This column, a continuation in the series on high-end campaign management, looks at workflow and content management capabilities of a high-end campaign manager.

Workflow tracks development and approval of individual objects such as promotion pieces or campaign plans. It resembles project management in identifying tasks, assigning responsibilities and tracking completion. In fact, simple workflow is sometimes accomplished by setting up "approval" tasks within a project template.

However, true workflow goes much further. It includes the ability to define process flows for the objects, assign roles and authority levels to individuals and functions, capture and distribute comments, and incorporate business rules such as requiring a more senior manager to sign-off on higher budget projects. Workflow can also be linked with campaign management to ensure that a program is not executed until it has received all the necessary approvals. This can be an important control function in large operations.

Project management and workflow can be integrated by linking workflow approvals to project management tasks. A good system will update the project management automatically when the approval is received in workflow.

Content management also overlaps with workflow and project management, although it is more concerned with creation, storage and access to objects than tracking their status. As with workflow and project management, the content management functions built into campaign management systems tend to be less sophisticated than standalone content management software. In fact, most companies with significant content management needs will choose to use a dedicated content management system or to use content management functions built into the operational systems that deliver the content. Recognizing this, many campaign management vendors have chosen to integrate with third-party software rather than build their own content managers. However, when the campaign manager itself selects content – such as e-mail templates or customized Web offers – it makes sense to manage that content internally.

The basic function of a content management system is to provide a directory of available content. Systems often attach attributes such as description, approval status and expiration date. Some systems also store additional constraints, such as the geographic areas where an offer is valid or the products that are included. If these attributes are well integrated with the campaign portion of the system, they can be used to ensure the proper content is associated with each campaign segment.

In some cases, the campaign system searches the attributes to select the most appropriate content in a given situation, rather than simply requesting a specific piece of content defined in advance. This sort of search is helpful when there are many items to choose from and when content changes frequently.

Most content management systems limit users' access to individual items, typically by assigning an individual or department as "owner." The owner then determines what other users are permitted to do. The more powerful systems also usually record who has made changes, store prior versions and track which version has been approved for use. Nearly all systems provide an ability to view content. Many provide basic text editors and other content creation tools, with particular focus on drawing information from the marketing database to create personalized messages. However, sophisticated content creation is usually done outside of the system.

Content management functions in most campaign management systems are designed primarily to generate personalized online offers, either via e-mail or the Web. This is where close integration with campaign management is most valuable, because there may be no other place to check whether the content required by the campaign is actually available. However, content could also refer to direct mail copy, TV ads, call center scripts or other media.

A few campaign management systems include content management functions to track physical inventory such as printed brochures. The capabilities tend to be fairly limited compared with what's needed for a serious inventory management system. They are generally aimed at small-scale operations where a sophisticated system is not required.

Next month's column will address calendars, portals, integrated modeling and optimization.

All of David Raab's other columns in this series are available at: http://www.dmreview.com/master.cfm? NavID=152&authorID=491.

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