CMS Starter Kit


How to Prepare Your Content for a Content Management System

Organizations that implement content management systems before their content is ready often end up using the systems as expensive file servers with version control - making it difficult to successfully implement the systems. Preparing your content properly beforehand can ensure that the content management system is used to its best capacity and enable your organization to achieve an ROI in a year or less.

Note: Some organizations tackle this process themselves, while others leverage an industry consultant to help them. Several steps can be performed simultaneously to speed the implementation process.

Step 1: Analyze Content

Examine the documents (internal or external) that your department works on. For each document, ask yourself questions such as:

  • What is this document? What do I call it?
  • Does it have pieces? How are the pieces used? 
  • Are some pieces used in several documents? Could they be?

Step 2: Model Content

Most documents have an inherent structure...i.e., a book must contain multiple chapters, or a glossary is always composed of at least a term and a definition. This structure, or content model, must be spelled out explicitly in a DTD (Document Type Definition) or XML schema.

  • Does your content fit into an existing model, such as DocBook or DITA? Some organizations find it easier to use an existing model if the structure truly fits their content.
  • If your content does not fit an existing model, consider creating your own customized DTD. Be sure to do research and use best practices or engage a consultant for help.

what is a content modelhow to choose a dtd


Step 3: Choose a Pilot Project

Many CMS experts agree that it is imperative that organizations initially work with a single project as a pilot to trouble-shoot start-up issues before implementing a content management system across an entire department or enterprise. When choosing a pilot project, ask yourself:

  • Which documents are most representative of the content we someday want to manage in the system?
  • Which projects can move forward in the content management system without impacting the schedule for ongoing deliveries?
  • Which documents can realize the most immediate benefits from content reuse?

Step 4: Choose Editorial Software

Before you can work with structured content, you need to choose an editorial software program.

  • Choose a tool that is easy to use. Make sure it contains the functionality you need in your editorial process and tools to help you convert legacy content.
  • Make sure the editor you choose integrates with your content management system.

Step 5: Convert Content to a Structured Environment

Typically, converting your content to a structured environment requires three steps:

  • Prioritize your content so that you convert only the content that is criticial to your business needs.
  • Map existing styles and formats to structured elements using a conversion table (conversion tables are offered with many editorial software programs).
  • Clean up inconsistencies and verify that the content model you have chosen works well with your content.

You'll also need to consider the following:

  • Does all of your current and legacy content need to be converted?
  • If not, how far back should you go?
  • What will your timeframe be to complete the conversion process?

Click here for more tips to help you ready your content for data conversion.

Now you are ready to go live with your pilot project!