Who really defines what is a CMS?

Who really defines what is a CMS?

You do.

I'm more convinced than ever that CMS experts aren't really in the driver's seat when defining the content management system. Experts in the field of content management are more or less observant passengers that are there to help you not get lost and to point out the significant landmarks on the way. This journey takes you to places while you the customer remain in the driver seat with all the privileges and responsibilities of being the driver.

Over the past few years I've realized that my work preference is to keep things as simple as possible. Sometimes when defining information systems keeping things simple works while other times the system is new and remains too complicated to define. Thanks to my reply in a productive rant against CMS by Laurence Hart I'm not only understanding my aversion to being called a CMS expert but also my philosophy and role in defining what is a CMS. This personal philosophy is developing...

Scott Abel convinced me a few years ago on my own blog that the definition of a CMS is never static and always changing. We’re chasing our own tail when we get nit picky in our definitions of a CMS. Somewhere in all the marketing that has been done for terms such as CMS, ECM, and WCM…we have forgotten the difference between information system and information technology.

Whether you’re talking about WordPress, Documentum, Drupal, FileNet, or the thousand of other software titles out there…from an information system perspective none of them are really “content management systems”. These applications we keep pushing high on the pedestal are merely tools used to perform the required content management functions in an organization’s information system. In other words, a combination of people, business processes, inputs, outputs, software, etc is all part of the content management system. As organizational needs change so too must the parts that make up the information system. We could all unanimously agree today what is a CMS and I promise you by tomorrow the evolving needs of businesses and organizations will require we change that definition.

Personally, the only way I make sense of terms such as CMS, WCM, ECM is by understanding the business needs of the user. I then use whichever one of the three terms that the user has indicated he/she is most comfortable in using and that’s the only term I use in the rest of the conversation. In other words, I think it’s not the customer that needs educating here but the CMS expert instead. You’re never going to win customers over if you don’t yield to the CMS their organization has already defined for you. Everyone has their “ideal” vision of what a CMS is and isn’t and most often the term is defined in the context of organizational behavior and not on a web page.