What is a Content Management System

A Content Management System manages the process by which content is created, stored, retrieved, and prepared for distribution. Typical reasons for deploying a CMS include:

  • To streamline or automate an existing process
  • To promote the reuse and repurposing of content
  • To control the distribution of content

To streamline or automate a process: this usually refers to the preparation of content for distribution, but can sometimes refer to the creation of content. Examples of the former include adding author pictures and descriptions, and inserting content into a template to form an HTML page. Examples of the latter include the coordination of multiple authors or an author, fact checker and editor.

Automating the preparation of content for distribution is the bread and butter of a Web CMS. Content is typically stored with a minimum of presentation and inserted into a template to form web pages. The new pages can be displayed on a development site and then pushed to the production site. Entire web sites can be transformed by modifying the template and regenerating the web pages. Many believe that every web site should be managed by a Web CMS.

To promote reuse and repurposing of content: this is best characterized by whether the reuse is planned or ad-hoc. Planned reuse includes the sharing of content between print and web and the syndication of content. Ad-hoc reuse requires sophisticated search capabilities so that the CMS can act as an information repository.

To control the distribution of content: control is the most problematic reason to use a CMS. Control is a good thing when it enforces a valid business requirement. And control is a bad thing when it goes astray. For example, it may be necessary for legal to review some content before it goes on the web site. But if you have legal review everything, then the web site will never change.