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May 27, 2016

Guiding Principles For A Successful Distributed Content Management Strategy

Thought by Hank VanZile, Director, Pre-Sales Consulting
Guiding Principles For A Successful Distributed Content Management Strategy

This is the sixth post in my series on Distributed Content Management.  In previous posts I’ve defined the concept and provided use case examples for a variety of industries. Today I am kicking off a group of posts discussing prerequisites to a successful Distributed Content Management strategy.  Before we move on to some specific elements companies should consider, let’s go over a few guiding principles.

Understand And Focus On Goals

The best way to focus any strategic initiative is to understand and prioritize its goals.  As I outlined in the industry-specific use cases, Distributed Content Management can benefit an organization in a number of ways - from empowering content managers to alleviating risk by eliminating their involvement.  Understanding the motivations for your organization will help illuminate which areas to tackle and what outcomes you’re hoping to achieve.

Expect Disruption

Planning a Distributed Content Management strategy will inevitably stir things up.  It may surface people’s attachment to well-understood, but inefficient, processes or technology systems.  It may shine a light on an insufficient technological backbone for an organization’s future growth.  Most of all, Distributed Content Management can easily create additional work or take away responsibility while, in both cases, requiring people to learn something new.  The university that builds a connector to automatically publish course listings in its CMS may also end up with program management that needs to review the content before it can be published and disillusioned developers whose skills in programming and data mining are no longer critical to such an important task.  Many organizations have processes such as this that have been in place for a long time and introducing change always leads to some friction.   Expecting this in advance allows those driving change to prepare for the inevitable questions and concerns and to counter them with goals and benefits.

Be Realistic

Even the most goal-focused Distributed Content Management models will fail if they aren’t adjusted for the reality of an organization.  Decentralizing content management responsibilities is, as previously discussed, a wonderful way to eliminate bottlenecks and produce high-quality content; however, understanding the time impact on existing employees needs to be a key consideration. Having direct communication between a company’s Content Management System and other third-party systems can make for a refined user experience, but is the technical staff able and prepared to support it with ongoing maintenance?  Consider, for example, a museum that moves its fundraising form from a clunky landing page in its Donor Management System to its CMS.  The experience for the donor may be far more seamless, but that fundraising data ultimately needs to somehow end up in the Donor system.  One approach would be to develop a direction connection between the systems, but with some Donor Management platforms it’s far less complicated to rely on a manual import of data.  Does the institution have the operational capacity to take on those responsibilities?  To be successful, a Distributed Content Management plan needs to be a pragmatic approach to how an organization can achieve its goals, not an overly optimistic dream.


A Distributed Content Management strategy is not a one-time, “set it and forget it” endeavor.  At its best, Distributed Content Management is a catalyst for the continuous improvement of an organization’s technology and employees.  At the very minimum, technology systems will need upgrading (or replacing).  This should be seen as a key opportunity to revisit a Distributed Content Management strategy and use it to influence decision making.  Questions like, “What can we do with Drupal 8 that we couldn’t do with Drupal 7?” may lead to further technical efficiency and the opportunity for staff to learn exciting new skills.  

No Single Right Answer

Ultimately, it is important for companies to realize there is no magic formula for implementing Distributed Content Management.  As I explained in the first post in this series, Distributed Content Management has traditionally meant different things to different people.  While I believe the terms is wide enough to encompass those various interpretations, an individual organization’s approach to Digital Content Management need not include all of its various incarnations.  Perhaps your company doesn’t need to decentralize its content management responsibilities but is ready to integrate its CMS with the event management system that will save you from manually posting every event to the website.  That alone can be of significant benefit to both your organization and your customers, making it more efficient to provide your customers with valuable information. What a victory!

What’s Next?

In my next post I’ll begin exploring some more specific areas for organizations to dig in on Distributed Content Management.  Thoughts or questions?  Reach out in the comments below or tweet them to me at @HankVanZile.


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