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    Monday, June 06, 2005
    What is Content Management, Really?
    A. Web-based publishing. Documents and other forms of information can be disseminated by authorized individuals. Page templates, wizards, and other software aids help inexperienced content authors to produce higher-quality output. Data useful on intranet, extranet, and ecommerce Internet sites, for example, can automatically be re-purposed and co-ordinated for the multiple destinations.

    B. Format management. Data can automatically be converted into formats suitable for Web publishing such as HTML or PDF. Legacy electronic documents, or even scanned paper documents, can be unified into a few common formats that are more easily shared with third parties.

    C. Revision control. Files can be updated to a newer version or restored to a previous version. Changes to files can be traced to individuals for security purposes.

    D. Indexing, search, and retrieval. For data to be valuable, it must be relevant to the task at hand and accessible in a timely fashion. Documents can be parsed for keywords, headings, graphics, and other elements; mechanisms for processing search requests become critical.

    More generally, effective content management systems support an organization's business processes for acquiring, filtering, organizing, and controlling access to information. Because no two organizations use identical business processes, content management systems in practice can be compared to snowflakes -- no two such systems will look or behave exactly alike!

    Numerous factors determine the degree of difficulty an organization will face in deploying or improving their content management systems. An organization's size (number of employees) and geographic dispersion (particulary across national or cultural boundaries) can give a first-order estimate. Another factor to consider is the diversity in forms of electronic data held within the organization. Besides plain text documents, critical data can also exist in alternate forms such as graphics, audio/video, and engineering diagrams that can prove much more difficult to manage. Finally, some organizations may historically have relied on an "oral tradition" of predominately verbal, undocumented communications, leaving little data readily available to collect.

    In the final analysis, content management is only a means to a end. One can easily become enamored with the idea of total information sharing among all of an organization's employees and forget that this is probably not a worthwhile goal. The process of information sharing becomes valuable only when the "right data" is communicated to the "right people" at the "right time." Your content management system will probably be effective only to the extent it contributes to this goal.

    Igor Gramc @ 6:12 AM
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