What is Content Management

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It could be said that a content management system is quite simply - a system that manages content.

However, it is precisely the obviousness of what a CMS is and does, that has created a degree of confusion amongst 'would be' purchases of such a system. Wrapped up in a seemingly harmless statement is enough ambiguity to enable all kinds of products to masquerade as content management solutions.

To fully understand what it is a CMS does, we have to first define;

  • a) What it is we are referring to when we talk about content
  • b) What it is we understand under its management - and
  • c) What do we mean by a system.

At the risk of sounding 'obvious', only when you know what content it is you want to manage can you 'filter' (and I mean filter) through the myriad of options that are available - and not be 'bamboozled' by sales speak into taking the wrong product.

What is Content?

Content is in essence, any type or 'unit' of digital information. It can be text, images, graphics, video, sound, documents, records etc - or in other words - anything that is likely to be managed in an electronic format.

What is Content Management?

Content Management is effectively the management of the content described above, by combining rules, process and/or workflows in such a way that its electronic storage is deemed to be 'managed' rather than 'un-managed'.

What is the CM System?

The system itself is definable as a tool or combination or tools that facilitate the efficient and effective production of the desired 'output' using the managed content.

To combine all three, we can say;

A CMS is a tool that enables a variety of (centralised) technical and (de-centralised) non technical staff to create, edit, manage and finally publish (in a number of formats) a variety of content (such as text, graphics, video, documents etc), whilst being constrained by a centralised set of rules, process and workflows that ensure coherent, validated electronic content.

Why are there so many types of CMS?

If every piece of information that is stored digitally within an organisation can be described as content - then a piece of software such as e.g an 'asset management tool' can be said to be a content management system in the same way that a 'document management system' that manages documents can be said to be a content management system or a web content management system that manages web pages can also be a CMS. Alas every vendor sees the management of content from their product perspective. Combine this with the reality that at the so-called 'Enterprise Content Management' level, solutions have not just one form of content management but many - so they may be looking after content in the form of digital assets, documents, web content management, records and much much more.

If you then add into this equation those vendors that have found ways of stretching the type of digital information that their product manages to include other content types - however badly they actually do it (muddying the water even further) - then you would be forgiven if you found yourself in a state of 'content management confusion'.

Further Reading

Generic information that assists with understanding the basics of content management