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Managing Web ContentManaging Web content

By Kim Ann Zimmermann

Web sites today are rich in content and transactional in nature--a trend that has prompted the integration of content management systems with Web development software, according to industry observers.

“Companies don’t want to have to have one software to manage content and then have a separate system to develop and deploy Web pages,” says James Smith, president of Octigon. “Hopefully, a company’s Web presence today is not the same six months or a year from now. To be able to respond to these changes requires more than just content management. Content management has to be married with Web development and deployment technology.”

The company’s Octane8 is said to enable users of all skill levels to create, deploy and maintain large, database-driven Web sites, intranets, extranets and portals. It offers an advanced development tool for developers, a deployment and maintenance platform for the IS department and a content management system for both technical and non-technical staff.

“Companies are looking to create Web sites that have more functionality and more sophistication," Smith says. "They want to put up things such as the ability to sign up for electronic newsletters, searchable archives, polls and surveys. They also want to publish manuals and perform skills testing, especially on their intranets, and that requires content management as well as Web development capabilities.”

The software has some preconfigured standard pages, such as frequently asked questions (FAQs), auctions, classifieds, employee directory, help desk and job postings. “This enables some of the non-technical people in a company to not only manage the content but to be able to build some of the pages,” he says.

In the financial field, content needs to be updated frequently and managed effectively. Gruntal & Co (gruntal.com), a 121-year-old investment firm, is using Octigon’s Web-enablement platform to develop and maintain a new company intranet for its 1,200 employees.

The intranet services 10 departments—including Gruntal’s 700 brokers--providing them with breaking news and current financial data. Gruntal required diverse functionality throughout the enterprise so that various departments have the information they need to make informed business decisions. The size of the organization requires that personnel contribute time-sensitive information to the intranet site on a continuous basis, while the nature of Gruntal’s business demands advanced security and tight content control.

“We were originally looking to do things on our own,” says Mark Dephtereos, Gruntal assistant VP, Internet services. “Then we explored various avenues, most involved outsourcing development, but the development time, costs and ROI weren’t even comparable. Octane8 made the most sense.”

The software's ability to address application development, functionality deployment and content management through one platform was key to the decision to choose the technology, adds Dephtereos.

A vignette

United Technologies Corp., which owns Hamilton Sundstrand, one of the world's largest suppliers of technologically advanced aerospace and industrial products, as well as Carrier and Otis Elevator, is looking to standardize on its Web content management system across the enterprise. The goal is to provide Hamilton Sundstrand content owners with the ability to easily update the site using familiar tools, thereby freeing the IT staff to focus on larger technical issues.

Hamilton Sundstrand is deploying content management solutions from Vignette (vignette.com) to manage its corporate Web site. The site is divided into three distinct areas for aerospace products, aerospace customer service and business solutions. Detailed product information is available for customers and prospects, while the customer service portion of the site provides contact information to customers divided by product and geography.

"Our Web site is becoming the tool of choice for many of our customers and partners who need to access product and services information. Vignette solutions are enabling us to better meet their demands for instant, online access to reliable, up-to-date information," says Cindy Zabinski, director of IT eBusiness at Hamilton Sundstrand.

As more non-technical staff are involved in updating content to the Web site, workflow is becoming a key issue. For example, Progressive Information Technologies’ (pit-magnus.com) Vasont content management system offers a graphical workflow feature that allows the creation of simple to complex workflow patterns to establish due dates and complex business logic. The system also enables the management of workflow and content processing in a Web browser environment. The Web applications allow for peer review and digital asset management capabilities.

Often, content that is used for the Web is also used for other media. For instance, a clothing company might put a picture of its latest design on its Web site, but also needs to manage that picture and associated content for a print catalog. Vasont offers the ability to repurpose content across multiple media, including print, CD-ROM, Web and wireless applications.

The McGraw-Hill Companies selected Vasont to manage and publish the content of its "Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment" (CMDT) publication. "Because we publish CMDT annually and it provides updated information on more than 1,000 diseases and disorders, we needed a content management system that would save us from manually revising and then repurposing every piece of content, and would ensure that the data is always accurate," says John Williams, McGraw-Hill's VP of editing services. "Vasont addresses our content management issues and, unlike other content management systems we evaluated, enables us to instantaneously cross-media publish CMDT to the Web, print and CD-ROM."

The ability to manage content for use in a number of different outlets is the focus of several other content management systems, including Obtree () and REd Dot Solutions.

Obtree’s C4 provides the ability to update multiple copies of content from a single location simultaneously, eliminating the need to update individual text or photos that appear in different areas. The software’s archiving and auditing functions make it easier to find and reuse Web content in a CD or a print brochure, for example.In its latest release, RedDot Solutions added a Media Catalog, sold as an add-on feature to the RedDot CMS, to provide a digital asset management system for administering the implementation of media files in RedDot projects. It's appropriate for customers with large amounts of user placed images or rich media file types on their Web sites, intranets or extranets.

Users can view images categorized by thumbnails, attributes and other file information, such as image size, upload date and author. JPG/GIF/BMP/PNG files produce thumbnails automatically, while other file types assign predefined thumbnails.

Kim Ann Zimmermann is a free-lance writer, 732-636-3612, e-mail kimzim2764@yahoo.com

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