CMS, ECM, WCMS … and your intranet software!

The world of intranets was a simple one before. Nobody ever thought about having the right CMS or ECM or even WCMS to support their intranets. But was it really that simple?! I believe everyone who ever worked on an intranet or used an intranet at work had the same old problem, once a page was created where to find it? Who is allowed to create pages? How to edit them? Who approves them?

Pages over pages created and lost in the intranet limbo. Did they really just disappear? No, not really. They just could not be found anymore - due to the lack of a good content management system. Most intranet software come with a CMS (nowadays) and make everyone’s life easier. But what do you really got to know about content management systems to ensure you got the best one for your circumstances. What does CMS or ECM or WCMS (the world of technology loves its acronyms) really mean?

 CMS or WCMS and why is it important?

CMS - that’s an easy one. CMS stands for “Content Management System” and WCMS (or WCM) stands for “Web Content Management System”. And believe it or not, they are pretty much the same. When people talk about CMS they actually mean, most of the times, WCMS.

A content management system is really an application that will help you in creating, editing and managing your digital content or media. It also helps in actually finding it again, by supporting how you search and publish your content or media. A WCMS (or Website Content Management System) does really the same thing, but helps people to manage websites in a relatively easy way. This means, if you are, for example, a small business and do not have the budgets or the necessary HTML coding knowledge to maintain a complex website yourself – a WCMS will enable you to do just that.

You might still need an experienced programmer to install the CMS, if the i.e. intranet software you are using (I use Claromentis) does not already come with one installed. But the bottom line is that once installed it is a tool for non-experienced users to maintain their content and website.

A CMS or WCMS will not only help you in designing your pages through pre-installed templates (so no coding necessary), and help publish your content for everyone to see and use. It will also tell exactly which pages have been added or edited, when they were added or edited, and by who. Suddenly, the intranet limbo disappears and everything going on in your system is visible to you. It all sounds almost like witchcraft!

ECM Quality managers and process engineers hear up!

There is a step up from your standard CMS, maybe not as suitable for small businesses, but than again smaller businesses (out of my yearlong experience) seem to have an issue in implementing or managing business processes.

Do you have processes? Does anyone know where they are? Does anyone follow them (or even know about them)? Is your Quality Manager a really moody person? Than hear up and read carefully about ECM (Enterprise Content Management).

So, if you keep your mind open and try to see the bigger picture – you might realize that diving into a CMS might not be the best solution for your business. Now, to what a Enterprise Content Management actually is. The basics are similar to the good old CMS – you got your creation, managing, storing and delivering content. However, there is a significant difference – which is that this content is related to your actual business processes.

This means, not only will you be able to find a really good piece of content – it will be directly associated to i.e. a business process and might give you a procedure to help do your job, or train someone for a specific job. An ECM will be almost as much as a business strategy as it is software. Furthermore, ECM will not only deal with electronic content it deals with “documents”. This means documents such as your PDFs, MS Office, official records, and video/audio files. So your ECM will most probably be totally integrated with MS office and scanning facilities, it will also have a complex workflow in the fashion of business process management. Additionally, it will not just deliver content to the web (like CMSs), but to desktop clients, other software and systems.

CMS as a term has been longer around, but as a business ECM might be the better tool, if you are looking for a strategy to manage your content/documents and processes. Nevertheless, some CMS come with workflow abilities, which might be enough for small businesses who are starting their first steps.

What to look out for when choosing a WCMS for your Intranet

So, once you decided that you want to implement a CMS for your intranet software – it will be important to keep an eye out for some important points.

As mentioned before CMS products are there to make life of inexperienced programmers easier. Although that might be the case – it will still be a learning curve for you to deal with a new system. This means you got to ensure that you will be provided with good development and technical support. Here you might feel the difference between free systems and paid for systems. Make sure you do your research!

Another point that you got to keep in mind is to find a CMS that will integrate with (at least) some of your main applications, such as Outlook. This is important, so you do not have to duplicate things across systems or applications; instead you could (in a perfect world) access the information through your intranet.

Furthermore, it should support a degree of document management. This is because people tend to use MS Office documents and attach them to intranet sites as supporting material, or policies etc. Management of those documents, and their version control, is quite important. Additionally to this, people will most probably use MS Office to write their intranet content and then simply paste the content, which might include things like tables etc, directly into the intranet page. This is not the best practice – but we all have done it – mainly because we are busy people. This will push some CMS products to their limits – so ensure you choose one that will not give up on you, and has MS Office support.

The final point is ensuring your CMS is user friendly. This means, if it takes longer to write and create a page on the intranet than writing an email and sending it – users will send an email (and information will get lost or stay unavailable to others). The same goes for updating content. So ensure your CMS ticks the boxes with your users, and make their lives easier instead of more difficult.

Stop the intranet limbo, get a good CMS, but ensure you carry out some research!