Ann Rockley, The Rockley Group, Inc.
Why start with analysis and design?
One of the most common mistakes that we see is a company picking the
tool first, then trying to make their content management requirements fit
the functionality of the tool. However, analysis of why projects fail identifies
that one of the main reasons for failure is lack of analysis and design. This
article draws on recent literature to identify the main reasons for why content
management projects fail and provides some possible solutions.
In the late 1990s and the early part of 2000, the acquisition and implementation
of content management systems was one of the most common IT projects. However,
many of these projects have failed to show the expected results. A sampling
of some recent quotes in the press help to identify the reasons why so many
projects have failed.
According to the authors of Making Technology Investments
Profitable, 50% of all IT projects fail . This is a view supported
by P.G. Bartlett, VP Marketing at Arbortext. In a recent interview, Bartlett
points out that content management projects fail at the same rate as IT projects
and he points out why:
Content management projects succeed or fail at the same rate as other
large IT projects. Almost invariably, the problems arise not from tools or
software but from trying to obtain significant benefits from a "quick and
dirty" implementation. In most unsuccessful implementations, they hoped that
they could just buy some software, bolt it on to an existing process, and
the benefits just roll in. The problem is that most of the benefits arise
from fixing process problems, and fixing them requires not only a change in
tools but also a change in behavior.
In successful implementations—and we have seen many—they
invest the time up front to plot out a long-term plan that addresses problems
and opportunities in a comprehensive way. The knowledge to create these plans
typically does not exist within the organization because the discipline is
still relatively new, so they bring in experts to help. 
In a summary of a Feb. 2003 Jupiter Research report about why content
management systems fail, atnewyork.com pointed out that many of the reasons
for failure stem from lack of planning or insight into what functionality
is needed from the system:
Web content management tools often fail to live up to their promise...
The report found the bulk of companies surveyed felt they overspent on content
management platforms, and the tools in those platforms are under-deployed.
Sixty-one percent of the surveyed companies said they still rely on manual
processes to update their Web sites.
One media company spent over a year and $250,000 working its content
management package into its site production process. The company recently
realized that its content had little structure to speak of, and that because
it had not made a strict separation between content and presentation, the
company's broader needs for reusing content elsewhere were effectively blocked.
Another problem found is the core requirements of content management
(such as support for workflow, lending structure to content, and facilitating
reuse) turn out to be far from the minds of platform purchasers, the report
Furthermore, in a recent article on managing content management system
selection, Martin White points out that organizations don't always determine
their workflow requirements and benefits:
Current CMS applications have more than enough power to handle the most
complex of content management processes, but how many organizations have worked
through the workflows behind document preparation, and (of even greater importance)
identified where there could be benefits in re-engineering the workflow to
gain the maximum benefit from the CMS application? 
Analysis is critical
These quotes point out that analysis is critical in successfully implementing
a content management system and associated processes. It is difficult to effectively
select an appropriate technology without understanding your processes and
business needs. Best practices developed as a result of successful projects
show that you need to figure out “what’s going on” with
your content, how it’s being used, how it’s being managed, as
well as the processes you use to create, publish, and store it. During the
analysis phase, you:
- Determine where it really “hurts”
Change happens when
the current content creation and management processes are no longer acceptable.
The organization is “hurting” and wants to change. To discover
where your organization is hurting the most, you need to understand the dangers
and challenges you are facing , the opportunities you can realize through
change, and the strengths you can build on to implement these changes. Without
a clear understanding of the issues facing your organization it is difficult
to select a tool that addresses your issues.
- Identify your content life cycle
Within your organization, content
is developed in many different ways, by many different people, and by many
different departments. Development may follow an established process or it
may not, and if so, it may differ from department to department. To implement
a unified content strategy, you need unified processes so that everyone involved
in developing, storing, and publishing content does it the same way, or at
minimum is able to interact effectively with each other and share content.
Best practices advise that before selecting tools, you need to examine your
content life cycle and any issues associated with it. If you select tools
without understanding how content progresses through its life cycle, chances
are, your tools will not support your desired content development processes.
- Perform a content audit
Before you can model your content—and
subsequently, unify it—you need to gain an intimate understanding of
its nature and structure. Best practices instruct us that performing a content
audit is critical before making any technology or design decisions. During
a content audit, you look at your organization’s content analytically
and critically, allowing you to identify opportunities for reuse and the type
of reuse. Once you see how your information is being used and reused, you
can make decisions about how you might unify it. Without a content audit,
you will not understand the scope of the potential reuse and the type of reuse,
both of which are critical when designing content models and selecting tools.
For example, your content audit may illustrate that you need to manage granular
reuse (small objects of content). Failure to realize this may result in the
selection of a tool that does not effectively manage granular reuse.
Using your analysis as a basis for the understanding of your needs you
- Criteria for the selection of your technology
- Criteria for your business case and calculation of return on investment
- Process improvements
- Goals and vision for your project
- Content reuse and management requirements
Your findings from a solid analysis enable you to make informed decisions
about your tools selection.
Design follows analysis
Design is frequently a task that is begun after tools are selected.
You can neither complete the design phase without selecting your technology,
nor can you effectively select your tools without an understanding of what
you need the tools to support. Best practices recommend that you analyze and
design first, then select technology, but to help you understand the full
extent of what you want your tools to do, you can start preliminary design
as soon as you are completed your analysis. During the preliminary design,
you start specifying the criteria for selecting your tools.
- Preliminary content modeling
Preliminary content modeling enables
you to start identifying your content structure, reuse strategy, and granularity.
The complexity of your reuse and the level of granularity required will provide
valuable information for the functionality of your authoring and content management
system. For example, if you have identified that you would like to automatically
populate reusable content wherever it's required (systematic reuse), you will
need a tool that supports systematic reuse. Your models will identify the
degree to which systematic reuse needs to be supported.
content modeling also helps you to determine how authors will write content.
The preliminary models will help to identify if existing authoring tools are
sufficient for your content authoring requirements, if a structured editor
is required, or if forms are appropriate.
- Preliminary workflow
Workflow is the way in which you control your
content life cycle. It is also the way in which you manage your reuse.
Preliminary workflow design enables you to start defining reuse rules and
the best practices for content management throughout the content life cycle.
The way in which you want to manage reuse is valuable input into the
required functionality of your tools.
Analysis is critical to the success of your project. Skipping analysis
and moving to tools selection can compromise your business requirements. Both
analysis and design are critical to success. You should always take the time
to perform a thorough analysis of your corporate requirements and your content.
Preliminary design will assist you in developing additional criteria for tools
selection, ensuring that your tools will support what you want to do with
your content, from the time authors create it to the time it's stored in your
content management system.
- Keen, Jack and Bonnie Digrius. Making Technology Investments Profitable. John Wiley and Sons, 2003.
- Interview with P.G. Bartlett, Vice President-Marketing, Arbortext, Inc., The Content Wrangler (www.thecontentwrangler.com) Feb. 12, 2004.
- Study: Content Management Fails, atnewyork.com http://www.atnewyork.com/news/article.php/1690881
- White, Martin. “Managing Content Management Selection,” E Content magazine online, http://www.econtentmag.com/Articles/ArticleReader.aspx?ArticleID=826