The Biggest Reason Organizations Struggle with CMS

One of the most common questions I get about web content management is “how much ongoing investment is required after the platform launches?”

This is a difficult question to answer since the role of digital and CMS are so different inside each organization. However, I believe the inability to answer this question is the biggest reason organizations struggle with web content management.

I find it helps to frame the question by looking at two different sets of priorities: Operational and Strategic. This slide from my recent eduWeb presentation helps explain the differences.

Operational priorities represent the day-to-day activities required to keep the lights on, respond to requests, train end users, create and update content and patch bugs. The list goes on. They can be tedious, unpredictable, unrecognized, and time consuming. Some people call it firefighting, but it’s a lot more than that.

Strategic priorities often represent the most important new projects to an organization. These are usually budgeted for and actively prioritized to ensure resources are being allocated to the work that matters. Many strategic projects also evolve into operational initiatives that require ongoing active management.

Organizations struggling with CMS almost always underinvest in the operational priorities. They often lack the people, processes and maturity to handle day-to-day web operations management. This leads to juggling both operational and strategic priorities together with an understaffed team and inadequate resources. Nothing gets done well, if at all.

Here’s the reality: Organizations need to be able to deliver on both operational and strategic priorities simultaneously. This goes far beyond simply adding more people and money. It means isolating both types of priorities and right-sizing the approach and processes.

Determining the proper level of investment means answering two questions:

  1. What activities and people are required to properly operate and maintain what has been built?
  2. What new strategic initiatives are required to meet the business goals and how best should those be staffed/outsourced?

I recently consulted with an organization that had a single half-time person managing the CMS and all of the ongoing web activities (and you thought you were overworked). When we looked at what was really required to properly maintain the digital channel, it was determined they needed at least 3-4 new people and better defined processes.

We then looked at the second question to identify new strategic opportunities. This resulted in a 2-3 year roadmap of digital initiatives deemed necessary to achieve the desired results for the business.

With both of these plans in place, we developed a staffing model and total budget that could adequately support both ongoing operations and new strategic priorities. It the first time this organization ever had a real plan and was able to clearly communicate the priorities to the rest of the organization.

With the right supporting metrics and business cases, this type of planning can get the internal buy-in necessary to develop a more sustainable model for both supporting and growing a successful CMS-driven web publishing program and digital team.

Even in cases where the full funding isn’t available, it can provide a framework for prioritizing what matters most. And by getting more structure around the operational activities, you’ll be able to free your team up to focus on the projects that can really transform your company and get you that promotion you deserve.

Need help developing your own plan? Drop us a line and we’d be more than happy to talk.

What have your experiences been managing CMS post launch and getting the proper teams and budgets allocated? Leave us your thoughts below.

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.

More articles from Jeff Cram


One response… read them below or add one.

  1. I like seeing the distinction between operational and strategic activities. It really drives home the point success is not just about the technology.

    We’ve tried out many different CMS staffing models at OHSU, some far more successful and less painful than others. Today, we have a great team team and our content management system is an invaluable component of our content management strategy. (1,000+ regular authors!)

    The part of CMS teams I frequently find overlooked is the system administration backbone. I attribute much of our success with CommonSpot to our ability to fully own the product and evolve it to meet our institution-specific needs. Progress will ultimately be stunted by strategic efforts, but unless you’ve mastered the technical aspects of your CMS, the product is destined to be blamed for anything that goes awry.

    It’s not enough to have a developer who can apply patches and a Windows admin to keep the web server up and running. In order to effectively customize a CMS for an organization’s workflow and development model, you need an integrated team of platform administrators, developers and business analysts who get the development, administration and tuning of web applications. It’s this collaboration that allowed us to move beyond procedural challenges and focus on the work itself.

    You very wisely point out that more structured operations frees the team to advance strategic priorities. This structure is an art that requires the perfect blend of technical expertise and proprietary institutional knowledge – something that’s difficult to expect from your CMS vendor.

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