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Matching content tools to business requirements

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Fifty-three percent of the companies surveyed recently by Jupiter Media Metrix said they will have deployed a new document or content management system by the end of 2002; a fifth of those surveyed will be involved in content management consolidation projects.

But many of these businesses will spend too much, Jupiter said. The survey found that overly optimistic and overly broad content management strategies have led some companies to spend as much as $25,000 per nontechnical employee per year to handle their Web sites' content.

"We're finding that some of the companies are spending a lot more than they should have relative to the task," said Jupiter research analyst Matthew Berk.

Jupiter's view that businesses are overpaying for content management is by no means the consensus of all analysts.

"Most software-buying decisions right now are being based on the individual business unit, so people are not really over-buying," said Yankee Group senior analyst Rob Perry.

However, there is a consensus on at least one point: that content management infrastructure is important on the enterprise level.

This need, analysts say, is part of what's driving trends in the technology. It explains why vendors increasingly market their technology as enterprise-wide solutions, platforms that include the previously separate categories of document management, digital asset management and brand asset management.

Another catalyst is the growing popularity of corporate portals. IT departments increasingly understand that for a portal initiative to work, it has to have a content management infrastructure.

Build or buy?

Some companies, especially larger ones, must tap multiple repositories of information to form their site's content-a complex undertaking that requires a complex, often home-grown content management system. Other organizations can achieve success with commercial software.

Consider the case of Netherlands-based LeasePlan Group, the world's largest manager of leased vehicles for corporate clients. This unit of ABN AMRO Bank handles titles, statements of origin, invoices and more than 40 other documents for each of the 1.1 million vehicles in its fleet. Giving customers access to these documents once meant pulling them from a file cabinet and faxing them over upon request, said John Claybrooks, LeasePlan's CMO.

Now the company makes all that content accessible through an extranet. It also uses the site as a selling tool, allowing business clients to input vehicle specifications and complete their orders. Claybrooks said LeasePlan's needs were so specific to its industry that it decided to build its own content management system.

But complex content management hurdles don't necessarily require building rather than buying. IBM Global Financing, which runs customer-facing Web sites in more than 30 countries, previously managed its content on six servers around the world, at a cost of $1.2 million a year.

Today, the IBM unit uses a single content management system from FatWire. The single server costs "a couple hundred thousand a year" to run, said Chuck Thomas, IBM Global Financing's director of e-business solutions. (The IBM company opted for FatWire over IBM's Content Manager product, but the two packages do not compete with each other. FatWire is specifically designed for applying content to the Web, whereas IBM's content management product is more of a data storage and imaging system.)

For other companies, content management projects are designed to simplify site updates, not to move disparate data to multiple Web sites.

Office products giant Corporate Express and agricultural machinery company John Deere both wanted to let nontechnical personnel manage Web content without writing HTML code.

Corporate Express sells $1 billion of goods yearly through its direct online channel, called E-Way. Prior to deploying a content management system from Documentum, the company was dependent on its internal IT staff to publish new pictures, advertising and instructional text. These changes could take as long as two weeks.

Since moving to the Documentum platform, IT involvement in site changes has diminished, and site changes take an average of two hours.

"That allows us to keep the Web site really fresh, and allows us to take advantage of marketing opportunities in a timely manner," said Wayne Aiello, Corporate Express VP of e-business.

In June the company made it possible for customers to pull up their spending trend data through the Web. The story is similiar at John Deere, which uses Interwoven software to allow its dealers to build their own Web sites, insert graphics and design product pages without coding or IT assistance.

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