by John Fairley, director of Digital Services at Walker Sands
In today’s digital age, the ability to provide high-quality content immediately on a 24/7 basis can give companies a significant competitive advantage; especially from a marketing perspective. However, it is difficult for marketers with little or no information technology background to publish information quickly, if at all, when they don’t understand how to use their company’s content management system (CMS).
Although IT clearly has a stake in the CMS platform, it’s a big mistake to let IT monopolize the selection process. To deliver real value to the organization, CMS selection needs to be performed across multiple units and divisions -- and in many cases, marketing (not IT) should have the loudest voice about the CMS platform that is ultimately chosen.
Common issues in CMS selection
The evolution of CMS technology has enabled marketing teams to play a more active role in the content management process. In the past, marketing has relied on IT to publish content for them, but technological advances have fostered an online ecosystem where information is disseminated rapidly and in real-time, putting marketers in the driver’s seat of website management.
Consequently, marketing teams and other non-IT personnel have a vested interest in choosing a CMS that allows them to quickly update or publish content. Marketers need a CMS that makes it easy to respond to industry news, share opportunities and other events in real-time -- without having to depend on IT to mediate the content management process.
IT departments, on the other hand, generally prefer a CMS platform that integrates smoothly with the corporate intranet and the rest of the company’s IT environment. As a result, IT departments elect to go with CMS solutions with an existing foothold in the company’s IT ecosphere, even though those CMS solutions significantly ramp up the pain cycle for the marketing team.
Since IT and marketing teams have different goals, IT-driven CMS selection processes almost always result in solutions that are familiar to IT, but don’t necessarily align with marketing’s workflows and messaging requirements.
Initially, IT departments may chafe at relinquishing control over the company’s CMS platform. But by empowering marketing during the CMS selection process, information executives minimize marketing’s dependence on IT and create an agile information environment capable of delivering lightning fast messaging that characterizes growth-minded companies.
A better CMS selection process
A well-executed CMS selection process takes into account the needs and desires of both marketing and IT, creating a content management environment that has been optimized for those who are responsible for publishing content as well as those who are responsible for providing technical support.
Achieving a balanced selection process isn’t easy, but it begins with conversations about content management goals. Everyone who has a stake in the CMS (IT, marketing, finance, etc.) should have the opportunity to define usage scenarios and other requirements that need to be addressed by the organization’s CMS platform.
In an ideal world, the selection process would be highly collaborative and would generate consensus around required features and functions. But the competing interests of IT (familiarity, technical support) and marketing (ease of use) aren’t necessarily conducive for consensus building, especially when it comes to the granular features available in various CMS solutions.
Using CMS goals as a baseline, a more practical alternative is to allow stakeholders to have greater influence over the features and functions that are relevant to their workflows and desired outcomes. This is where the divergence between IT and marketing becomes apparent because when it comes to features that allow users to quickly publish or update content, marketing should have the deciding vote, not IT.
If marketing is excluded from the decision process, CMS features that are critical to the successful execution of day-to-day or long-term marketing initiatives may be overlooked. For example, many advanced CMS capabilities can feed information directly to social networks and even manage and measure the effectiveness major ongoing marketing campaigns by tracking email open rates, providing campaign-specific analytics on landing page visits, scoring prospects based on their behavior on a site, and monitoring website conversions across the organization’s main and microsites.
A robust CMS tool even offers information about the people who visited a particular site but took no action, thereby creating a list of prospects for the sales force to follow up on. It can also classify leads by geography and feed them directly into sales databases, assigning them to a specific representative in a given territory.
It’s important to note that in some cases, IT doesn’t need to be involved in the CMS selection process at all. Depending on the situation and system requirements, it can be more affordable and practical for the marketing team to outsource content management to an externally hosted solution provider.
Maximizing the value of content
Smart marketing teams know that it’s impossible to separate good content from good content delivery mechanisms. When marketing teams don’t have the ability to quickly publish new messaging and optimize marketing material on the company website, there is a real cost to the organization in both missed opportunities and promotional marketing share.
Since many of today’s content management solutions are designed to help marketing teams and other stakeholders manage content directly, without the assistance or mediation of IT, it’s important for information executives to give marketing a greater role in CMS technology selection.
At the same time, IT needs to become more flexible in choosing and implementing CMS solutions that have been created for use by non-IT stakeholders. Granted, these solutions may not be as convenient or as familiar to IT teams. However, by equipping marketing with the tools it needs to directly manage content, IT has the ability to deliver major wins to the organization by reducing the amount of time and effort it takes to distribute fresh, impactful brand content.
Put simply, a CMS selection process that ignores Marketing will handicap the organization's marketing efforts. A competitor with a more marketing-friendly CMS will not only be able to post more timely web content, but they may obtain numerous other advantages simply because they thought through what marketing needs to do its job before they made a final CMS purchase decision.
John Fairley is the director of Digital Services at Walker Sands, a full-service marketing and public relations firm focused on delivering growth for business to business clients.