Content management tools should enable average users

Many organizations are grappling with how to manage the copious amounts of information they generate. But regardless of the system they choose for content management, it has to be easy for users to access and publish, according to one industry analyst.

“”If you’re not enabling these people, you

don’t have effective content management,”” says Matthew Berk, senior analyst with Jupiter Research in New York.

This situation is fuelled by the fact that content is playing an increasingly important role.

“”Content is the definition of what we used to call data and information,”” says Berk. In the early days, he says, content management meant Web content management, but since pure Web companies are disappearing, he says, the phrase “”enterprise content management”” is being pushed by vendors because enterprises have money.

Most organizations have different systems within the organization in silos as different groups and departments developed their own approach to dealing with information. Even an enterprise content management strategy would likely see these systems linked rather than one technology coming out on top, especially given that content can mean a Microsoft Word document, a Web page, a high resolution image or a video file.

Beyond the actual technology, notes Berk, different groups have their own ways of doing things. “”People have developed natural workflows,”” he says, and any system should replicate these natural workflows as much as possible. “”That to us is a pretty critical issue in supporting users.””

Content management can be broken down into three processes — create, organize and deliver, says Jim Murphy, senior research analyst with Boston-based AMR Research. “”Depending who you are you’re going to call these parts different things.”” Create could mean acquire or scan, he says, while organize might mean storing information in a database or perhaps applying meta data to an object. “”Deliver,”” says Murphy, “”might mean publishing to a Web site, it might mean syndicating to a partner.””

Ultimately, the goal of content management should be to make sure the average user can easily carry out these processes without having to turn to an IT person or a Webmaster, says Murphy.

Content management is not just about digging up static information and making it easier for everyone to access. Technology such as customer relationship management software is creating new, dynamic data that must be published to the average user and updated frequently and simply.

For the Bank of Montréal, it was an online e-procurement system that drove it to adopt a content management system to help it maintain a catalogue of more than 18,000 items from 15 suppliers the bank deals with on a regular basis.

“”Content management was identified as a significant issue if you’re going to deploy an electronic catalogue,”” says Steve Pare, e-procurement team leader at BMO. The bank selected a system from Requisite Technologies because it integrated with its Oracle software, he says.

The catalogue is currently available to three groups — 5,000 users — within BMO both in Canada and the U.S., and includes everything from office supplies to computer equipment. Users can browse and purchase supplies without a pile of paperwork and administration.

“”A couple of years ago the motivation for companies was to get a Web site up and running as quickly as possible,”” says AMR’s Murphy. “”There’s a difference in the focus now, where the portal market is going to be an influence. It’s about getting at information where it already is.

The portal market has been a driver in a way of understanding what content management is,”” he adds. “”Companies didn’t understand what content management was until they started having problems with their portal.””

Stikeman Elliott, an international business law firm based in Toronto, has deployed Hummingbird Corp.’s Enterprise Information Portal (EIP) to develop STELLA, which provides employees the ability to remotely access internal documents and share them throughout the organization. The firm has five offices in Canada and 380 lawyers worldwide, and each office has its own repository of information where various documents are saved — what would be described as document management, says Venky Srinivasan, director of technology. The Toronto office alone has more than one million documents.

Stikeman Elliott uses DOCSFusion as its document platform, but to share and publish the information throughout the organization, it uses Hummingbird EIP, says Srinivasan. All of the documents can be linked to via the portal and made easily accessible to all users. “”The ability for people to add their own content, to update the content and keep it current was the biggest criteria,”” he says.

The firm integrated a tool called eWebEdit Pro so each user could maintain and share content easily, says Srinivasan. The document is simply saved and a template is applied. “”It’s published immediately.””

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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