Content management reduces load on IT

By Jack Beaudoin
12:00 AM

Horizon Healthcare Services of New Jersey embraced the Web as a means of providing quick communications among its 5,000 employees. Unfortunately, the payer organization's love affair with the medium almost proved a fatal attraction as the cost of helping employees publish skyrocketed.

"We needed to deliver more timely and relevant information to our stakeholders," recalled Joe Vaccarella, Horizon's e-business senior project manager. "But we were limited by our IT staff's time and availability. We needed to let our users publish directly to the Web."

End-user publishing had been more of a promise than reality. Under its Web management contract, changing or adding content to Horizon's internal portal required going to the vendor, requesting changes and providing documentation of approvals up some very steep chains of command. By the time information was published, it was already seriously dated.

"It was a very arduous process just to put up a minor change," Vaccarella said. By 2001, Horizon decided to deploy a content management system that would permit users to publish updates and create new pages on the portal without going through the IT department or calling on the vendor. It chose Eprise, now owned by SilkRoad Technology.

"It was worlds away from other (content management systems) that are very expensive and very bulky," Vaccarella explained. "It was exactly what it promised – it worked right out of the box with minimal user training."

"Eprise's signature quality is ease of use," says Silk Road executive vice president Brian Platz. Among its 1,000 customers in North America, Europe and Asia, 82 percent report that the product performs as good or better than expected. About 56 percent give the system the highest possible ranking, the company reports.

"Thirty day implementation times are not uncommon," Platz says. The company's philosophy is that they sell a service, not software, so SilkRoad takes responsibility for integrating Eprise with existing applications, assisting with the technical installation, maintaining service and keeping both hardware and software up to date. "We believe that within 10 years, a lot more software will be sold this way… We see a move away from infrastructure products and into 'out-of-the-box' applications."

Eprise incorporates that philosophy in a number of ways. Installation, Platz says, is as simple as loading new software onto a Windows desktop, and can be completed in a couple of hours. Because business users, not IT staff, are presumed to be the authors of most published information, Eprise integrates with business applications such as popular word processors and spread sheets. When users want to update a page, they only have to browse to it instead of navigating through file directories and trees.

Permission to edit or add a page is rule- and role-based, so users can only contribute to the pages they are authorized to change. The application can even generate a new site using a wizard.

Vaccarella said that adoption was slow at first, as if Horizon employees didn't believe that they could now update information without going through IT. However, as publishing requirements diminished, the IT staff took on more development duties, creating a number of new applications that they never anticipated. For instance, the company recently stopped sending pay stubs through the mail to employees with direct deposit.

"We don't have the ROI on that yet," Vaccarella said, "because we just implemented it a few months ago. But after a year, I'm sure we'll have good numbers from that use alone."