PDFs. Videos. Learning modules. HR documents. For most associations, and organisations, figuring out how to manage it all is often a daunting task. There are a variety of solutions, platforms, programs, and physical ways to do so. All these things need to be maintained in a secure place, and in a way that they can be easily found when needed. We need to control who can access them and when. We need to control how we communicate around them. An appropriate content management system allows you to do all that.
Most content management systems work around similar principles. Upload document. Add resources. Manage resources. The system then orders it all in a way that’s either defined by the administrator, or by the system itself.
The classic Sears catalogue is a form of content management system, for instance. For many years, Sears took all of its products, and listed information and prices for each item in an increasingly large paper catalogue. Each year, the catalogue would go out, and someone would have to go through the whole thing to update items, prices, colors, etc. This was an entirely satisfactory way of doing things before, but with today’s tight timelines, mix of multi-media, varying platforms, and different user goals, it’s no longer the best way to go.
Content systems come in many forms, and with a variety of tools. Some can be completely customized. Others are tailored to the way you use them. Many are out of the box, and have limited included features. Others are “back-end” only, and don’t necessarily look that great or conform to your organisation’s brand. Choosing the right product that suits your association is critical.
Here are some things to keep in mind
Shop Around. There are many different systems out there, so make sure you understand their base functions and costs.
Set a realistic budget. Once you’ve shopped around, consider your budget carefully. Initial quotes often don’t reflect the real amount of work needed to put into developing, customizing and on-boarding a new system.
Keep an eye out for scalability. It’s always best to start small, but make sure the system you choose can be scaled when needed without extraordinary costs.
Don't over reach. Customizing a system to your exact needs can be expensive, time consuming, and hard to change later on if certain functions don’t work out the way you planned.
Define your user base and goals before you buy. . Make sure your organisation has a plan for what any system they get will need to do, and who will be using it the most. Make a list of the different levels of administration that will need to work within the system.
Integrate when possible. Nobody likes learning a new system. Make sure the tool you choose is user friendly, or can integrate into your existing systems to add the functions you need. It’s important to keep the user’s experience natural.
Look for a solution that provides an iterative approach to design, and continued support. Buying out of the box is often cheaper and easier, but doesn’t always work out long term. If you are not entirely sure about all of the components you may actually need, leave your window to change things open for as long as possible.
Free and open-source don’t always mean less-expensive. It can take hours upon hours to build and customize an open-source tool to get it to work the way you want it to. You also have to rely on your own in-house tech department, or pay for experienced developers to complete the system for you. Make sure to keep that in mind before going this route.
Don’t forget about security. Keeping your information and your donor information is a big deal. Make sure wherever you host all this content is secure. Nothing is perfect, but it’s good to ensure what protocols are in place before you put all your data there.
The most important takeaway from these points is to make sure you have a solution that your people will use. A great deal can be wasted in time and money during development if you don’t have a clear set of goals and objectives for any major tech buy. Keeping all of these things in mind should help you make a decision that will benefit your organisation rather than hinder it.
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