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Refresh Your CMS: Four Ways to Improve Your Current System

Content management system problems may be less about the system and more about processes, misconfiguration and obsolescence. 

by Jeff Hansen

We help a lot of clients as they select new web content management systems (WCMS).  During interviews with stakeholders and system users, one refrain that we hear over and over again is how much they dislike their current system. Digging a little deeper ("five whys" style), the root cause tends to be less about the "bones" of the system itself and more about broken business processes, misconfiguration, and obsolescence. 

The end result of a number of these selection projects has been a decision to stick with the same vendor.  Why buy a new house when a deep clean and a new coat of paint will get you what you want? 

Before you ditch your current system, here are four things that you can do right now to make people fall back in love with your current WCMS.


Unless you just bought your WCMS, you're probably not on the latest major version of the software.  We don't suggest that companies always stay on the bleeding edge, but if you're two or more major versions behind, you're probably missing out on a whole lot of functionality.  Oftentimes your maintenance agreement includes the ability to upgrade to future major versions, so you're paying for them even if you don't upgrade.

Get a demo of the latest version of your current WCMS.  If you disliked certain aspects of the system, it's a pretty good bet that others did too.  Vendors hear that and the good ones take it to heart, so you just might find that a lot of your issues have been addressed.

The two most common reasons for not upgrading are lack of IT capacity and stakeholders not knowing about the benefits of the latest version.  For the former, try building your business case to get IT buy-in, find a vendor certified partner to help, or, the next time you're in the market for a WCMS, consider a cloud-based solution that will always keep you up to date with the latest and greatest version.  For the latter, I suggest that you get to know your vendor a bit better.

Get (Re)acquainted With Your Vendor

When selecting a WCMS, the vendor is at least as important as the software itself.  You're entering into a (hopefully) long-term relationship, so you need to ensure that your vendor's strategy aligns with your needs.  If it's been a while since you talked with the vendor, reach out and get in touch with your account manager or sales rep.  Talk with them about how you're using the product, where you're having trouble, and how they can help you.  Ask them to put you in touch with the product team and certified professional services firms that have proven they can handle the issues that you're facing.  Volunteer to be part of panels or focus groups to inform the product roadmap, and schedule regular conversations to keep up to date with the latest functionality and training.  Investing a little time in the relationship can have huge returns.

Manage Your Content

There's a reason that this is called a "content management system", and not a "content free-for-all system".  Over time, even the best content model begins to break down.  If your web presence has grown quickly and you have a wide content contribution base, it's probably diverged a good bit from what it originally was.  A few activities can help to restore it:

  • Assessing your current content.  Most companies wait until moving to a new system before doing this, but understanding what you have and how it aligns to your content strategy is one of the most important factors in surfacing relevant content.
  • Archiving and deleting obsolete content.  Check what your company retention policies are, but in general companies keep old content around much longer than they need to.
  • Identifying and consolidating duplicate content.  Take a page from software engineering and incorporate the DRY principle (Don't Repeat Yourself).  Find ways to share and reuse common content.  If you've identified the duplicate content but are having a hard time consolidating it, start rethinking your content model.  It's probably outdated for your current needs, and sometimes a small shift can make a huge difference in the amount and complexity of the content that you're managing.

Spread the News

Rewrite (or write) your user manual.  If "user manual" brings up thoughts of a dense stack of paper single-handedly responsible for world-wide deforestation, you're thinking about it the wrong way.

Ask your vendor if the system supports adding custom help information.  A lot of products now allow you to upload short videos or customized help messages to guide your users through common tasks.

Form an internal users group to get people talking and sharing ideas, and find out of there are external user groups in your area that you can publicize.  Use enterprise social functionality to create virtual communities and discussion boards.  Helping users feel competent with the system will increase their sense of ownership, resulting in increased adoption and (the holy grail of WCMS) distributed content contribution.


Of course, sometimes the right answer is to go with a new system.  Maybe your WCMS is no longer being actively developed, or the vendor that you liked so much when you bought the system has been acquired by one that you don't like so much.

Make sure that you conduct a careful assessment that aligns your technology and partnership needs with your business objectives.  A good strategy is essential for picking the right WCMS.

Learn more about our Digital Engagement solutions.

Jeff Hansen
Jeff Hansen
Content Solutions Lead
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