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How Should CIOs View Their Content Management Systems?

There is a certain inevitability and inexorability about the way CMS systems are changing

Let's start with some acronym disambiguation.

The term CMS can be used to denote Content Management Systems, Content Management Services, Change Management Systems or Configuration Management Systems in IT alone. Let alone the Calcutta Mathematical Society (it does exist, we checked) and the rather unpleasant sounding neuromuscular disorder Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome.

In this instance we are thankfully focusing on Content Management Systems only as our CMS of choice.

The first problem with CMS technologies is that they are not like word processors and spread sheets, i.e., every CMS purist will have his or her own definition of what constitutes a CMS... and they will all be different.

We might tentatively suggest here then that a CMS is a system used to manage the (text-based) editorial, (image-based) pictorial and even video-based content of a website.

In terms of practical usage, the CMS is then used by web designers and web developers in a web agency to construct the graphical user interface (as well as the underlying business logic and functionality) that employees and/or users come to think of as "their company CMS for the company website" in day-to-day use.

The CMS Is Changing

There is certain inevitability and inexorability about the way CMS systems are changing. Based in the Swiss city of Basle, enterprise open source content management specialist Magnolia has clear ideas where this technology is heading.

Key changes in the CMS gospel according to Magnolia now include:

  • The web CMS now moves to become an operation management tool for "any" kind of data in the enterprise (and not just web content destined to HTML, etc., output) at any level. Increasingly here then, the CMS manages live data going out through the website or through applications.
  • Touch and mobile form a key part of the "user contact points" that the CMS must now embrace - and so be tuned to be compatible with. Five years from now you'll ask "does this CMS support touch on tablets?" and if the answer is no, you'll be able to say, "This is not a CMS" then.
  • With regard to web-facing systems, all CMS offerings today worth their salt now separate the content from its presentation. This allows you to redesign the look and feel of the website as often as you want without having to rewrite the content. However, it will increasingly allow the same content to be optimized for multiple different devices and completely new uses within the enterprise.

In line with Magnolia, HP recognizes that the CMS game has moved on and points to the reality of data that may now be scanned using multiple products; stored on different platforms; and managed with various legacy systems.

It is at this point that we need to return to our disambiguation and think about the difference between (web) Content Management Systems and wider Content Management Services.

According to HP's Content Management Services overview, "With the right strategy, technology and processes in place, content management services can enhance collaboration among employees across the globe and more readily tap into intellectual capital. Managing the flow of content also can reduce bottlenecks and increase turnaround, speeding up time to market."

Again, the company here appears to be talking about CMS technologies being used outside of "straight" website content management and into wider data-centric tasks.

Back-End Application Elements Come Forward

Back with Magnolia, CTO and cofounder Boris Kraft has recently been quoted explaining that his firm is seeking to provide the core services of the CMS proposition as a set of tools for software developers faced with bringing an increasing number of back-end application elements to the web. "This process as it now develops means that, essentially, we are seeing a decoupling of the traditional elements of a CMS," he said.

Let's just repeat those six words shall we? We are now bringing "backend application elements to the web" - and it is at this point that CIOs will start to see a mechanical throughput change in the software architectures governing the operation of the IT stack as it stands at any single moment in time.

Where the CMS goes from here will be interesting. As the web becomes more of the corporate front end and arguably therefore a more integral part of any firm's strategic arsenal, the need to be able to develop, deploy, manage and fine tune this data entity becomes a more acute business differentiator.

Are changing business differentiators a concern for CIOs? The answer must be yes, acutely.

 

This post was first published on the Enterprise CIO Forum.

More Stories By Adrian Bridgwater

Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist and corporate content creation specialist focusing on cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects software engineering, project management and technology as a whole.

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