Assessing the State of Your Content: Applying the Content Management System Maturity Model

Every organization has a system for managing the content it produces. It may be undocumented and fragmented, with storage and processes determined by individual users; or it may be a full-fledged, highly-integrated component content management system that manages everything from versions, to source and target languages to style sheets. There’s a good chance your organization’s content management system lies somewhere in between. So, before you can decide how you can improve your content management practices and get on the road to implementing or enhancing your content management system solution, you need to assess where your organization stands—what kind of content do you have, where is it located, and how is it currently managed? Answering these critical questions is essential to determining your content maturity.

We’ve developed this content management system maturity model to help you determine how well you manage your content right now.  By following it, you’ll be able to evaluate the flexibility and efficiency of your work processes and tools when it comes to content management.

Rank your organization in each area to determine your overall maturity level and identify areas where you or your tools can improve. If you score poorly on flexibility and efficiency, a good consultant can help you move towards maturity. And if your CMS is incapable of some of this functionality, then it may be time to change systems.

content management system maturity model

This maturity model identifies the maturity of your content management system using three dimensions each of which has some specific criteria:

  • Storage
  • Efficiency
  • Flexibility

The Storage Dimension

In assessing the storage dimension of your content maturity, you first need to identify the locations and formats of your content. Is it stored in local hard drives, network share drives, an existing CMS, or some combination? You will also need to identify the various formats content is stored in, including obsolete or proprietary formats, and which users have access to what content.

When reviewing content storage, inventory or content audit processes should be examined. Do you know what content exists? If you had to find it right now, could you? How are shared locations monitored, and what kind of version control exists? This aspect includes understanding how users link existing content together. If you’ve implemented a CMS, you may have better processes for identifying broken links or managing relative linking (linking not dependent on the physical location of content).

A complete assessment of the storage dimension of your system also includes looking at how you plan for storage capacity and usage. In low maturity organizations, little to no planning is done by content strategist(s), so understanding how to maximize content capacity is often left to the IT team. Higher maturity teams have a system that accommodates reporting on usage and storage so that a content strategist has a better understanding of how usage trends will impact the overall system.

Content Management System Efficiency

Content management systems must encompass the entire content lifecycle, from creation through the distribution and retirement (deletion or permanent archiving), and efficiency in processes is critical. A system that incorporates manual, duplicate or unnecessary processes wastes resources, from the time of the staff assigned to content management, to the technology and tools that must be purchased to support them.

The first of the efficiency criteria is automation. Low maturity organizations have mostly manual processes, requiring multiple steps to initiate, create, review and produce content outputs. Mature organizations automate as many of the processes as possible without sacrificing quality. Organizations at the middle levels typically have begun identifying gaps and bottlenecks in manual processes, and look the technology to help streamline them. As a result, older content is more easily identified, and all content is more findable.

Most organizations find that content translation is a critical factor in achieving their business objectives. In low maturity organizations, translation occurs completely outside of the content management system, with multiple transfers of files (and unstable version control) adding to the risk factors and cost in translations. Mature organizations integrate both processes and technology into the CMS so that translation is managed efficiently as part of the content creation and production workflows.

Consistent branding across all channels for all content epitomizes an organization with a mature content management system. In lower maturity organizations, templates are designed and inconsistently managed by the output file format, and applying consistent branding requires significant rework and testing to accommodate. Well implemented CMS tools allow authors to manage look-and-feel centrally, while applying globally (which incidentally reduces QA resource requirements and subsequent rework).


Flexibility dimensionFor most content management and technical communication practitioners, the ideal content management system can easily achieve two objectives: COPE (Create Once-Publish Everywhere) and Custom Content on Demand. The high maturity organization meets these objectives by building maximum flexibility into the system (tools and processes).

Creating custom output in low maturity organizations is typically difficult and time consuming. Authors must take time to locate and copy and paste existing content to a new document, or create the content from scratch if they cannot locate usable existing content. As organizations mature, their CMS tools not only store content centrally in XML format, they provide for easy production of a variety of outputs using the same content.

Use of metadata can streamline production of content (as well as revision and storage).  In low maturity organizations, metadata may consist of timestamps and authors, or if additional metadata is used, it’s often limited to specific documents created by authors knowledgeable in structured authoring best practices. As organizations mature, they become proficient in planning and applying metadata consistently across all content, so that it can be used to drive outputs of custom content as needed and make content findable by authors and users alike.

When combined with effective metadata, the application of consistent business rules provides optimal flexibility and consistency of output across channels and on demand. Analyzing business requirements, developing rules around creation, storage and production of content, and integrating those rules into the CMS ensures that your content is performing at the highest level.

Content Management System Maturity Model

We’ve summarized the CMS Maturity Model into the following grid to help you visualize your current processes, and provide starting points for planning to move up to the next level.

Storage | Efficiency | Flexibility

Level 1: Very Low

Level 2: Low

Level 3: Medium

Level 4: High

Location & Formats


Valuable information is stored multiple shared and restricted network drives, device drives or rudimentary systems. File formats include Word documents, email threads, wikis, spreadsheets, and PDFs.

Most content is stored in a shared location, such as a network shared drive or a SharePoint repository. Content formats include Word, PDFs, Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, and unstructured FrameMaker, and various graphic file formats. Linking between documents is often broken.

Most content is stored in a CCMS in XML format. Some customization of the CCMS to make processes faster and more efficient. Linking between documents rarely breaks.

All content is stored in a CCMS in XML format with comprehensive metadata. The CCMS is customized so authors can quickly search/filter by category or find specific assets. Linking is always relative and never breaks.

Inventory Control

No content audits have been performed to determine lifespan, security or access requirements. Little to no version control on any file formats.

Content inventory or audits are performed sporadically or at only a device or department level.

CCMS functionality for tracking and version control is used.

The system is set up to follow business rules for review and disposition of content.


Reporting on storage capacity and usage is nonexistent or limited.

Limited knowledge of overall storage needs.
Reporting on usage and storage capacity is limited.

Some reporting on usage and capacity takes place between IT and content-producing departments.

The system can produce standard and ad hoc reports on usage, capacity and more.



Most processes are manual or semi-automated and inconsistently applied. Significant effort required to locate, update, review, and share content,

Authors can, with effort, find content and update it, but content is still occasionally “lost” when a resource retires or moves. Older content is not easily validated and periodic review processes may not exist or are not followed consistently.

Most content creation and updates are semi-automated or automated, improving speed and efficiency.

CCMS is tied into the enterprise, and automatically kicks off workflow for content creation and updates. Authors can switch projects easily when required.


Translation is handled as a completely separate process from creation and requires multiple file transfers into and out of systems. No terminology management processes in place.

Translation processes are usually separate and highly manual. Terminology management is minimal.
No connections between source and target languages are maintained within the system.

Review and translation processes are semi-automated, with some manual effort for authors (such as coordinating PDF file reviews and updates).

Reviewing and translating content is fast and efficient, and all but actual translation is fully automated, and it is easy to see what content has been modified since last translated.  Connections between source language and translated languages are maintained.

Branding / Look and Feel

Branding/look and feel differs from document to document. Updates to standard formatting guidelines or templates are difficult and time consuming to create and apply.

Look and feel is semi-automated (for example, automatic style import but manual QA) and can only be done per document. Updates to look and feel of previously published content require re-publishing.

Updates to the look and feel of the deliverables are managed centrally and applied globally, but require re-publishing to apply updates to previously published content.

Updates to the look and feel of the deliverables are managed centrally and applied globally, even to already published content.


Custom Content

Creating custom content outputs (for a specific kind of user or a specific client) is highly manual including document creation, design, and styles.

Creating content for a specific kind of user or specific client requires creating a separate document.

Custom outputs are possible but not well planned, often resulting in continual rework of custom content.

Authors can create custom content on-demand with little extra effort.


Little or no metadata has been applied to support organizing or producing content outputs.

Some basic metadata may be identified, but application is inconsistent leading to frequent rework

Metadata has been identified but not sufficiently planned or consistently applied throughout the CMS.

All content, including graphics, is fully marked up with metadata, making them quickly findable by authors and users.

Business Rules

Business rules for creating, updating or producing output have not been identified.

Some business rules may be identified, but are inconsistently and or manually applied.

Business rules have been identified, but not completely integrated within the CMS.

Business rules are integrated into the CMS and can be modified as needed.


Towards Improving Your Content Management Maturity

As you rank your organization using the matrix above, you may find that your organization crosses some levels. It’s possible to be a mix of Level 1 and Level 2 or a mix of Level 3 and 4, but other combinations would be rare probably because the maturity of the overall organization is an important driver of maturity of systems and processes.

The key to achieving a high rating on the maturity model through efficiency and flexibility is having your content in XML format and stored in a CCMS. Understanding where your organization is in terms of content maturity is the first step towards making the improvements in processes and technology. We encourage you to review and download our tools for selecting a CCMS technology and calculating ROI as part of effort to build a business case for CCMS.

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