A content management system (CMS) is a computer system that facilitates publishing, editing, modifying and maintaining content from one centralized platform.

Essentially, any CMS should
– allow for controlled and well managed data input towards building a system
– allow multiple number of people across pre-set levels to share and make inputs
– facilitate proper storage, retrieval and managing of information
– make the process of information input simple and easy

There are several kinds of CMS – namely Enterprise (ECMS) which helps build information towards an organizational process, Component (CCMS) – which simplifies storage, retrieval and management of data and information and Web Content CMS which is an application that helps create, store, manage and upload content on to web pages.

For marketers today, Web CMS is probably the most talked about topic. Most brand managers come to digital agencies and ask for “a website that uses CMS” hoping that the CMS will give them full control of maintenance down stream. Agencies on the other hand, often dislike using CMS platforms because a lot of them are restrictive. Most good CMS packages are built towards allowing for website content managing by the “non-digital” people on “brand side”. It’s basically for authoring, managing and updating content without having to understand or know programming and markup languages (like HTML).

Most CMS use a database to store information that goes on web pages, to store metadata (information about the page that makes finding it on search engines easy), provides easy to use templates for formatting the content, and simplifies the whole process. It also ideally allows for version controlling, which helps updating and maintaining multiple chronological updates in sequence.

CMS usually has quite a few advantages. It’s often seen as a “one-time” build cost, and a key to freedom from expensive “content update and maintenance contracts”.

A lot of CMS platforms (or the core engines) are free or open source. Digital agencies then go on to customize the packages for their clients. Some of these include Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, TYPO3 etc. The agency usually creates standardized layouts – therefore developing “themes” that the end-user utilizes rather than design from fresh. CMS is built for non-techies, so simplicity of design even at the admin levels (for the brand side people) at the User Interface level is key. And best of all, a good CMS allows for managing content – with publication standards that define who, when, where content is published.

A CMS can be used for developing websites, e-commerce sites, micro sites, intranets, portals and more. Very simply, it’s an online tool that helps in managing and collaborating with a team on how text, photos, music, videos, documents etc can be uploaded and maintained on a brand’s website.