Web content infrastructure: what businesses need

"The centralised Web development team model is dead," declared Interwoven President and Chief Executive Officer Martin Brauns in the opening keynote of AIIM (Association for Information and Image Management) 2001 in New York.

Brauns kicked off the enterprise content management conference with an overview of the "five slices" of the content infrastructure puzzle. Even in today's climate of reduced corporate IT spending, content management is key to an enterprise's success, Brauns maintained -- and responsibility for it needs to be spread throughout a company.

Interwoven offers content management software and services, targeting corporate Web sites. Interwoven's flagship product, TeamSite, is designed to help companies manage the development and deployment of business-critical Web sites.

"We need to give people the tools, systems, and processes to put stuff on the Web themselves," Brauns said. "We need to democratize and decentralize the job of content distribution."

Brauns broke content infrastructure into five components that every business needs to have in place:

-- Content aggregation: First, a company has to pull together all of its documents, photos, databases, video assets, images, and other content objects. Applications also fall into this category -- on a very large Web site, such as an airline's or an online brokerage's, about 30 percent of the content is likely to be applications code, Brauns said.

-- Content collaboration: "Faster time to Web is faster time to revenue," Brauns emphasized, noting that content collaboration is the piece of the chain that needs to be democratized. Rather than having one centralized Web team responsible for uploading content, every manager and department should be in charge of contributing their own -- and they should be able to do so through tools they already know. Don't make people learn new software or systems, Brauns said. Instead, find a content management system that lets people work through e-mail, browsers, and other familiar tools. "We've learned over the years that approvals need to be done through a simple e-mail interface," Brauns said.

-- Content management: "Going forward, we really do see a future where all content objects, at their lowest common denominator, are moved and transferred in XML (Extensible Markup Language)," Brauns said. "XML will become -- should become -- core to your content management strategies."

Versioning is also key, Brauns said, especially as Web sites and their content become fodder for lawsuits and regulatory tangles. Companies will need to be able to demonstrate what their sites and databases looked like at a given day and time.

-- Content intelligence: Metadata is often the most difficult part of content management, but it's also one of the most crucial elements, Brauns said. Today, he estimates that 90 percent of the Web's content carries no metadata tags, a flaw that makes identifying and retrieving content an especially thorny task.

Even big companies with detailed content management strategies hate working with metadata, Brauns noted. "We think that the right way to do your metadata strategy is to contribute it up front. That's the right approach -- but that's also where it often goes wrong," he said. "The point is, we need to automatically include metadata with the content."

-- Content distribution: Finally, companies need to carefully track where every single content object ends up. They also need to plan for multichannel distribution. "If you are not today thinking of content management in terms of output to wireless devices, you are making a big mistake," Brauns warned.

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