Creating and Delivering Content and Applications

An enterprise content management system does not equal an enterprise portal.
Create a matrix of your audiences (e.g., customers by vertical market), content types (news, product descriptions, research, articles), content repositories (file servers, print materials, digital asset management systems, CMS), profile sources (CRM, directories, ERP), and presentation methods. Go through a standard Information Architecture process — make a “site map” with all of the top level content and features that you will have for all of the online properties that you know you want to publish (public web site, intranet, portal, etc). Make a list of all the subjects, vertical markets, or solutions that will be covered from a “top-down” perspective. For example, if your company’s public Web site is focused on Financial Services, you might have subjects like “mutual funds,” “equities,” “bonds,” etc. This process will begin to define a global taxonomy for all of your content and applications — and this is really the key to enabling content re-use and personalization.

Once this overall inventory is complete for each site, one process that’s typically quite valuable is the creation of a wire frame model for each page or screen that represents a key user experience — and then annotate that diagram with how the taxonomy will be leveraged for content reuse, syndication, and/or personalization.

Notable Cases: When to Use CMS vs. Portal or Both

If the same content, or variants of that content, only ever gets published to an intranet or extranet, and you don’t already have a way to automate the creation and editing of that content, the built-in content tools in a portal framework might work nicely for you. However, if the content that belongs in the Intranet or extranet is also found on a public Web site or in print, then you’ve either got redundancy in effort or you need a more holistic publishing strategy that probably includes a dedicated content management solution in parallel with your portal deployment.

Example: You work in Sales and Marketing for a software company. You log in to the Sales and Marketing portal to access crucial proprietary things like the pipeline, competitive intelligence, reference lists, and private case studies that are not for public consumption. However, for convenience’s sake, all of the product data sheets, white papers, and other “about the company” public content is available so that you can get your info to go any time, any place from one source. Doesn’t it make sense that the publishers of the product data sheets should only need to edit and publish this content once? Doesn’t it change all the time? Doesn’t it get published to the public Web site, in print, in PDF, wirelessly, and in Spanish, French, German, Japanese, and Italian? The portal is not likely to provide (at least not out of the box) a solution for creating and publishing these variants of this content– the CMS is. The CMS should be aware of the Portal through a smart implementation . But in this writer’s experience, the publishing creation/editing/approval/variant process is not really a “portal thing.”

However, if your audience is semi-public or private — for instance, a partner extranet/portal or employee intranet — it may be crucial to personalize the experience of consuming that content based on roles and profiles found in a database or directory (examples: Active Directory, LDAP, PeopleSoft, etc). The process of organizing those individuals into communities is usually something the portal will provide “out of the box.” It’s a relatively small development effort at this point to take content published by a CMS and present it in a personalized portal community.

Tools That Help

The discovery process can be performed using standard business analyst tools like Microsoft Visio and other Office components. Publishing-oriented CMS products like RedDot Solutions’ XCMS, Percussion’s Rhythmyx, and others can provide affordable, flexible solutions for publishing content in any number of variants on any platform. Plumtree’s Enterprise Web Software is an integration-friendly, open environment where content and applications can be easily presented to a wide array of community audiences.

When it comes to determining whether a portal or CMS solution is best for you, investing the time to research and explore the best options for your business is imperative to your continued success. Make the commitment to understand your requirements now and your investment will pay off in the long term.

Seth Miller is the President and CEO of Miller Systems, a company he founded over nine years ago, specializing in in the design and development of elegant online user experiences. His perspective has been published in a variety of CRM- and eMarketing-focused publications.