How to staff a winning CMS team

Red Sox Depth Chart
Red Sox Depth Chart: Pitching and Defense (Courtesy of

Our beloved Red Sox pitchers and catchers just reported to spring training in sunny Florida. As the team starts to assemble its opening day roster, it begs the natural question for a CMS Mythbuster: Who is on your CMS roster?

Anyone planning a web content management system implementation has to think through who needs to be on the team to have a championship-worth publishing strategy.

There are many considerations.

  • What are the relevant disciplines?
  • Who should be in-house and where do we need to partner?
  • Do we have right training program to help our younger and more inexperienced team members grow into CMS All-Stars?

We asked a similar question years back in a popular post entitled: How Many People Does it Take to Screw in a Content Management System? All jokes aside (you don’t screw in a CMS, the CMS screws you!). we thought it would be interesting to see how things have changed.

Way back in 2008 we proposed the idea of a ‘core’ and ‘extended’ team. We think this is still a good approach but we’ll take a deeper look at 12 core roles (hey, MLB teams have 25, you’re geting off easy) we believe are critical for success in large-scale CMS projects.

Digital Strategist (DS) The strategist’s job is to be a big picture systems thinker who can help connect the overall digital strategy to the business. They provide a detailed analysis of the organization’s overall digital footprint, competitive landscape and business requirements. The DS defines clear goals and an overall roadmap that orchestrates and prioritizes the many moving parts.  Part visionary, part pragmatist, the DS stays connected from start to finish and helps evangelize and sell the vision across the organization and to executive peers.

Content Strategist (CS) Way back in 2008 the idea of a Content Strategist was a novelty. Just 4 years later, it’s an absolute necessity. The CS is responsible for developing an overall approach to managing, creating, and governing content across digital touch points. Typical CS activities early in the project include a content inventory, content analysis, CMS requirements, and a content migration plan. Later in the process the CS may help oversee the migration of content and provide documentation on the use of the CMS. This is both a big picture role and someone not afraid to get their hands dirty with the details. CS comes in many flavors, but it’s important to identify who is point on content in your project.

User Experience Architect (UXA) Early in the process this role will work closely with the core team to help plan an experience that meets the needs of the users. Ideally research-driven, the UXA will help define the personas, journeys and interactions necessary to build delightful experiences across multiple channels. Wireframes, template maps and taxonomies are all in a UXAs toolkit as they work closely with the Content Strategist and other members of the team. Remember: No Lorem Ipsum!

Technical Architect (TA) The tech arch is responsible for properly planning for a successful technical implementation of the CMS. This includes big picture technology strategy and architecture (how do we support 100 sites) as well as nitty gritty areas like security, hosting and bandwidth. It’s a mission critical role and it’s vitally important that it’s not the first time your tech arch has worked with the platform you’ve selected. This is why many organizations outsource technical architecture to an implementation partner. It is pretty rare to have an in-house person with multiple CMS implementations under their belt.

User Experience Designer (UXD) The designer’s value is understanding your organization’s brand and effectively integrating it with the overall online/mobile user experience. However, modern interactive designers are more than just ‘creative types’ who paint pretty pictures. Instead, these seasoned industry vets bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table on how to provide your audiences with a seamless digital brand experience.

Front End Developer (FED) The role of the FED is becoming business critical as responsive design becomes a top goal for any new CMS-driven platform. A typical, expert FED is well versed with HTML, JavaScript, JQuery, AJAX and CSS. They combine these  skills in a magical front-end awesome-sauce to turn final designs into a seamless, responsive front end experience consumable on any size screen or form factor, be it desktop, notebook, tablet, or smart-phone. Gone of the days of having your back-end engineers also hack together the front end code.

Engineer (E) Engineers are responsible for the development, configuration and/or integration of back-end systems including databases, the CMS, and third party software platforms like e-mail marketing, marketing automation and CRM. The engineer is also responsible for the development of custom, back-end code in programming languages such as .NET, PHP, and JAVA. They handle all of the critical development infrastructure, source control and deploying the site. Engineers are most likely subject matter experts in your selected CMS (or will be by the end of the project!).

Test Engineer (TE) Test Engineers will be focused on overall quality assurance and testing. This may include load testing, unit testing, user acceptance testing, and more. You never really appreciate a good TE until you don’t have one and run into all sorts of bugs post launch.

Digital Marketer (DM) CMS implementations are marketing-centric at their core and you’ll need a strong digital marketing team member to ensure your SEO, analytics and overall marketing strategy informs the CMS planning. For larger projects, this can easily become several specialized roles (web analytics, SEO, Social, etc). This is likely a role that will be heavily involved in managing the site post launch, so its important to have them involved early and often.

Content Authors (CA) The number of end content authors can vary from a small controlled team to a large decentralized group. Getting input from CAs early in the process is critical in understanding their key tasks and defining a governance strategy for publishing. The Content Strategist will play a big role in defining this vision.

Project Manager (PM) Spanning the entire project, the PM is a very special role on the project team. They serve as the primary point of contact and are the cross road for all project related communications. The PM’s responsibilities also include keeping the project on track in terms of scope, schedule, and budget.

Executive Sponsor (ES): The twelfth role may very well be one of the most important. Your executive sponsor is a high ranking member of your executive team that is providing the funding and executive support to make it all successful. The right ES provides much more than the money. They understand the strategic nature of CMS and will help sell it within the organization and give you the air cover you need to succeed, pushing back against unrealistic timelines and the common pressures that come with large initiatives.

Red Sox (until 2004!) and Cubs fans, well versed in losing seasons, developed the familiar refrain of “There’s always next  year,” optimistically putting their hopes and dreams into the next season. Getting the right CMS team together will ensure you don’t find yourself saying “There’s always the next CMS.”

We realize projects come in all shapes and sizes, but we’ve consistently seen these 12 roles critical for fielding a successful CMS team.  Have any that we’re missing? Leave a comment.

About the Author
Jake DiMare

Jake has spent the last 15 years helping organizations plan, design, develop, and implement effective online experiences with a strong focus on large scale web content management systems and integrated online marketing suites. Jake wrote for the CMS Myth during his time working at Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design). Google Plus Profile

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4 responses… read them below or add one.

  1. Great article, Jake. I’m referring a client to this article in and email I’m writing to them now. I wonder though, did you miss on the CMS Administrator role, or do you figure that another one of your roles should assume the admin’s responsibilities?


  2. Well said, Jake. Another admin role to include is the system administrator, responsible for the hardware, security, and generic software on the web servers. But in the above schema that role could be included under engineer as an additional set of responsibilities.

  3. Jake DiMare Jake DiMare says:

    Excellent feedback! Thanks for your comments…

  4. Jaymie Massey says:

    This is great! Also think we are missing the Web designer role. I’ve butted heads with graphic designers who don’t have the Web experience and they don’t understand how a website visual design needs to be done so that it can be translated into something usable and manageable. Function before form.

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