One of the biggest downfalls of Web content management implementations is that companies don’t know what they don’t know.  You don’t know to ask for something if you don’t know it. So, when we sit down with clients we usually – we run through a series of questions that hopefully will expose some new information to the client so they know a little bit better what is available in the market and what they should be looking for in a solution for them.

Now, there’s quite a number of items.  We’ve broken them into eight different categories. These categories are access control, workflow, release management, content entry and content display, translation, reporting, and lastly, but certainly not least, site management.

Access Control

So, let’s have a little look at access control.  What do you need to know when it comes to access control?  Well, first of all, access control deals with the level of security that you’re going to need on your site.  So [1] what is the level of security that you need on your site? Is it a small site that’s run by a small number of people?  In that case, you don’t really have significant access control needs.  But if you’ve got a very large corporate entity with thousands of users, you have significant security access control needs.

So, for example, [2] are you running a single site, or are you running multiple sites?  And if you are running multiple sites, do you need to provide different levels of access for users across the different sites?  [3] Do you need to have different levels of access for different types of content?  So, if I have an article or a comment, do I need to have different levels of access as to who can control those?  [4] Do I need to have access control by groups?  So I have so many users I need to put them into groups to manage them.  [5] Do I need to manage my access control by departments?  Do I need to be able to hook into a corporate LDAT? These are things that we should be considering.

[6] How large is your information structure going to be?  Because the larger it is, the more likely you’re going to have more significant access control needs.  [7] Do you need to split up administrative tasks like the management of images or the management of users or the management of the actual site structure?  I mean, again, if you’ve got a very small site you may have a handful of people that have the ability to do all those things, but the larger your organization, the larger number of websites that you’re managing, you want to break that up a bit, and thus, your access control needs are going to be more significant.

Workflow

Let’s talk a little bit about workflow.  Now workflow, of course, is the approval process for many of the assets that are going to be on your WCM site.  So right off the bat we want to consider [8] do all things on your website are going to have the same workflow?  Again, smaller organization, you’re going to have a fairly streamlined workflow if indeed you’re going to need one at all, but the larger your organization, you’re going to want to have different workflows, and you may need to have different workflows for different circumstances.

[9] Do you need to have a different workflow depending on the group that’s creating the content? Different departments sometimes have different approval processes.  Or [10] do you need to have different content-type approvals?

[11] Do you need to have workflow that can run in parallel?  So, we start off with a task but then perhaps activities proceed in two different parallel flows that join up together at the end of a process, or somewhere in that process prior to the publishing of the content.

[12] Do you need to assign task durations and workflow completion dates?  So is publishing something at a particular time important to you, or do you need to notify users that they’re behind on their tasks?  [13] Do we need to have escalation?  The tasks are not being completed on time.  Those are all things that we should be considering.  [14] Do we need to have the ability to override workflow?  Somebody goes on vacation, or somebody is simply bogged down with too much work.  [15] Do we need to have the ability to go in and say, “OK, I know that task is assigned to you.  I’m going to reassign it.” Or, “I’m going to complete the task myself.”

[16] Do we need to have the ability to tweak the workflow on a content-object-by-content-object basis?  So, are there unique scenarios to your content where you say, “OK, well, in this particular circumstance this needs to be approved by yet an additional individual” – say in legal or marketing, or what have you, which differs from the standard flow, and do you need to have that ability on an object-by-object basis to make those tweaks?

And lastly, with workflow, [17] do you have very complex business rules that drive the workflow?  And, when we start getting into the more complex business rules, sometimes we employ a business process management system that is capable of doing those sort of higher-level logic when it comes to the execution of workflow, including the running of other programmatic scripts or the integration with other third-party systems and things like that.

Release Management

Next, let’s talk about release management. Release management is all about getting the information out there – the process by which things get released to the public. There are two main categories of release management, [18] will the site be released in builds, or on a page by page basis?  One is that you would do a site build, so you do many, many, many different modifications and in a big lump it all goes out onto the Web. And that’s – that’s a build.  On the flipside of that, you could have a page-by-page or content-item-by-content-item-type release mechanism where it’s like this little piece of content has been approved.  It can go to the site, so I’m going to have very small or incremental releases to my website.

And when thinking about that, I think we need to think about the legal implications of what that means.  [19] Do we need to have some sort of a historical record of all the content in its look and feel for a particular point in time?  Do we need to be – be able to go back in time and say, “At twelve noon on this particular date, this is exactly what the site looked like”?  And if that is the case, then you’d be more likely to go with a full-site-release-type management process versus a page-by-page process.  Now, those are in sort of unique legal situations where that becomes applicable. Obviously, that slows down the whole content management process, but there are definitely some – some reasons why you might want that.

For release management, [20] is there ever a need to be able to go back and look and see what changes are made in between releases, either on a page or within an entire site?  Or [21] do you need the ability to perform an audit on all the changes that happened within your environment, [22] including all of your environment variables that are used to produce the site? Something to think about.

Content Entry

Next, we’re going to get into content entry.  So, the content entry refers to how people actually add content to your website, and the biggest consideration here is the technical level of your users.  [23] Do you have a user base which is fairly technical, or are they simply Microsoft Word users and that’s what they know and throwing a new product at them is going to send them for a loop?  So let’s consider that.

[24] How many users is also an issue, because the larger number of non-technical users you have is going to have a direct implication on how easy the system is to use.  So you’re going to need to have a very streamlined process if you’re dealing with lots of non-technical users.  For example, [25] are you going to have a bank of images that are made available to users to use or are you going to let them upload the images themselves?  And if you do let them upload their images themselves, [26] what kind of an approval process are you going to put on those images?  Back to our discussion about workflow.

In different websites, [27] sometimes you will have structured content.  Sometimes you’ll have non-structured content. In circumstances where you have non-structured content, people are free to do whatever it is that they want. But sometimes that’s a problem, because you can’t enforce various governance in what content gets released the less structure you have. So sometimes for non-technical users a more structured approach is – is beneficial.  Now, if you’re dealing with people who have sort of a bit of a marketing flair, they may cringe at being forced into a structure and they may want a more non-structured format to give them the freedom for whatever marketing thing that they want to be able to do.  And if you are going to have structured content we need to consider [28] how often you’re going to be adding new content types to your site. If you’re adding sort of new content types on a very regular basis, you’re not going to want to have a system that requires somebody with programming knowledge to be able to do it. On the flipside, if it’s – you’ve defined your content types and you’re not likely to change them on a regular basis, then you can probably get by with a – a system that would involve a developer to make those things happen.

What about remote access?  [29] Do you need people outside your corporate firewall to be able to access and what is the implication of that?  [30] For users who are adding the content, do they need sort of advanced editorial capabilities like spell check and document formatting? Definitely there are tools that can do it – some better than others.

If you’re going to allow links to be put into your site you’re going to need to have some way of validating that.  So [31] the number of links that you anticipate having on your site is going to dictate whether you’ve got some link-checking mechanism or not.

And lastly, with respect to content entry, we might want to [32] consider whether you want to have the ability to copy content or you want to have the ability to move content.  So, I have a piece of content that’s on this page.  I need to have it over here.  How do I go about moving it over?  Some systems will allow that.  Other systems have no capability for – for doing that.

Content Display

Of course, with content entry, the flipside of content entry is the content display. Content display deals with how content is actually presented to the end user, and usually that’s done in the way of development of templates.  So, first off, we want to consider [33] how often that look and feel is going to change, because if you’ve got templates that are very difficult for non-technical users to – to modify, you’re going to need technical resources to make those changes.  Now, many, many sites will sort of undergo new look-and-feel modifications, say, annually or bi-annually basis. But if you’re in a scenario where you want to be able to make rapid visual modifications, then those are facilities are going to have to be made relatively easy to you.

[34] Do you want to have the ability to deliver your content to mobile devices?  And, if so, you need to make sure that your system facilitates that or at least your templates facilitate that. [35] Do you want to have your content personalized to different individuals?  So, two people come to your site, and based upon either what they explicitly say or you implicitly determine, you deliver different content to them.  That’s called personalization.

[36] Do you have business rules which will dictate the delivery of content?  So perhaps in the evenings, different content is displayed than in the mornings.  Or on some sort of a timing – other timing mechanism, things change on your site, or perhaps you’ve got other sort of business drivers might – which might change the delivery of that content.

[37] Do you have content that has restricted access, so only members can get access to certain content?  And if there’s different levels of membership, [38] how are you going to be able to control access to that content?

And lastly, let’s consider speed of the site with content display and [39] how often you’re going to be updating your content.  So there are many different mechanisms for increasing speed, and it’s predominantly through the use of caching, and if you’re going to be updating your content on a very regular basis, then you’re going to need a very effective cache-clearing mechanism for that, and you’re not going to want to wipe all the cache out on your site if you’re only updating little specific pieces of your content.  If you got a high-traffic site, that could bring your site down.  So the more traffic that you have and the more often you need to update that content, the more sophisticated cache management system you’re – you’re going to need.

Translation

Let’s talk a little bit about translation.  Now, this may not be applicable for a lot of websites, but [40] if you do have content that needs to be translated, we’ll need to consider that.  And when considering providing content for more than one language, you need to consider [41] if you’re going to have an exact duplicate of your website in each different language or if it’s going to be a subset, because those are going to be handled differently. And, in addition to that, you need to consider the – the amount of – that – your content you’re going to have translated, because [42] if you’ve got a lot of content and you’re translating that, you’re probably going to want to have your web content management system tied directly into a translation firm that’s going to expedite that process and help bring your translation costs down.

Reporting

Let’s talk a little bit about reporting.  [43] Do you need reports on traffic?  Now, Google Analytics is – is a great way – very cost-effective way – to get pretty in-depth information, but you may actually need to go beyond what Google Analytics has, and you may want to get into one of the upper-tier reporting suites for that.

But beyond sort of traffic reporting, you might want to consider if you need internal reporting.  [44] So what is the status of all my pages?  [45] What is the status of the items going through workflow?  Those types of items.  Some systems show that; some systems do not.  Also, we – we just talked about translation.  [46] Do you need any reporting on translation, where content stands in respect to that particular process?

Site Management

And lastly, let’s talk about site management.  Site management really is about, you know, [47] how quickly your site’s going to grow.  So if you’re always adding to your site, and you’re growing dramatically, and you’re adding new directories and new pages, you’re not going to want a developer involved in performing those tasks.  You’re going to want to be able to [48] add directories or pages through the WCM.  If you’re producing multiple websites, you want the [49] ability to roll those out with minimal developer involvement as well.

And the more you grow and the more sites you have, the more you want to [50] consider your ability to reuse your content throughout your various sites.  So if you’ve got products that might be applicable under different brands or something like that, you’re going to want to reuse that content in different sites, so that’s something to consider.

So, an awful lot to consider there, but those are some ideas that you can start to think about, mull over, as you’re going through this particular process so you can be a little bit more prepared when you’re assessing how well a product fits to your particular needs.