Win over users' discontent

One of the stickiest issues in implementing a content management system (CMS) is getting end users to actually use it.

Complicated, big-bang IT projects in this area can fail miserably if this obvious point is ignored, according to some industry insiders.

Only about 38 percent of content management IT projects are successful, well below the general industry average of 50 percent, says Darren Guarnaccia, director of technology at RedDot Solutions, a New York-based provider of enterprise content management software and a subsidiary of Hummingbird.

"The adoption problem is one of the biggest issues in the industry," he says. "Many such systems were built for IT developers, with nary a thought to the end-authors. If they can't learn how to use the system in a couple of days, they'll abandon it -- and back it goes to IT to manage."

Ease of use coupled with rich but flexible features were key selection factors that led Chum Ltd to replace its homegrown CMS with RedDot's software.

The company owns and operates 33 radio stations, 12 local television stations and 21 specialty channels, as well as an environmental music distribution division in Canada.

The company's old CMS had been cobbled together over the course of five years, and was expensive and difficult to maintain, says Dave Fallon, a director at the company. "It required specialized knowledge, so it was a problem when trained employees left the business."

In addition, Chum recently acquired some TV stations, including the associated Web sites for each station. The company wanted to consolidate these in a way that provided a common infrastructure and branding umbrella across all its 33 Web sites, while also allowing each site to retain its distinctive, local identity.

"RedDot acknowledged there are higher-end systems out there, but these are more expensive and are complex to implement," Fallon says. He said the RedDot system was a "good fit" as it was feature rich and permitted custom development.

A high-end product wasn't really necessary, he says, as Chum's content is not significantly more complex than in other sectors, although much of its content is multimedia. "While our content goes beyond Word, there are only so many types of image formats we worry about, although we do have some unusual ones. But other verticals also have specialized content, not just media companies."

Training was provided by RedDot's team, and learning to use the system proved painless. "The learning curve was trivial," says Fallon.

Guarnaccia too says the system's ease of use is one of its most compelling features. "We joke that our product is so easy, training manuals for end users are mouse pads and coffee cups."

Chum trained a user base of 50 people who are content managers, not developers, Fallon says. This gives Chum more options in distributing content management functions across the organization. "It becomes something that doesn't require specialized skills like HTML authoring and Web page development. So we can move content updating from Web specialists to television or administrative staff." There was no loss of control over content once these functions were distributed more widely across staff as RedDot's workflow provisions are substantial, he says.

A big benefit of the system is that Chum can plan to develop a site with relatively few unknowns and be confident it will work. "We now have a healthy ecosystem within our company. We have high priests who are experts, occasional users, and people in-between," Fallon says.

Ease of use is increasingly a critical selection factor even for large enterprises shopping for a content management system, according to Guarnaccia. "Global companies are more willing to invest two to three years to build something with the 50,000 switches they want. But our product is more of a solution that can be customized. You don't have to [do that] just to get a site up and running."

For example, Chum was a new customer in spring 2005, and as of January 2006, 14 of its 33 sites had implemented RedDot. Depending on the size of the Web site, these implementations took about one week to two months per site, says Fallon.

It isn't the size of the company or complexity of the content that determines whether a mid-tier solution will work, Guarnaccia says. "It has more to do with how quickly you want to move and how important your end users are. A lot of high-end solutions provide frameworks that you build upon, but that means about six to nine months to get a site up and running. Many larger companies have seen failed implementations that have taken too long with that approach."

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