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Content Collaboration Software: Evaluation Criteria and Process

With limited developer resources, IT will need to help business stakeholders set realistic expectations of content collaboration software.

While developing the Enterprise Content Collaboration Platforms Buyer’s Guide, my research involved a number of use cases and the tools an organization would need to create and manage the complete end-to-end content creation processes for those use cases. In a practical sense, most of those platforms would need some degree of custom development and integration with third-party applications to deliver a true end-to-end content collaboration software solution for most use cases. 

For example, many organizations have a process in marketing for requesting the development and distribution of content. There’s typically an online form the requester completes, which generates a confirmation email and kicks off a workflow of tasks associated with the project--essentially, a help desk application that helps marketers on different teams create and distribute content. Like many IT help desk applications, this request likely does not connect to the systems that ultimately drive the fulfillment of the request.

The reason this doesn’t happen is simple: The opportunity cost of fully automating that workflow through customization and integration is too high in the face of more compelling development needs. If an end user needs access to one of the hundreds of corporate systems, it is far easier to track the request in one system and have the administrator swivel to the application console in another.   

In the marketing use case, even if the request works in a system where stakeholders can share, edit and approve content, more often than not someone copies and pastes the content into some other system--such as a CRM system that sends out email offers or a web content management application that manages the corporate website.

This metaphorical last mile breakdown in the process can happen for any of a number of reasons. Licensing may not be flexible enough and may encompass lower-cost roles for requesters and approvers versus power users. The final application in the workstream may lack the content co-editing tools or be too difficult to use for the infrequent user. Maybe the organization is too nervous to grant broad access to a web content management system out of fear someone will accidentally push content live before it’s ready.

Integration and customization certainly create issues for almost every IT organization. With limited developer resources, most organizations forgo integrating applications because they don’t want to incur the costs for internal facing applications. While initial development can be expensive, managing the impact of change in the future can be an even greater burden. The same can be said for customization: The burden of change management eventually gets too high, especially when companies end up phasing out applications after 10 years.  

It shouldn’t be this difficult, however. Some of the vendors featured in the Enterprise Content Collaboration Platforms Buyer’s Guide have different pricing metrics to accommodate use cases other than named user licenses. When evaluating solutions, negotiate licensing terms that fit your use case, either by defining user tiers or looking for metric-based pricing.

In addition, provide feedback on ease of use and training tools during the evaluation phase. The vendor may have short video tutorials to help infrequent users complete tasks. Finally, look for solutions that use configuration and no-code development to customize the user interface, workflows and integration with third-party applications. 

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