Making the most of your web presence

Content Management Systems (CMS) are typically used by public sector clients to provide devolved publishing, to enable the fast and inexpensive maintenance of their website or to provide an effective internal collaborative and communications tool via the corporate intranet. They are seen as the tool to craft their web content in the same way a carpenter uses a lathe to turn wood. Most public sector clients have now gone further, driven by the need to lower cost and improve front line services and at minimum are providing basic one-way interactions using electronic forms and polls. Some are providing transactional sites whereby customers are able to find information and also order or pay for services. This means integrating the CMS with legacy back office systems. The CMS has been developed to incorporate the features of an Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) so that content can be originated in the back office in the EDRMS and then automatically published on the website via the CMS. This means all digital assets, documents, graphics etc besides being securely stored and managed for easy utilisation for web content.

Two way interaction
Improved technology and skills along with greater trust in web based applications from users and staff has enabled two-way interactions via the website to flourish with the adoption of customer self-service applications against the less cost effective channels such as telephone and face-to-face meetings. Live text chat and ratings are only just being truly explored as viable alternatives/supplements to traditional channels of interaction. The reliability of cross-browsed rich content is also allowing for accelerated production of an ever increasing range of solutions.
There is now an acceptance that although the CMS must still have an intuitive and consistent user interface to assist unskilled staff in its use, the real change is in engaging with the customer. Organisations must exchange ‘hats’ to take into account the publics’ everyday experience and expectations. This is being increasingly driven by the social media facilities such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube that are now being used to embrace new ways to get in front of a bigger more representative audience in a more natural way. They can be proactive inviting visitors to subscribe to their social media facility and to receive e-mail alerts. The information from the organisation can appear as part of that subscribers information feed and hence be available to them without their having to actively seek out their website. This ensures the content/message is more likely to be seen by their target audience whilst giving added kudos to ‘being cool’, especially with the younger generation.
The above social media facilities do not replace or integrate directly in all cases but augment the solutions a CMS provides. The future will likely be dictated by the next poster child of social media. The ability to exploit these will define the future of CMS. It is still early days to show whether integrating these features truly provide a return but there is no doubt it enables a conventionally formal content provider to appear to be trendy and engaging which previously was often seen as a barrier for many public sector clients.

User trends
The more progressive public sector organisations realise that it is insufficient for their web sites to be basic receptacles of information and are analysing the visitor statistics and effectiveness of the media, e.g. is the visit to find out what’s going on or do they only visit when they need specific information or to communicate with the organisation? Arguably the latter would be the most likely answer. The positive trend is to utilise a CMS that provides the facility for the content to be entered once and then automatically classified and published in a multiple of formats. The most obvious is providing a graphical interface by integrating with GIS and mapping systems the CMS can present appropriate information on a map e.g. showing the nearest schools, hospitals, clinics etc.
CMS solutions will have to adapt to provide additional/extended facilities to allow their output to be used by the ever expanding range of mobile devices.
There is already capability to have a two way dialog with mobile phones/notebooks, e.g. remote staff can look at content, documents or e-mails and approve them or be tasked with work to do and report back on the status. The public can report incidents by text and receive text alerts about topics of interest. These devices are more capable in terms of presentation technology, however, the traditional navigation methods are less effective and these devices are introducing new ways of interacting with the content that may mean a re-evaluation of the way that web sites are designed and the functionality they will need to provide.

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