Friday, April 4, 2008

The Need for Metrics in Your CMS Implementation

by Bob Rose

A good plan today is always better than a perfect plan tomorrow. Few people realize procrastination is the fastest way to disaster when it comes to implementing a Content Management System (CMS). The right metrics must be in place before you decide to procure and implement a CMS. Before a CMS purchase or implementation, key business goals and the metrics used to measure those goals need to be identified. Without the right metrics, a CMS cannot realize its full potential because you'll never be able to justify its cost. Like sails for a ship, metrics can ensure that content management is steered in the right direction. The main goal of any technology purchase is to allow users to execute tasks more effectively and therefore reduce costs. And the only way to know if you've reduced costs is to have a basis of measurement from which to benchmark and measure going forward. There is really no magic set of metrics applicable to every implementation in every organization. Every company, department and individual has different priorities; but with that said, there are definitely some common objectives to consider.

Metric #1: Speed and Ease of Publishing Content This is probably the most common reason for implementing a CMS. As you launch new products and services, you need to be able to quickly and easily update your Web site; and your CMS must provide the capability to accelerate content publishing. Subject matter experts (SMEs) need intuitive tools that are simple to use. Key Performance Indicators (KPI) here are financial and non-financial metrics that can then help measure the rapidity and easiness of the CMS̢۪ content publisher.

Metric #2: Quality of Information Many organizations make the mistake of dumping a huge avalanche of content on unsuspecting users. To succeed in attracting readers - and more importantly search engines - the focus must be on improving the quality of content. Information quality can be measured by allowing users to vote, rate, or comment on content. And any good CMS should be able to affect the workflow and promote that content based on those ratings.

Metric #3: Productivity Productivity is the metric that most organizations try to tie numbers to, but ironically it is also one of the hardest to quantify. Productivity measurements usually fall into one of three areas:

Time: The hours, days, or weeks saved by users of the CMS in creating, editing, reviewing and publishing content.

Technology: The increase in value from the CMS, versus a manual or legacy process that the application is replacing. For example, with a hosted Web content management solution the productivity of the IT staff increases because the shift from managing hardware and infrastructure of the CMS shifts to more mission critical applications within the enterprise.

Resources: Simply the better use of your employee resources. Are your marketing resources better used managing content rather than creating it? Or as a twist to the above example, are your IT resources adding more value installing software patches and upgrades rather than creating new functionality within the CMS to support marketing?

Metric #4: Cost Reductions A combination of elements contributes to the total cost of owning a CMS. These elements include license fees, training costs, maintenance costs, hardware related costs and implementation costs. Organizations must clearly define metrics that capture information at a granular level for each of these components, and the ability of the CMS to reduce costs at a holistic level. Keep this completely different set of considerations in mind when evaluating different types of content management systems; like traditional installed solutions, a Software-as-a-Service CMS, open source, and even custom-built.

Metric # 5: Web site performance Web site performance is by far the easiest to measure, with the use of any standard Web site analytics tool. Metrics can be built around anything from increasing total unique site visitors, to minimizing abandon rate on specific pages. The options are endless, but the caveat here, as with all these metrics, is to state them upfront and be able to tie business benefits to them.

Conclusion Metrics are a concrete way of defining what a content management project will accomplish, and whether it will meet those goals. For effectiveness, metrics should be (wherever possible) quantitative rather than qualitative. For example, instead of having a broad metric such as "Achieve significant reduction in IT costs", a more defined metric such as "Achieve 20% reduction in IT costs in the first year" will be more helpful.

Once the base metrics are established, organizations can look at moving to the next level, defining metrics such as percentage of sales achieved through the Web site due to improved content quality, or improved lead conversion rates. It must also be remembered that metrics need constant review and revision where necessary. This focus on metrics provides much-needed visibility on the impact of CMS on day-to-day operations. Metrics give direction and if used effectively, can communicate the immense value a CMS can provide to increasing business opportunities.

About the Author

This article is contributed by Rob Rose - Vice President of Crownpeak. Focus on metrics provides much-needed visibility on the impact of Content Management System (CMS) on day-to-day operations. Metrics give direction and if used effectively, can communicate the immense value a CMS can provide to increasing business opportunities.