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Magazines > Information Today > July / August 2003
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Information Today
Vol. 20 No. 7 — July 2003
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 delivery.

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 (


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 documents.

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.

Gail Dykstra is a consultant in licensing, digital rights, and product development. Her e-mail address is
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