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Best Practices

Educate, educate, educate for successful content management

Ann Rockley
The Rockley Group

Education is a critical component of a successful content management implementation. Education can be as simple as ongoing communication to participants or as organized as formal training sessions. This article identifies who needs to know what to ensure a successful content management implementation.

Education is a critical component of a successful content management implementation. You need to ensure that all the different "players" in your content management project receive education early in the project and throughout implementation. Educating your players will ensure that they understand why you are implementing content management, the benefits of content management, and how to manage their content more effectively using new processes and technology. Players who need to be educated throughout your project include:

  • Management
  • Authors
  • Implementors
  • Reviewers
  • Translators


Education begins very early in your project; even before it is a "real" project. Management is the first group that needs to be educated about content management. Educating management effectively ensures that your project gets approval and a "champion" who supports your project as it goes forward. Management needs to understand:

  • What is content management?
  • People often have very different ideas about what content management is. They may see it as a technology solution, a document management system, or simply as a way to manage web content. It is important that you clarify the focus of your content management strategy to ensure that management understands your desired direction, focus, and desired results.

  • The benefits of content management
  • Purchasing new technology, restructuring your content, and changing your processes can be costly, but the benefits can far outweigh the costs. Educate management on the benefits and costs. With a clear understanding of costs and benefits, management can make an informed decision on your content management strategy.

  • What content management involves
  • Implementing content management requires a many-step process: analysis, design, prototyping, testing, and implementation. Sometimes management underestimates the scope of the task, so it's important that they understand all the steps in the process, including the benefits of implementing content management in a methodical way.

You will find that educating management is an ongoing process. Initially you will be required to educate a growing management group as your business case makes its way throughout all the levels of approval. As your project goes forward, you may be required to educate managers in other groups that may be affected by the content management strategy in the future. You also need to continue to communicate with management to ensure they have a good understanding of the process and the stage you are at.

For more information on educating management see Applying a Pedagogical Model to Educating Management.


After management, authors are the next group that you need to educate. As with management, you need to educate groups of authors at multiple times in the process.

  • Early on, to get author buy-in
  • In the beginning you need to educate authors about the project, what the plan is, the reasons and benefits for moving to content management. Authors may be resistant to the change, particularly if they don't have a sufficient understanding of what is changing and why. However, it is important that you don't overwhelm the authoring group with too much information in the beginning because the project may appear too daunting. Most authors will not be involved in the early phases of content analysis, design and implementation so while they need to understand the scope of the task ahead, primarily, they need to know what the future holds so it is not frightening or overwhelming.

    Ensure that you listen to their concerns so they know their input is valued and being acted upon. If you involve people early on, really listen to what they have to say, then show them that you are addressing their requirements, they will be among your strongest supporters.

  • During the design phase authors should form a core segment of your design team. They are responsible for building the information product models, element models, metadata, reuse strategies, and architectural models. They may also be responsible for designing the information retrieval for both authors and users. This team needs formalized training to assist them in:
    • Content analysis
    • Content modeling
    • Metadata design
    • Workflow design
    • Information architecture of the web (if designing the web site as well)

  • During testing
  • Authors are one of your primary users of the content management system. Accordingly, you should involve members of your authoring team in the proof-of-concept, prototype, and pilot testing. They need formalized training to prepare them to effectively test the design, processes and system. Provide training in:

    • Structured writing
    • Writing to models
    • Effective reuse
    • Use of the system

  • At full implementation
  • Once the system has been fully tested, it is time to train all the authors. They need the same formalized training required by the testers (structured writing, writing to models, effective reuse, use of the system), but they also need ongoing training and support to ensure effective adoption of the system. Watch to see the problems authors experience when they start using the system on an ongoing basis and consider providing ongoing training sessions to assist them in using the models correctly, applying effective metadata, and reusing content effectively. It is frustrating to have new processes and a system to support them only to have authors creating and recreating content and storing it in much the same way they were before. Make sure you support the authors in a positive manner that helps them to gain competency in all aspects of content management.

For more information on educating authors see Educating authors for content management.

Implementation team

The implementation team is usually responsible for implementing content models in the various tools, developing DTDs/schemas and creating stylesheets. In addition, they are responsible for installing and configuring the content management system and the authoring tools. This team may consist of internal resources or a combination of internal resources, consultants, and tools vendors. Provide education to the following groups:

  • Internal resources (business group requiring content management)
  • Sometimes members of the business group implementing a content management solution handle some of the implementation even though they usually have no experience in the technical aspects of CM. While they may have other technical expertise, they are not IT professionals and therefore, may need training in the following:

    • DTD/Schema creation
    • Stylesheet creation
    • System configuration and administration

  • Internal resources (IT)
  • On the other hand, if IT takes on the CM implementation, they usually need the same training as the business group. However, they also need training on the business requirements so they understand the reasons behind the CM solution and can ensure that the system meets the users' needs (e.g., authors, reviewers, publishers).

  • Consultants
  • Consultants are usually involved in determining business requirements and assisting you in the development of your content management information architecture. If they have not been involved in the gathering of these requirements, ensure they fully understand them.

  • Vendors/system integrators
  • Vendors/system integrators understand their tools very well but often, do not understand your business needs. They also need training on the business requirements to ensure the system meets the users' needs (e.g., authors, reviewers, publishers). Some vendors are very good at responding to these requirements, but others are not. Ensure they completely understand the requirements and work with them closely to ensure the requirements are met. Be prepared to discuss alternative ways of meeting these needs, because to optimize the technology it may be necessary to address the requirements in a different way than you originally envisioned. Your partnership with the vendors will only be successful if they completely understand your requirements and the business reasons behind them.


Reviewers need training to enable them to effectively review reusable content and use the system effectively. Provide training on:

  • The benefits of reusable content
  • Reviewers are subject matter experts and as such they understand their area of expertise but do not understand the concepts of reuse. They may be "tempted" to change content for subjective reasons, not objective reasons. They need to be taught the concepts of reuse and shown how reuse benefits the organization. When they see how reuse can reduce their workload, they are typically happy to adopt the new processes and technology.

  • System usage
  • Depending upon the type of content management system you use, reviewers may get content as a PDF (most common form of review) as they may have in the past, or they may be able to collaboratively review content online. If they can review content online, they will need training on how to most effectively use the system.


In a content management environment, rather than translating documents, translators work with elements. Like the reviewers, they may receive the elements in files or they may interact directly with your content management system. Translators will need training in:

  • Concepts and benefits of reuse
  • More and more translators are becoming familiar with the concepts and benefits of reuse, but others are not. You need to ensure they have a clear understanding of your requirements, your reuse strategy, and your new translation processes. To be even more effective, get your translation agency/staff involved in the design phase so that they can have input in the process.

  • File structures
  • Translators will need to be aware of how you need the files back so that you can transparently integrate them with your system without any rework.

  • System usage
  • If your translators will be integrated directly with your content management system, they will need to understand how to access content from the system and return translated content.


Everyone involved in implementing your content management strategy and using your content management processes and technology needs to be educated throughout the process to ensure they have a clear understanding of direction, requirements, effectiveness, and usage. Make sure you provide education throughout the entire process to ensure successful implementation and adoption.

Copyright 2004, The Rockley Group, Inc.