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Having worked with many different content management systems, ranging from open source to enterprise level systems—and having sat in on countless management meetings—I have discovered that there are myths relating to content management systems. The myths? Content management systems manage content, and they somehow make creating content easier.

People who yearn for a content management system seem to think that the software manages the content and will somehow make processes easier. I have yet to find a CMS that does that. What a CMS does do is provide sets of tools and predefined processes that you can use to help you manage content. But you are the one that has to manage the content. This means that you have to learn the tools and adhere to the processes the CMS defines.

Too often, I have seen companies invest in an expensive CMS system and then invest more trying to “customize” it to fit the company’s existing processes. They end up with something between an off-the-shelf and a fully-customized system, with all of the problems of maintaining a customized system and few of the benefits of the off-the-shelf system. Plus, any available training also will need to be adapted to match the somewhat customized system.

The second myth is that anyone (aka your marketing/sales force) can now provide content, since the CMS lets you give author rights to anyone. The compelling desire behind this myth is: if your employees all provide content, then you will be getting “free” content.

This ignores these facts:

  1. Nothing is really free—you are taking their time from other skilled activities.
  2. You are assuming that they can write compelling content that matches your corporate voice and is appropriate for the medium. (Writing for the web is different than writing for print).
  3. They may or may not want to write content.

The best CMS in the world does nothing to create content.

So, here is my advice to prospective buyers/users of a CMS:

  • Provide budget for an expert to administrate the system. This might entail paying to train current employee(s) to become the expert(s) or hiring new employee(s).
  • Avoid customizing the CMS.  If you customize, then you have to consider long-term documentation and maintenance of the custom code. As an aside, WordPress (an open source CMS) by design is very customizable, which appeals to many including myself. You can extend WordPress through the addition of many different plugins.  But the more plugins you use, the more likely you will have issues with compatibility with future releases of the WordPress core software.
  • If your content is important, treat it as such. Maintain an editorial process and schedule. Hire professional designers and writers.
  • Expand your budget and timeline because you will most likely underestimate the cost and time involved.