Saving the Best for Last
By Gail Dykstra
For folks with content managementheadaches, help was
at hand at the Content Management Symposium, held the
last day of InfoToday 2003. Bob Boiko, the symposium's
keynote speaker and author of Content Management
Bible, described himself as a diagnostician. "I
help people get beyond 'We have an information problem,'" he
said. "I look for symptoms of content management distress."
Boiko explained how he's diagnosed the pain, identified
problems, and prescribed remedies for his CM patients.
He provided examples from a global retailer, a Fortune
50 technology company, a nonprofit portal, a leading
software manufacturer, and a public agency.
To solve CM problems within an organization, Boiko
looks for a clearly articulated approach that directly
addresses the organization's goals, defines measurable
success criteria, and proposes a reasonable cost.
Then he recommends asking "Will that be enough?"
From start to finish, Boiko held the attention
of the participants, who listened to his every word.
He provided a spark that created a lively, enthusiastic
lift for this end-of-conference audience.
What a Question!
When Boiko asked if anyone had questions, hands
shot up. The first person called upon prefaced his
query by saying, "I just want to warn you that the
future of my company hangs on your answer." After
the laughter died down, the questioner explained
that his company publishes conference proceedings
in various formats for 1,000 doctors in North America
and Australia. "Do I shut down the alternate formats
and move my content to the Web to force subscribers
to move to Web delivery?" he asked.
Another speaker might have been fazed. Not Boiko.
He got even more good-natured laughter with his response, "Well,
it all depends."
Boiko went on to address the real issue, which
was "What's this worth to your company?" He recommended
that the publisher sit down and estimate how many
subscriptions will be lost if it moves to Web-only
This is just one example of the connections that
were made with the audience at all of the symposium
sessions. The high-energy speakers were recognized
experts in content management and they kept everyone's
attention. Attendees came with important problems
and questions about their organizations. They left
with a clearer understanding of the steps they neededto
take to make content management decisions. Many left
knowing exactly what they had to do when they arrived
at theiroffices the next morning. They had new energy
and good medicine to cure their CM headaches.
"This could have been the centerpiece of the conference," said
Michael Robak, who came from Chicago to attend InfoToday
2003. "I'm surprised they waited until the end of
the conference to have these sessions."
After the keynote, attendees chose between two
symposium tracks: Taxonomy and Categorization or
Strategies and Case Studies on CM Deployment. The
presentations were chock-full of solid advice. Many
are posted on InformationToday, Inc.'s Web site (http://www.infotoday.com/it2003/presentations/default.htm).
Wendy Pohs of IBM told the audience that taxonomies
are essential business tools. She offered down-to-earth
advice that recognized the reality of developing,
adopting, or introducing taxonomies as part of an
organization's business processes.
A trio from content taxonomy and categorization
software companies shared some hard lessons learned.
Ian Hersey of Inxight Software, Andrew Feit of Verity,
and Tom Reamy of KAPS Group were comfortably familiar
with each other, although somewhat rushed as they
tried to compress a lot of information and some useful
tips into 45 minutes.
CM Case Studies
Without savvy tools, companies get bogged down
in elaborate processes and procedures for extracting
value from their data. "You still have to read it
to get the opportunity," said Barak Pridor of ClearForest,
referring to the masses of data and content that
flow into organizations. Using Dow Chemical as his
case study, Pridor explained how CM is essential
to dissecting and detecting the insights in and between
Ben Martin of J.D. Edwards knows exactly how much
it costs to make a "willy-nilly change" to the definition
of a single field in an enterprise resource-planning
database. Furthermore, he knows how much it costs
to translate this change into multiple languages
and can compare these prices. When you're running
a major CM project for a multinational company with
customers in 90 countries, this knowledge is important.
Martin's presentation demonstrated how CM managers
think creatively about essential metrics.
Even with the best of intentions, you sometimes
hit glitches when rolling out a CM system. Farida
Hasanali of the American Productivity & Quality
Center used APQC's content management project to
illustrate how to make CM decisions, manage projects,
assess and select vendors, and figure out the real
return on investment for CM.
Selecting CM Systems
Tony Byrne, managing editor of CMSWatch, talked
about what to look for in a CM system and explained
how to decipher CM vendor-talk and avoid product-selection
pitfalls. In addition, he provided a snapshot of
the major, medium-sized, and niche content management
system vendors. Byrne's slides showed the strengths
and weaknesses of the products and gave a ballpark
figure of the cost of licensing the systems.
The key to successfully selecting a content management
system is to thoroughly know your business processes.
Understand your business requirements and the people,
budget, and priorities that will be needed to develop
a broad architecture for your CM system. "Normally,
analyzing work flow and business processes is not
in the bailiwick of librarians and knowledge managers," said
Byrne in a post-conference phone interview.
"Librarians get it," he said. "I didn't have to
describe metadata for this audience. For business
users, this is terra incognita. Librarians are dealing
with issues about metadata every day."
At the symposium, Byrne described the three phases
of content management: production, publishing, and
distribution. He discussed what can go wrong in each
phase and identified ways to avoid common pitfalls.
Talking about CM selection with zest and humor, Byrne
described Pitfall No. 2: Love at First Sight. "Never
pick a CM vendor because you liked the demo, company,
or salesperson. Always undertake a thorough selection
process. You'll have lots of choices," he said. "Competition
results will surprise you. You will save time and
money, get a better solution for your firm, and preview
the warts of the winning system."
Best for the Audience
The Content Management Symposiumhad a terrific
program with experts who understand the pain and
perplexity of identifying, selecting, and running
content management solutions for real organizations.
InfoToday 2003 saved the best for last.
Dykstra is a consultant in licensing, digital rights,
and product development. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.