The Content Management Strategist

By Deane Barker on August 13, 2013

Content strategy clearly has its place.  And so does content management implementation.  They’re like matched pairs — someone plans the content out, then someone builds the infrastructure for it.

But, more and more, I feel like there’s a hole in the middle.  There’s a place for a different kind of consulting that fills in the gap between content strategy and content management implementations. This part of the content equation often gets ignored, at the client’s peril.

Call this content management strategy. A generic term, to be sure, but an accurate one.

You see, there’s a murky space between the idea of content, and the hard reality of a content management system. We’re seeing situations where a content strategist has come in and developed a undeniably great plan for content — how to organize it, or develop it, or present it, or whatever — and then left.  The organization now has a solid plan, but no idea how to implement it, technically.

So, they proceed the only way they now how: a CMS implementation. To do this, they ship out an RFP. They get responses, but most all of them will be tainted by association with a specific system. Vendors will respond with how their system will accomplish the plan, and integration firms will invariably always respond within the bounds of a system as well — either one they represent via a partnership, or with the system they’re comfortable with.

Thus, the entire plan will be interpreted through the lens of a specific platform, which brings with it methodologies, idiosyncrasies, and paradigms.  It’s not really a design to make the content strategy work, so much as it’s a design to make the content strategy work in this CMS which we really want you to buy from us.

I feel like there’s a step missing there somewhere.

Who advocates for the content plan? Who defends what the content strategist has painstakingly developed in the face of potential vendors who want to bend this thing to their greatest business advantage? Someone has to bridge the gap between the content strategy and the actual content management implementation.

Should this be CMS selection? No, I think content management strategy even comes in before that. There needs to be some period of review where someone figures out how vague ideas of content will be translated into harder concepts, like content models and delivery models and services. I envision content management strategy spawning a software selection process.  Even several different selection processes.

More and more, we’re seeing highly distributed and fragmented content management environments with a lot of moving parts among multiple systems. Many organizations have more than one CMS, and they almost all have more than one delivery channel.  This fragmentation means no single platform is going to do everything (regardless of what the vendors are claiming). Yes, I know you love System X, but that system really has to swim in a larger pool now, and make friends with all these other systems trying to do other things with the same content.

What organizations need this situation is a content management strategist.  An advocate, if you will.  Someone who will stand in the gap, evaluate the abstract plan, and make decisions:

  • “This functionality can be accomplished by this type of software. Let’s find it.”
  • “This thing you want to do can actually be handled with System X. Let’s figure out how that’s going work with System Y.”
  • “Your hopes are too high for this part of the plan. The vendors are exaggerating their claims here. Scale back your expectations and you’ll be happier with the results.”
  • “I keep seeing this type of content over and over. Let’s abstract that to a higher level and make it accessible to more than one system, so we can stop recreating it.”

This advocate spans the gap between vendors, between systems, and between groups in the same organizations. This advocate fights for the technical success of the content itself, regardless of what form or platform that may take.

In that sense, a content management strategist just might be a content strategist’s best friend.

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Comments

  1. I don’t know how to possibly agree with you more Deane! This year I finished a content management strategy for a very large (10+ million page) web presence, and this sort of strategy pre-RFP is helps to define “what’s really important here?” up front. Especially when there are lots of systems involved (not just technical), content management strategy can make sure that those factors most important to success are addressed. One key reason is to set things up not to immediately wind up with exactly the same problems again after implementation on the new system (for example, perhaps there’s been an explosion of sites across a wide range of systems, in which case figuring out what to do about that is important before buying another system to crank out redundant sites in).

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