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IT Has Better Things to Do

IT Has Better Things to Do

Published By: Intranet Journal
Viewed: 10108

October 3, 2007 (Intranet Journal)

It's the gerbil wheel of websites: content managers want to put new content on the site, and IT staff don't have the time to do it because they are dealing with more pressing tasks. The issue goes round and round with no easy solution in sight. Content needs to be placed on the site in a timely manner, and having IT staff responsible for getting that content out there, as well as fixing routers, fixing crashed databases, and setting up new servers creates a bottle neck. It doesn't have to be this way. Content managers should be able to place the content on the site themselves; they are, after all, the content managers. There's really no reason any average user- school teacher, business person, government official- shouldn't be able to handle the simple task of placing their own content on a website, and any really good content management system will provide them the tools to do so.

A content management system shouldn't be accessible to an elite few. It should be user-friendly and simple enough to use by the general public. There's no reason any knowledge of HTML should be required, or any other programming language for that matter. Today's content management systems have a number of tools available to make publishing website content accessible and efficient. Built in helpers, such as Javascript date and color pickers, can ease the process of complex inputs, and user interface levels can be adjusted to meet individuals' varying skill levels. Hover help can be implemented to provide helpful instructions and tips to users as they work, and features such as inline editing, drag and drop content positioning, and rich editors provide ease and flexibility. The average person, after a short amount of time, can become as familiar with a content management system as with any desktop publishing software.

A well thought out content management system should also allow for content publishing delegation. Users should be assigned access to those things they are allowed to edit, and should not have to worry about others poking around in what is not theirs. Content management systems should offer security measures that allow specific groups of users access to specific material. Workflow systems should also be available to effectively move content through the system and allow for changes and collaboration along the way. Many organizations have a hierarchical structure, and often website content must be approved. A built in workflow system will allow content to be submitted to an approver, and for that content to be sent back to the author for revisions if needed. Content should never appear on a site until it's ready, and users who create the content should have control over when and if content is published.

A powerful content management system should also allow for authentication and authorization delegation. Many organizations have an LDAP directory in place, and there is no reason users should need a separate password for their operating system and the content management system. Using their OS password through LDAP, users should be able to log in to the content management system as well. In addition, site privileges, such as content editing and viewing rights, should be able to be integrated with existing LDAP groups, eliminating the need for IT staff to reinvent the wheel by repeatedly creating user groups in multiple locations.

If IT staff involvement is really to be eliminated, users should have the power to fix their own mistakes. Versioning allows users to “roll back” site content to basically eliminate content published in error, and provides the ability to view and edit old versions of site content to be reused. Trash systems should be easily accessible so users can access and restore mistakenly deleted items with a few simple clicks. A history of logins and edits should also be available to view who did what on the site and when that action took place. Users can then keep track of site content on their own and deal with mistakes in an efficient manner, instead of having to contact IT staff to access and correct mistakes.

IT staff are expensive, and every organization wants to ensure that their funds are being put to good use, so why take up busy IT staff time with tasks that others can easily perform? Content management systems should be used to empower all staff, not just an elite few. With today's technology, any worthy content management system should provide intuitive user interfaces and tools for user support to allow average users to build and maintain their own site content. Built in editing features, workflow and versioning systems, and security features all come together to provide a flexible, powerful and user friendly system. In time, all staff will be managing and publishing website content like the seasoned professionals they are. No IT staff required.

JT Smith is the President of Plain Black Corporation the developer and distributor of the WebGUI Content Engine. He speaks internationally on topics related to web content management.