CMS Implementation: Product or Project Manage?
So your organization decided to get a new Content Management System (CMS), either replacing an existing CMS or as your first CMS. A strong organizational temptation will probably be to treat implementing the CMS for your institution as a project rather than as an internal product. But in addition to project management, you'll need product management. It's unfortunate that project, product, and program management all have the abbreviation of PM, and that may contribute to the confusion between these terms.
So what are a couple of ways of treating a CMS implementation from a product manager's perspective?
1. Ongoing Process. With a project view of the implementation, you will probably be managing to a milestone, whereas for a product the process needs to be looked at as an ongoing process. The product manager is responsible for the overall and ongoing success of the product.
2. Product Definition. A key responsibility of the internal CMS product manager is defining the product. This is much tougher than it sounds, since the product manager will hear a wide variety of often-conflicting requests from various stakeholders. From this mayhem of requests (most being extremely important to the requester but not so important to other stakeholders), the product manager needs to define the product.
For a CMS, this definition includes:
- How much control is given to whom. Power users will want deep control of their pages, but probably one of the main reasons to have a CMS in the first place is to enforce consistency across pages. One of the greatest conflicts will be between ease of use and support for power users.
- How the CMS is extended. Any extension or custom work will increase the moving parts that can break in your system (and potentially complicate upgrades in the future). In addition, adding more functionality has a high probability of also complicating the user interface. Beyond to the go/no-go decision on functionality, exactly how it is implemented will affect the usability and manageability of the CMS.
- Templates. An easy way to appease people in the short term and complicate life in the long term is to start creating a separate template for each stakeholder. The product manager needs to negotiate with the stakeholders to appropriately create templates that are re-usable across as many pages / sections of the site as possible.
Much of this boils down to the product manager deciding what not to include in the CMS implementation. Since there is no way of fully implementing everything the way everyone wants, this involves a lot of discussions with a variety of stakeholders to deeply understand and respond to the most important requirements.
Next week at jboye08, I'll be giving a talk Planting a Flag vs. Engaging Users that explores how to product manage a CMS implementation.
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