My Take on Content Management Systems and Outsourced Web Support
Dee Rambeau prompted some interesting dialog about hosted content management services while I was away on vacation. In case you hadn’t noticed, David Johnson continued his side of the argument on his blog. His blog is for Phoenix Information Services, LLC, “Speaking to the Automotive Retail World.” So David may be coming from a really big and multi-layered industry perspective.
Another participant in the discussion, Dominic Jones, also commented on David’s blog. Dominic comes from IR Web Report, which bills itself as “the world's #1 source for investor relations website advice and best practices.”
My own perspective is from a growing, medium-sized global company. While both David and Dominic have their points, I think they miss what is the central issue to me:
- The world is moving to outsourcing (including lots of IT jobs)
- The world is moving to hosted software services (even key business applications such as CRM and ERP)
- There is no inherent advantage for a business to do anything internally that can be done more efficiently by an outside vendor
There was a day when many large manufacturers had their own delivery trucks. Now they mostly let outside carriers do it. There also was a day when large companies had huge PR departments, and huge engineering departments, and huge IT departments. Those days are passing, too.
Corporate websites are business tools. The enabling web technology is just that: it is the carrier of the message, not the message itself. The business doesn’t care how the message is carried. They just want to get it done quickly, reliably, professionally, at the least possible cost, and in keeping with corporate graphic and stylistic standards.
You would have a hard time today finding IT people who do not embrace the Internet. But that was not the case so very long ago. Just as mainframe-oriented IT folks resisted the PC, we’ve all seen our share of IT people who were unprepared for the Internet. This certainly helped gave rise to hosted services, such as Dee Rambeu’s MediaRoom, which is itself a CMS that is optimized for PR use.
I am a great believer in content management systems, but content management systems don’t have to be tied to internal resources. I’ve had excellent results in outsourcing web development/hosting and associated support services. When K-Tron International created its web department six years ago, the first thing we did was develop a CMS. From the beginning, our focus was on business results, not the technology. We used an outside service to develop and host our first website in 1995, and we continue to use the same service today.
Our web department is separate from IT, though I report to the CFO, as does the head of IT. Although I do not work in IT, am a great fan and supporter of the services they provide. I have excellent working relationships, indeed friendships, with our IT managers.
As K-Tron grows into new markets, or acquires new companies, our hosted CMS allows us to create new websites, or move exiting websites onto the CMS platform. In every case our new business users have enthusiastically embraced the CMS, which frees them to create and manage their content with little or no assistance from K-Tron’s web department and no dependence at all on their internal IT support.
When K-Tron acquires a company, the objective is to let the business run itself. Beyond integrating the acquired company’s financial system into K-Tron’s, one of the few things we change is to move the company’s website into our CMS. You can see examples at Jeffrey and Pennsylvania Crusher of websites that were greatly enhanced by being moved into our CMS. You can also see Penn Crusher’s Chinese website, a new website created at the same time. The results for Jeffrey and Penn Crusher are striking:
- Easy to navigate, user friendly websites that for the first time generate valuable sales leads for the companies and provide enhanced satisfaction for customers and prospects who visit the websites
- Vastly improved search engine visibility
- An exponential growth in web traffic, which has resulted in more business opportunities
- Empowered business users, who can instantly update existing pages and add new pages with no assistance from either web or IT specialists
One final thought on the “big company” CMS issue: When an IT department becomes perceived by another department as a barrier to getting its messages delivered via the web, right or wrong, the IT department has an image problem. They might want to take a look at their own internal public relations. Indeed, rather than playing power games with their PR department, they might want to ask for some help in a) understanding how they have alienated their customers and b) devising appropriate actions and communications to win back the trust and support of their customers.