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content management system – a definition

You will not find a definition of Content Management System in a dictionary. If you instead take the standard definitions of the individual words, content, management, and system, you will end up with a combined meaning broad enough to encompass just about every computer software application and plenty of non-computerised processes as well.

This breadth of meaning explains why Content Management System (CMS) is such a confusing term and why so many product niches claim to be CMS. Lets face it, your email program is a CMS, so is your mobile phone and for that matter so is the bag you take to work (although mine isn't all that systematic).

We can give
Vignette much of the credit for Content Management System's current association with managing website content and it is along these lines that we will also define CMS. You are most likely to find that this is becoming the most colloquially accepted definition of CMS in at least the IT centric world.

The Komodo definition of Content Management System is ...

"A software solution used to create, maintain and control a website"

On a side note, you will struggle to find another definition that does not contain the words Content, or Management, or System reused within the definition itself, such is the challenge of producing a meaningful description.

For the remainder of this page, we are discussing software applications, usually resident on a web server, that are primarily to allow organisations to create, maintain, control and otherwise manage the content of their internet sites, including extranets, intranets and other IP based information delivery (such as mobile phones and other wireless devices).

As we progress, we will define what is available, what CMS is meaningful to your organisation, and how do you determine the right product (if any).

If you are interested in exploring definitions further, the following are some of the better resources in this area …

James Robertson, Step Two Designs, CM Briefing: Definition of Information Management Terms

Frank Gilbane, The Gilbane Report, Volume 8, Number 8, October 2000: What is Content Management

Tony Byrne, CMS Watch, ‘IM’ Soup: CM vs DM vs KM vs DAM vs SCM vs DRM – Which one is right for you?

Interleaf,, White Paper: XML to Work: Advantages of Content Management (more specifically related to XML and integrated solutions)

If you find another site exploring these issues in a meaningful way, please email