Booklet Review—Content Management

A new booklet ‘Content Management—a guide for your journey to knowledge management best practices’ offers an idiosyncratic overview of the subject but fails to address many real issues.

What would you expect of a $20 booklet on content management that sets out to be a “guide for your journey to knowledge management best practices”. As content managers ourselves (writing a newsletter that is produced on paper and on the web is a fairly mainstream content management application) we know what we would expect to see. A discussion of available tools and technologies—in particular XML-based—that allow documents to be captured in a logical way and to be reused in a variety of contexts and media.


The American Productivity & Quality Center’s new booklet on Content Management (CM) starts out with a guide to justifying a CM system in your organization. Subsequent chapters include planning and system implementation, content management lifecycles, IT and some case histories. In the planning phase, the recommendation to “establish a steering committee or council of senior executives to guide and fund the initiative” suggests that CM is addressing large highly structured organizations. A couple of pages on, CM reveals that the AQPC has determined that no less than 18 different roles—from database administrator to strategic knowledge managers passing through information stewards and librarians. No skunk work here!


The booklet is peppered with lists, bullet points and questions that the CM implementer may have a hard time in answering. Many of these—like ‘what do your competitors know’ are undoubtedly stimulating. Others, like ‘how do you want to play the game’ less so. But such considerations surely put the cart before the horse. In an ideal world, CM should set up the organization so that it can answer ad-hoc questions on pretty well any subject.


Taxonomy is a key component of CM. AQPC has found that while some software is sets out to create taxonomies automatically from content, organizations rarely rely on this alone. ‘User involvement which may involve focus groups and surveys during development is critical for accuracy and acceptance of the taxonomy.’


One interesting case history is that of Schlumberger which has ‘established a work flow for submission, creation, editing and validation of content’. But the account of Schlumberger’s InTouch Knowledge Hub reveals little that assiduous readers of Oil IT Journal don’t know already.

What is CM?

This booklet falls short of satisfying our requirements on two counts. First the definition of what content management is about is never really addressed. Content management is at times used inter-changeably with knowledge management or with the ‘Portal’ and there is considerable overlap with document and records management. This ‘confusion’ is natural given the plethora of tools and issues involved. But it is a shame that the authors didn’t make a better stab at positioning CM in the quality-best practices-KM-Portal continuum. CM offers a multitude of bullet points for consideration, but fails to make a case for why CM should be the focus of your IM initiative as opposed to a DMS, a Portal, KM or RIM.


The other problem we had is that you will not get any insight into how to solve the nitty-gritty problems that you face when starting-out on content management. Should you aggregate and index native format documents? Or should you go to xml, html, PDF or a DMS? These and other serious issues around content management unfortunately get short shrift from the APQC CM booklet.

Content Management: A Guide for Your Journey to KM Best Practices. ISBN 1-928593-92-8. Hasanali and Leavitt 2003,

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