Content management grows up

Baltimore County, Md.

Baltimore County, Md., has found a comfort zone after its growing pains with Web site content management.

When county officials first ventured into managing Web site content four years ago, it wasn't easy. "We did content management when content management was much more painful," said Thomas Iler, director of the county's information technology office.

Following a competitive bid, the county selected Site Executive, a system developed by Maryland-based Systems Alliance Inc. The first generation of Site Executive was not very user-friendly, Iler said, so officials began to look at other content management packages late last year.

In the end, they decided to implement an upgraded version of the Site Executive software because of cost and ease-of-use benefits. In about six to eight months, the county plans to add a Site Executive intranet version as well, he said.

Systems Alliance, which offers integration and consulting services, first unveiled Site Executive in 1998 and earlier this year came out with Version 3.0. Mike Boyle, the company's product manager, said the product is used by about 60 public- and private-sector organizations, 35 percent of which are state and local users.

In addition to Baltimore County, the company this year signed up Anne Arundel County, Md., and the Maryland Department of Transportation as clients. The content management system is also being implemented for a federal customer, but Boyle declined to name the agency.

While the market is quite competitive, he said Site Executive's strengths lie in its ease of use, quick implementation timeframe, scalability and intuitive training. "There's not the typical amnesia of 'how do I do this again,'" he said.

Iler said it took about five days to train users on the first generation of Site Executive, but training on the upgrade takes about four hours. Such ease of use was a key feature in deciding to stick with Site Executive, but he said cost was another factor, especially with added services and modules, such as a calendar component, agency e-mail updates, and newsletters to customers or residents about events or progress. The cost makes Site Executive competitive with products offered by "tier one companies," he added.

But "a good tool doesn't necessarily mean you have a good site," he said. "You still need a good architecture. [Site Executive] allows you to put out standard templates that have a consistency to it." Boyle said the product is useful to public-sector, health and higher-education organizations because it provides a common platform for sites that are information-rich but contain unstructured content. The product also addresses Section 508 compliance, a law requiring federal agencies to purchase only technologies that can be used by people with disabilities.

Initial licensing prices begin at $25,000 and are tied to the number of physical machines on which Site Executive is registered, he added.

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