Filed under: Content management
A little while back, I wrote an article that suggested that in some cases workflow is the wrong solution within content management systems (CMS). This week I’ve been sitting in on four different vendor demos, as part of helping a client to select a CMS. One of the issues that came up strongly was the problems and limitations of workflow.
Their needs are simple, and can be best summarised in the following scenario:
There is a single centralised author who publishes content to the corporate website. Most of this information has already been signed off by legal, or publicly released via other channels, so the need for review and signoff is very limited.
In some cases, the author would like to show a “preview” of how the content would look to specific business areas before it is released. This is simply to build confidence that the information is being presented correctly, and that it is appearing in the desired locations of the site.
Ideally, the author would like to be able to email a URL to a “preview site” to another staff member, to get them to check the content. Note that workflow is not appropriate, as the review is ad-hoc, with different people involved in each review, and no requirement for formal signoff.
So workflow is not required, they don’t want or need it. This seems straightforward, or so I was expecting.
What surprised me was that many CMS products were unable to provide a preview option, without enabling workflow. In one product, workflow was even mandatory: you couldn’t setup the CMS without implementing at least a single stage of workflow, otherwise the versioning didn’t work.
This has turned out to be a big problem: the assumption of vendors that we would want workflow, and when we don’t, the model of interacting with the CMS becomes problem-some.
So, the message to vendors: be aware that many organisations do not need workflow. Your product should work properly without it, and should support ad-hoc preview and review as required.
The message to purchasers: if you don’t want workflow, make sure you understand how the CMS will work in practice. Don’t get talked into workflow just to make the product operate correctly, pick another product…