One question to ask yourself is "worth it compared to what?" There are many ways to supplement your CM education: Going to a major CM conference will set you back two to three thousand dollars in registration fees, hotels, and travel expenses. You'll have a good time, meet some cool people, and hear the major consultants and vendors disguised as educators pitch their wares, but you may or may not get back to work with anything in hand that will help you do your job. Working with consultants is another way to glean information on CM, and those fees add up fast.
A Word from the Field
Needless to say, the price for texts can begin to look reasonable fast. Of course I'm not talking about high-powered technology trends and market research from the Gartners and Forresters here. (If you work for a Fortune 500 firm your research department probably already has a copy. If you don't, forget about them because the ROI probably just isn't there.) I mean books and reports by people who spend their lives in the content management field--like Martin White's new Content Management Handbook ($99), James Robertson's CM Requirements Toolkit ($550) and his new Intranet Roadmap chart ($135), Tony Byrne's classic CMS Report ($895, $1350 for the enterprise edition) and new Enterprise Search Report ($1350), and Bob Boiko's Metatorial Planner ($300), the guide and checklist for working through his legendary CM Bible, and his CM Poster ($35).
If you don't put a high value on your time, these tools may be out of your league. But if you are well paid, and if your organization is about to involve a lot of valuable people in building or rebuilding a public Web site or a corporate intranet, then any one of these tools will save your organization its cover price many times over during the course of your project.
Simply put, a CMS project is a huge undertaking and you are very unlikely to know, or to successfully reinvent, all the wheels in the process. These books and reports provide you with a master checklist and narrative, describing the many activities that someone on your team must accomplish if you are to succeed. Texts and tools like these are a management dream because they divide the project into small units that need different skill sets, so you can map tasks onto your available human and financial resources. They provide templates, some in spreadsheet form, to cut and paste into your own planning.
Bringing Knowledge to the Table
The books and reports I mention here each take a different approach to the problem and I can say I have learned a great deal from each of them. White gives us solid practical advice gathered from the trenches of building intranets, where he learned "the implementation of a CMS is about people and processes, and not about technology."
Robertson wants to arm those people with the proven techniques needed for those processes. His Intranet Roadmap identifies the core activities that generate key designs and deliverables. A wall chart with five vertical timelines James calls "streams" of concurrent activities, the Roadmap provides an excellent starting template if you use project planning software. An accompanying booklet describes all the activities and their supporting techniques, with further online references to learn about each one.
I bought my first copy of Byrne's CMS Report nearly three years ago; it has nearly doubled in size since then (to 315 pages) with important new sections for the enterprise. I decided it was worth it then because I downloaded a free thirty-page sample of its contents from the CMS Watch Web site, and I strongly urge you to do the same. The CMS Report provides a broad-brush palette of the entire CM industry, in the context of other information tools like KM, DM, DAM, DRM, and other acronyms. It helps you establish the need for a CMS, and then warns against major pitfalls he has witnessed in his years of experience. The core content is a detailed look at forty CM systems Byrne has selected as representative, and their underlying technologies.
Vendor selection is the technology end point on your road to a CMS. James Robertson's Requirements Toolkit and Bob Boiko's Metatorial Planner can both be used to cut and paste specific needs into your RFP and make sure they get covered in your vendor presentations. Martin White has invaluable advice on how to conduct those presentations.I advise all my clients to buy one at least one of these tools and then make it the foundation for the CMS process. Are they worth it? You bet!