Best Practices for Managing an XML CMS Project for Publishers
I often run across articles in various trade publications that provide best practices for evaluating technology and managing projects. While I think these article are a great starting point for a company, I think they overlook the vendor side of running a project. In other words, if you look at both the publisher's and the vendor's perspective, you're more likely to achieve a successful implementation, which is the mutual goal.
So with that background, here are my top five best practices to implement a CMS at a publisher (from a vendor's perspective):
- Assign one project champion to manage the CMS vendor (not a committee or group) – Content management projects touch many departments. At publishers, this means that IT, Production, and Editorial will have a say in the project. Publishers should assign a single project champion (not a group or committee) who has a solid understanding of the business, can manage through the political atmosphere, and is able to make decisions (technical, time, and budget) in a timely fashion. As a vendor, it is best to have one person in charge who will be that single point of contact.
- Whatever you budget for your CMS project, multiply it by 2 – The old saying “your eyes are bigger than your belly” rings true when publishers budget for a CMS project. Content management is complex. Systems are not plug and play, especially the enterprise scale systems. Generally the CMS project is an excuse to throw everything anybody has ever wanted into the requirements specification. Prioritize, delete, reorder, do whatever you have to do to get within your budget, but make sure you budget enough money and don’t try to beat-up the CMS vendor because your budget was too small to begin with.
- Budget enough money for after the CMS launch – Too many times we have worked with publishers who do not think past the initial launch of the CMS. When users begin to use the system, there will be changes. Generally some requirements get deferred after launch because of complexity or budget reasons. Be prepared to have additional funds set aside after you accept the system and users begin to use it. My rule of thumb has always been to budget between 25% - 50% of the original project for the follow-on phases.
- Be organized and respect everyone's time – There is nothing worse, from a vendor's perspective, than kicking off a project and realizing the customer is disorganized and cannot fulfill their obligations in a timely manner. When a vendor allocates resources to a project and has the green light from the publisher, the vendor is ready to start! That means the publisher needs to be prepared to start as well. If a publisher is disorganized, it eventually leads to poor requirements, timelines that extend, and cost impacts. It will impact the time and energy of all parties, including the publisher's editorial and production staff. Don’t start a project unless you have your ducks lined up and are really ready to begin.
- Tell the rest of the organization there is a CMS project – The acronym CMS in some publishing organizations is a bad, bad word. In all honesty, we have been at some publishers where we were forbidden from using the acronym all together. We had to disguise the CMS project as a “new production system” or “finished goods repository.” We don’t care if you come up with a clever code name for the CMS project, but having a good internal communications plan will make the vendor's job much easier when we need to interact with other groups and derive appropriate requirements. It is not good as a vendor to start a meeting with a publisher and get “what CMS project?” as a reply to a request for information.
I’m pretty sure you will not see this list of best practices for running a CMS project for publishers in a trade publication, but I thought I would share some of the best practices we would like to see publishers embrace to make projects run more smoothly.