’s about much more than adopting new technology.

It’s about ushering in a new publishing model and realigning your website’s user experience to external stakeholder goals. It’s about investing in a common platform and standardizing experiences across disparate sections of your site.

This is especially relevant in higher education, government and healthcare where the internal structure of the organization doesn’t map to the website visitor’s goals.

So, are all departments different? Of course. And how you handle those differences can make or break the success of your CMS rollout and end user adoption.

Here are some lessons learned from working with a variety of large decentralized organizations.

  • Listen first. Hold kick-off meetings with every individual group to talk about the process and better understand their current publishing model.
  • Make the right promises up front. Address changes to the editorial process and web governance head on.
  • Don’t over promise on technology. Inevitably people will find a reason to hate a CMS and the more the technology is hyped as the silver bullet the harder the fall.
  • Don’t sugarcoat it. If your web strategy diminishes the role of a department, be up front in explaining why and tie it to the larger goals of the organization.
  • Take a holistic look at the user experience. Tie the role of each department to your user personas and don’t lose sight of that perspective. Understand that some departments won’t align to primary personas and dig deeper to understand their audience goals and secondary personas.
  • Remain open minded. A one size fits all approach will not likely work. Determine which groups and systems need to remain stand alone and allow for customizations.
  • Go easy on the workflow. Resist the temptation to enforce a standard workflow across departments. If the editorial process didn’t exist before the CMS, the new workflow will be an epic fail.
  • Let them make some choices. Provide a tool kit of options they can customize rather than a final template. Focus on best practices, standards and guidelines.

And if all that fails, you may want to run for the hills! Battling internal politics is not for weak or timid.

About the Author
Jeff Cram

Jeff Cram is Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design), a digital agency based in Portland, OR and Boston, MA. As the Managing Editor of the CMS Myth, Jeff is passionate about all topics related to content management, digital strategy and experience design.

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