What are the critical CMS capabilities for a citizen-centric website?
Choosing the right Content Management System (CMS) has always been instrumental in the success of any organisation’s digital services. But today, with the citizens of all ages expecting more from digital services than ever before, choosing the right website platform has never been so vital to encourage people to use your digital services and drive efficiencies.
New devices, technologies and apps are constantly emerging, making the task of digital transformation even more arduous for public sector organisations trying to keep up with consumer’s digital demands. So in 2018 and beyond what exactly should a public sector service be looking for in a CMS?
In this blog I will take a look at the long list of requirements – and where public sector organisations tell us they hit the wall – to highlight those critical capabilities project teams should be aware of before adopting a CMS.
1. A user-centric admin interface
First things first. Everybody on your team needs to feel comfortable using the new CMS, and be able to efficiently carry out their work. A friendly user interface that presents the various members of a team with the access and functionality they need to carry out their role is paramount.
This also extends to the content editor, where communications and web personnel are often the most regular users – requiring fast and streamlined workflows. Features like bulk image uploading, drag-and-drop page building and simple formatting tools will all help make it easier and more efficient to write and publish content such as blogs or press releases and publish to all relevant channels.
For larger organisations, the ability for the IT team to author templates and workflows for each role within the organisation will help remove IT / web team bottlenecks, and also ensure the website(s) have a consistent structure and look and feel at the source.
2. Asset Management
A CMS shouldn’t just be capable of uploading, downloading and storing assets. It should also make it easy for your team to search through those assets in order to find what they’re looking for.
Much thought is given to the structure of public-facing parts of a website, but the experience of those staff accessing the site is also vitally important. A proper content strategy and taxonomy will make it easier and more efficient for users to update a document such as a pdf because that document can be found easily according to its metadata, taxonomy information and if appropriate workflow status (is it approved / final?).
With a proper content strategy and taxonomy, the right CMS encourages reuse of content and makes auditing and archiving and data management manageable over time.
3. Collaboration And Workflows
Having a strong content editor is important, but most content workflows start several stages before a piece of content is updated or new content published. At some point, that content needs to be entered into the CMS and prepared in the necessary format for publishing. Workflow and Collaboration capabilities can further streamline operations and reduce subsequent edits and fixes to live content by taking at least part of this process inside the CMS.
For example, the web team may wish to enable an administrator to revise a page that details a service for citizens which must be reviewed by a compliance officer before it is published. Alternatively, an external contractor could post an update that is then reviewed for style and messaging by the communications team they publish. If you have a Document Management System or storage system, consider whether your CMS will integrate the functionality you need.
4. Omni-channel delivery & personalisation
Being able to deliver your content and engage audiences across devices and channels is an uphill struggle for many public sector entities. Consumers already expect content on their smartphones and tablets, but their expectations are also growing for a wider range of channels such as smart home assistants (Amazon Echo, Google Home).
The starting point is to ensure your CMS (and the theme you use) can deliver content effectively via a web browser using Responsive Web Design approach (for example Bootstrap) or Adaptive Web Design approach (optimised at the server for the device).
If your project needs to provide a high degree of interaction then a mobile app or hybrid web/app approach may be required to deliver the quality of user experience required. A headless CMS is able to decouple the management of content from its presentation and offers an efficient way to deliver content to any channel.
Another important way to improve the citizen's experience is personalisation. If service users receive only information that is relevant to their area, about the services they use and in their chosen format/ language/channels then they will more engaged and adoption will increase. Personalisation is a fast-moving area of technology development, so be sure to evaluate the CMS personalization engine and roadmap. Can it help segment, understand and tailor customer experiences across those channels? This article will help you learn more about delivering personalised content.
Compliance mandates accessibility – to generalise each citizen must receive equal quality of service, regardless of their age, language or other demographic.
But budget holders must wring out efficiencies and reusability. This suggests fewer sites, less complexity, lower operational costs.
These are just some of the priorities to juggle at the coal face. Here, you may need to look at multiple sites to cater for different audiences or serve different public-facing entities. For example, if two local councils share services they may each need a public facing site or homepage that displays relevant announcements, information, services and branding but the self-service portal could be shared and accessed by both groups of residents.
By building multiple websites, each with their own domain name on the same platform, the relevant services and content can be reused across the two sites and the IT and hosting resources managed centrally. For example, the New South Wales Department for Education provides public websites for 2,044 schools from a single platform.
Where services need to be delivered in two languages, also look at the localisation requirement – multi-site is one option if the content is unique to that audience, else built-in multi-language capabilities can help to serve multiple versions of a page if a significant amount of content must be served in multiple languages.
The elephant in the room
With the essentials out the way, let's turn our focus to the one area that differentiates a good website from a great citizen experience: integration.
Integration helps in two key areas. Firstly, a CMS with a strong set of integrations will help you keep up to date with new opportunities. “Login with Facebook” might simplify login as an off-the-shelf plugin, but it’s probably not the security and identity management you actually need. Can you integrate system x,y,z?
To transform the user experience and achieve the sort of channel shift most public services require it’s essential to connect the back office systems staff use every day. So, an organisation using SAP to manage finance or a CRM system to coordinate across teams must draw the required information from these systems to deliver useful and actionable information for self-service portals.
A proprietary platform that does not allow you to build custom applications and integrate the systems of record upon which public services are administered will only hinder your digital transformation, as your developers will need to bridge the gap between the systems (or worse still wait for a solution from the vendor).
The bottom line? No integration, no transformation.
Choosing a CMS has always been a delicate task, but in 2018 and beyond, you need to consider the demands of the consumer — which is precisely why integration with other systems and open standards is so vital.
So, my advice is to get these essentials covered, and then focus on perfecting the front-end user interfaces. Because if your project is lacking foundations, you’ll need to develop custom applications or finance other tools to plug the glaring gaps before you get a chance to transform experiences.