Step 1 Towards a WCMS – Journeys

This will be the first in a series of posts that document the path I took towards developing a Statement of Work, Project Requirements and ultimate selection of a Web Content Management System for my Organization, the Department of Defense Education Activity, DoDEA.


Those of you who know me know that over the past several months I embarked on a new journey. That journey was two fold. First – I began a new job with the Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). After several years of consulting and doing freelance work for various companies I took the plunge towards better job security, benefits, and a “set schedule”. The change hasn’t been all that bad – actually it has been rather good.

I am happy to say that the years I spent consulting has significantly impacted my new role as Webmaster at DoDEA. That said, exposure to the inner workings of a large organization has broadened my perspective. My scope of work has afforded me the opportunity to increase my knowledge. Ready access to knowledgeable IT professionals and other members of “Team DoDEA” has been great for my professional development.

One of the primary tasks for which I was hired was to develop a statement of work and project requirements for a high tier enterprise content management system (CMS). Having developed a simple CMS of my own (simplePanel – in use at UnitedMania.com) I jumped at the opportunity to work on such a project. That brings me to the second part my journey – the road towards a WCMS.

Being only days away from completing the initial leg of my WCMS journey I find it necessary to do a brief review of the steps I took in order to reach this point. I decided to post this chronology mostly for myself, but also so that if by chance someone else may stumble upon this entry, they too can benefit from the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

I’m going to break this up into a series of posts that spell out what it is I did — from conception, to delivery of my statement of work, to procurement/selecting a vendor. Along the way I’ll point you to the resources I used and let you know how useful they were in helping me with the process.

So, here it goes:

Step 1 – Where are you?

Chances are you already know where you stand within your organization and already know what path you may take to move ahead. I, unfortunately, did not. I began at DoDEA in mid May, and had only a broad sense of what the organization did and how it was structured. I also had a vague and broad view of where DoDEA wanted to go. I knew that I needed to dive deep into DoDEA to get a grasp of where we were so that I could map a plan on how to move ahead.

I first looked to establish working relationships with those folks who would ultimately be involved in the deployment of whatever CMS we selected. It was very important to me to do this because then I could tap into additional sources of knowledge within the organization that knew exactly where we had been. This was also a prime opportunity to involve them on where we were going – thereby making them active participants in the process.

Leaning on my colleagues also helped me to understand what resources we had at our disposal. Furthermore, it was at this stage that I learned more about the history of DoDEA. My colleagues provided me with a broad assessment of what content needed to be targeted for the CMS deployment – allowing me to gauge the initial scope of our project.

Here is my initial list:

  1. IT – I identified who was the key decision maker and asked him to please point me in the right direction within his staff – who would I work with? who could speak for him and provide input during the process? It’s important to identify the correct individual(s) early on so that they know what you are doing and how it will affect their work flow.
  2. Communications – It was important to identify who the key authors for structured web content were in my organization. I involved those individuals early on in the process, and personally took the time to gain an understanding of how they produced their content. Having this information was invaluable in creating specific sections of the SoW.
  3. Subject Matter Experts (SME) – While it may prove to be considerably difficult to identify all of the SMEs, it is important you at least find one or two individuals who will contribute documents and content. SMEs can provide valuable input on how they do things and how they would expect a CMS to work. SME’s will be valuable players during the WCMS selection process.
  4. Other Webmasters – Tapping into the knowledge of other webmasters and site managers within the corporate structure ensures that the SoW and requirements document addressed all of their concerns. Involving the people in “the trenches” from the beginning was critical and will hopefully ensure that the deployment of the selected WCMS is smooth.
  5. Procurement – DoDEA has very specific guidelines and procedures that must be met in the procurement process. Make sure you involve your procurement department right off the bat, they will provide input that no one else will, making your work (and theirs) much easier in the long run.
  6. Organization’s Leadership – While I did not involve my agency’s leadership at each and every stage, I did make sure I kept them informed of my progress. At each “milestone” during the initial development of the SoW and requirements document I briefed my hierarchy on my progress and asked for a “green light” to proceed. It is critical that top-level leaders give their “buy in” from the beginning to ensure the staff follows without objection.

My next post will cover the initial research, and how I came up with a list of requirements for the Statement of Work. I encourage you to please comment and let me know what you think.

Resources:

In order to maintain a good line of communication with the involved players I set up a BaseCamp project site

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