The Business Case: How to Justify a WCM Investment Quelle: CMS Report 2009 by CMSWatch.com At some point, someone will ask you to justify your Web content management system (WCMS) project. Fortunately, there is a business case to be made for a WCMS on both the cost and revenue sides of the ledger. If no one is requesting a business rationale and the project is proceeding regardless, reconsider your bearings. All major technology efforts beget tough decisions and difficult trade-offs, so it is best to have a business plan in place as a touchstone to keep the team focused — especially if your CFO will be writing big checks to outside vendors. Like any investment, a WCMS project can be justified in terms of “hard” benefits, which are typically more easily quantified, and “soft” benefits, which may be more qualitative, but certainly no less important. And like any IT project, nearly all business benefits flow from concurrent organizational change, so for each advantage, I’ll cite an important caveat or two. Hard benefits Let’s address the financial side of the equation first. A new CMS can enable you to: Increase transactions A CMS can help you publish more information, providing better context around products and services for a more differentiated, solutions-oriented proposition. By publishing richer, more accurate, and higher-quality information online you may be able to increase visitor interaction, whether it is buying a product or inquiring about a service you offer, or transitioning costly offline HR transactions to an intranet. Caveat: more content won’t help unless you take the time to make it better organized. Accelerate your time to market Printing and distributing marketing collateral, sales catalogs, and customer support documentation takes time. Effective content management coupled with Internet delivery should enable you to reduce the travel time from your content owners to content consumers among your prospects and customers. This speeds the return on your investment and improves cash flow — music to any CFO’s ears! Caveat: a Web CMS will not provide a suitable single-source repository for all your digital content. Achieve process efficiencies An effective content management system should enable you to spend less time on Web production and updates, with less effort propagating changes throughout multiple versions of the same content, and fewer cycles editing different iterations of the same content. Caveats: a non-intuitive system will erode any efficiency gains; heavy-handed workflows can re-introduce bottlenecks. Hard figures on costs savings are difficult to come by, and your results will vary. Many CMS vendors offer “ROI calculators.” These can be helpful to orient your thinking, but a savvy manager will take their assumed labor savings with a grain of salt. ROI calculators also chronically underestimate the additional effort involved in implementing and then managing the CMS itself. Unlike other content management efforts — such as imaging projects — a CMS system typically won’t reduce head count (although it can help you refocus existing staff — more about that below). A CMS yields real cash savings most commonly where an enterprise is presently outsourcing Web production and content conversion. In general, the promise of financial benefits of a CMS must be tempered by the ongoing requirement to pay for maintaining and improving the CMS itself, as well as the potential for cost overruns if the solution is mismatched to your needs (a woefully common experience).
Soft benefits Some of the intangible benefits of implementing a CMS also count among the more powerful rationales for making the investment. A CMS can enable you to: Put businesspeople in control of your online communications Web publishing efforts are too often marginalized to distinct cubbyholes within companies. Greater automation and non-technical interfaces give line businesspeople more control of what gets published, when, and how. This invests them more in your company’s online success, and supports better content quality. Caveat: you may need to persuade reluctant content owners to participate now that Web publishing is no longer “someone else’s problem.” •Maintain user experience and brand consistency Experienced marketers know that it takes real work to maintain the clarity of a user’s experience and the consistency of a company’s brand. By separating content from presentation, an automated CMS can enforce visual consistency through a series of controlled templates. Digital Asset Management capabilities within a CMS are now commonplace, so that worldwide companies can centralize brand standards and guidelines to a single source. Customers are more demanding than ever, and expect targeted content — relevant to their personal preferences and previous interactions — and in recent years the emphasis on taxonomy and metadata management tools within CMS tools have helped enable the mandate to “captivate the customer.” Caveat: your brand is much bigger than look and feel, and a CMS cannot enforce the quality of your content. •Improve your agility As markets change and customer bases shift, your communications efforts need to respond in kind. If your CMS places structured content in an XML repository or database, for example, you will better position your enterprise to participate in various marketplaces, future syndication projects, and other collaborative ventures. Caveat: it is difficult to truly separate content from context for maximum content reuse. •Improve security Implemented properly, tighter control of your Web publishing efforts can improve the security of both your systems and your content. For starters, it can help you control who gets to work on what content and layouts. Perhaps more importantly, you can reduce the number of staffers touching production environments by authorizing only the content management system to promote content to live servers. Caveat: like all IT systems, a WCMS brings its own vulnerabilities. Improve record keeping In an era of heightened awareness and new regulations concerning the maintenance of proper electronic records, a content management system can provide an essential audit trail of what was published when, where, by whom, and on what authority. A CMS can also reduce the effort associated with recreating an older version of the site for regulatory or legal reasons. Caveats: you need to make sure your CMS can actually audit all this activity; most CMS tools remain unaware of key records management concepts like retention schedules. Maximize skills and talents through specialization A good CMS enables specialization, wherein designers concentrate on the user experience; engineers zero in on business logic and the publishing system; and content owners focus on the quality and relevance of the information they maintain. Along the way, the company obtains improved accountability and employees provide more value. Caveats: “generalist” webmasters may resist this change; managing the CMS itself requires specialized skills.
Which rationale? There are different ways to build a business case for implementing any technology solution. One approach looks at Return on Investment (“ROI”) or its cousin, Internal Rate of Return (“IRR”). This approach entails demonstrating the financial return on your investment, and is a very powerful justification if you can credibly predict attractive financial returns. Another approach classifies a major expense as a necessary precondition for doing business — such as investing in an upgraded phone system — in circumstances where there is no immediately definable ROI. This is known as Cost of Doing Business (“CDB”) analysis. A common and quite successful business rationale for a WCM is, “we just couldn't go on without one anymore.” Both approaches offer valid analytical models for constructing a business case. The paucity of ROI justifications for Web content management has led some commentators to downplay Web CMS projects in the wake of the dot-com bust. However, the enduring demand for WCM solutions suggests that enterprises view them as a necessary cost of communicating effectively to customers, partners, and employees alike.
When all else fails What if you made your best case, and you still didnâ€™t come up with funding? Try pulling one of these three arrows from your quiver. First, as any software vendor will remind you, in many situations, content management systems can become fundamentally an infrastructure play, so the financial resources applied towards building a new system can often be capitalized on the books. This is especially the case if you are implementing a new system for legal or regulatory reasons. CFOs are more leery about this in the new environment of investor and regulatory scrutiny, but it is still possible to find legitimate ways to amortize expenses. One approach is to consider using a hosted service (described later in this report) where the costs (and actual cash outlays) are spread out over the life of the application, rather than entirely up front. If fear of litigation or regulatory non-compliance is a driving factor in the choice to move forward, then you can justify the amortization expenses as akin to insurance premium. On the other hand, if you cannot secure funding and senior support, reconsider your bearings. Without senior leadership and disruptive technology project is unlikely to succeed. Focus instead on improving your content and processes with the resources and tools already at your disposal.
Quelle: CMS Report 2009 by CMSWatch.com