February 21, 2013By Peter Day
In “FIM R2 Best Practices Volume 1″ David Lundell and Brad Turner set out to provide a thorough introduction to the architecture and installation of Forefront Identity Manager 2010 R2. The book was originally published in 2010 for the original release of the product, but has been republished in 2012 for the new R2 version. There are helpful alerts throughout the book that highlight where things have changed in the R2 version.
The book starts off with a brief discussion of the challenges of Identity Management in general and then goes straight into a discussion of the history and architecture of Forefront Identity Manager 2010 (FIM). This includes a brief mention of the interesting BHOLD suite of products that supports features such as Role-Based Access Control (RBAC) and attestation, though unfortunately BHOLD is not covered again later in the book.
There is a good chapter on the possible topologies for a FIM implementation that covers the topic in a very accessible way, with plenty of diagrams and tables to illustrate key points. Along the way the authors bring in their knowledge of Microsoft SQL Server 2008 where that helps to illustrate a FIM topic or procedure. There is also a chapter on sizing FIM for those working in very large environments already, or for those who expect their organization might grow greatly over time – some choices you have to make affect whether you will be able to scale out your solution in the future and these are highlighted for you.
Also included is a whole in-depth chapter on the pre-requisites of what you need to get installed and configured before you even start to install FIM 2010 R2. The chapters on installing the pre-requisites and FIM itself both have plenty of screen shots and illustrations to help you visualize the process and link the book with what you see yourself during your own installation.
Much of what is in the book may be available in different places on the web, however the authors do a great job of pulling relevant information together into a coherent story and also contribute information they have learned from their real-word experiences with FIM and Identity Management. The one part of the product that is completely omitted is FIM Certificate Management (CM) – the authors are up front about this and state it is because FIM CM is normally a separate project.
Though the book is self-published it is still of very good quality and definitely serves the purpose stated in its title. As far as I know the book is only available from www.lulu.com at the link below.“FIM R2 Best Practices Volume 1: Introduction, Architecture And Installation Of Forefront Identity Manager 2010 R2″http://www.lulu.com/shop/david-lundell/fim-r2-best-practices-volume-1-introduction-architecture-and-installation-of-forefront-identity-manager-2010-r2/paperback/product-20424725.html
If you are going to be working with Forefront Identity Manager or studying for the Microsoft exam on the product (exam code: 70-158), then this book is definitely worth the $25 price tag. I certainly look forward to the publication of volume 2 in the series and hopefully more after that on the use and troubleshooting of Forefront Identity Manager.
February 19, 2013By Reed M. Wiedower
Yes, it’s true: Windows Intune can deploy standard applications to your legacy desktop. This functionality, while incredibly useful, has been around for quite some time. The main difference with Wave D of Intune is that the licensing has moved from a device-centric model to a user-centric model, which means that every license of Intune will allow you to install it on five different devices.
What’s even more exciting with the latest version of Windows Intune is the ability to deploy modern applications to a variety of devices, including iOS devices, Windows RT machines (The Surface), Windows 8 Phone and Windows 8 itself. The process varies slightly between each device, so today I’ll walk through the procedure for Windows 8 and Windows RT.
The application deployment mechanism for all modern Windows 8 devices (whether Windows 8 Phone, Windows 8 RT or regular Windows 8) is a simple app called the “Company Portal”. This application can be purchased from the online stores and enables end-staff to consume corporate or public applications. For other devices, you’ll continue to use the Intune company portal web page. If you go to the webpage using a Windows 8 device, it will seamlessly transition you to the company portal application, making it a breeze to use.
The first question you’ll need to ask is: do you wish to push out a modern application that lives in an online device store, or something that you have crafted in-house? This question determines the application deployment strategy, as apps that are purchased through an online store (whether the Windows Store, the Windows Phone Store, or even the Apple Store) are different than ones developed in-house.
For apps that live in the online stores, you can use Intune to push out external links to the applications themselves. You’ll need to work on the financial implications of distribution via another method. Because your iOS and Android users will need to go to the webpage regardless to consume the apps, you’ll likely want to communicate to all staff to go to the website, which will allow those on Windows 8 devices to obtain the company portal application.
For custom in-house applications, you will have full control over the packaging process, and it will mirror the existing system currently used to build applications. Regardless of the underlying OS (iOS, Android or Windows) you have the ability to build custom packages and deploy them to the device. The only decision point you’ll need to take into consideration is whether you are deploying to a Windows 8 device, as these devices will require use of the Company Portal.
The next question you’ll need to ask once you’ve determined what type of applications you wish to push, is the overarching management strategy for mobile devices. In the latest version of Windows Intune, you have two choices: to use System Center Configuration Manager 2012 SP1, or to use a pure Windows Intune solution. This is the very first choice you’ll be presented with when you begin to login to the mobile device management page, so it’s important to realize that if you choose to go with a pure Intune solution, you cannot currently change your mind at a future point without redeploying the agents. If you’ve already got SCCM 2012 in place, updating to Service Pack 1 will enable the two products to work in concert.
To select the management choice, simply select “Set Mobile Device Management Authority” under the “Tasks” item within the Mobile Device Management section of Intune.
Now that you’ve chosen your mobile device management platform, it’s time to get down to the nuts and bolts of setting up remote management of mobile devices. We’ll cover Windows RT in this post so that you’ll have a working RT-management capable environment by the conclusion.
To begin managing Windows RT devices go into the “Windows RT Management” section within the “Mobile Device Management” page. Once there, you’ll see three steps to complete, all of which are optional in nature, with two of them only impacting internal application deployment. The first step is to add a DNS record to enable auto-enrollment for your devices. You’ll simply need to add an alias for enterpriseenrollment.domainname.com to point to enterpriseenrollment.manage.microsoft.com. If you perform this step, any device connecting to your tenancy will automatically be able to provision. Skipping this step (for testing purposes, for instance) will force potential device owners to manually enter the full DNS name of enterpriseenrollment.manage.microsoft.com when enrolling.
The second and third steps only apply to applications that you have developed internally (if you are only using externally linked apps, you can skip these two). The first is to procure a sideloading key; by default Windows RT devices do not allow sideloading.
What is sideloading? In Windows 8 and Windows RT, sideloading is a technique used to install software without using the Windows Store. By default, Windows 8 Enterprise allows any domain joined machine to sideload applications, so most organizations don’t need to do much work to enable this functionality. Windows RT, on the other hand, doesn’t allow domain joining, so the story gets more complicated. Fortunately, sideloading enterprise line-of-business apps for Windows RT is a fairly narrow use case. Why? Because by default, most sideloaded applications in an enterprise environment will be for the legacy desktop mode with Windows 8, which as we mentioned earlier is enabled easily through any domain-joined machine. If an organization has its own developers (1), and codes a modern, non-desktop-based application (2), yet is unwilling to sell that application (for free) in the Windows Store (3), and has the need to run the application on Windows RT in addition to Windows 8 (4) they’ll need to sideload. Each of those gates reduces the overall number of impacted machines.
If you find yourself at this point at still need to sideload, you’ll have to purchase a specific sideloading key through your regular volume licensing framework. Keys may be purchased via the regular open or select methods; if you already have an Enterprise Agreement for Windows 8 with Software Assurance, you’ll be able to access your keys without an additional purchase. The rules are detailed here (in pdf format) with one important caveat: purchasing through Open or Select may only be done in blocks of 100, so organizations with less than 100 Windows RT devices will likely prefer the Windows Store method. The rough cost ends up being around $25-28/device. Once you’ve downloaded your key from the Volume Licensing Service Center, you can upload it into the Intune console.
Now that you’ve entered your key, the final step to enable sideloading is to publish a code-signing certificate. If your endpoint already trust the Microsoft certificate authority (or your own) this step isn’t necessary, but for devices that are disconnect from your domain, such as Windows RT, it may be necessary to include a publicly signed certificate in this space.
Now that you’ve completed these three steps, you’re ready to get applications loaded up on your device. For Windows RT, there are a few steps you’ll need to perform to ensure the device is enrolled properly, and able to consume the applications. From the Windows RT device, you’ll need to login as a local administrator (this is important) and then configure your “Company Apps” setting within the operating system itself. “Company Apps” is not exposed to non-administrators, and the easiest way to access it is to type “Company Apps” into the start screen, and then select the “Settings” area within the Search Charm.
If you’ve configured DNS settings on the tenancy, you’ll just need to login and then click “install the management tool” to get the Company Portal application installed. You can, of course, also manually enter the management server name and then install the tool.
Once “Company Apps” is configured, and “Company Portal” has been installed, you’ll all set to be able to consume applications, even from a non-local admin account. Simply login with your regular account, fire up the Company Portal application, and you can begin consuming published content! We’ll have a follow-up post on the various ways software can be loaded up into the console for consumption not only by Windows RT, but Windows 8, iOS, Windows Phone 8 and Android devices.
Need a company that’s been there before to assist? Reach out to New Signature, Microsoft’s Intune Partner of the Year, to learn more about how Windows Intune can help drive down your costs and drive up your customer’s satisfaction.
February 15, 2013By Reed M. Wiedower
Value Added Resellers (VARs) occupy a unique niche within the Microsoft ecosystem. They must be trusted advisors for companies, providing timely licensing costs that meet the increasingly technical design requirements of organizations, all while adding value on top of the software sale itself. Six months ago, Director Jess Givens launched New Signature’s Procurement division because she felt there was a gap between the purchasing programs of other groups and the high-level of customer service New Signature’s customers had grown accustomed to. Now, we are happy to report that New Signature has been invited by Microsoft to join the prestigious VAR Champions Club. It is a huge honor, and all the greater that we have hit this goal only six months into our affiliation. For the 2012 year, New Signature was ranked number 43 out of over 1700 Microsoft Partners in the Mid-Atlantic region for licensing sales, and we ranked number 137 out of over 5200 partners for the entire East coast region.
When Jess started the division, she was unsure how quickly she could grow it while maintaining our high standards, but the process could not have gone more smoothly. Not only does she get to carry over our customer service to a new area, but the fast paced environment and requirement for accuracy have played to New Signature’s strengths. It’s always exciting to keep up with the latest and greatest in licensing, and New Signature had married this with also achieving Gold in the Microsoft Partner Network’s Volume Licensing Competency. 2013 should be an even more exciting year!
If you’re looking to make a software or hardware purchase, and need a strategic partner, do not delay: reach out to Jess or the rest of the New Signature team and we’re confident your experience will be a quick, thorough and technically excellent one.
February 14, 2013By Ben Pahl
Microsoft recently enabled subscription-based licensing for Office 2011 desktop software via Office365 subscription.
The latest version of Office 2011, 14.3, now features a sign-in option to activate the product alongside the old license-key activation method. OS X 10.6 and above is required for this feature. Note that Office 2011 *can* be installed on OS X 10.5.8, but the subscription licensing option isn’t supported prior to OS X 10.6. It almost goes without saying, but your Office 365 subscription must include the Office Pro Plus for the specific person who will be using it.
Using this new feature is as easy as slipping on ice. To start, install Office 2011 on a Mac. After installation is complete open an Office program and you will be greeted with an activation prompt. Click to use the Subscription option.
This functionality works for Office 365 Home, University and Commercial users.
Type in your Office 365 email address and click Next.
Next, type in your password and click Sign In. *Note that we have successfully tested this functionality with Federated Office 365 authentication as well as Office 365 cloud-based authentication.*
You will be greeted with a final screen confirming activation and you’ll be all set!
It’s not yet clear how to change the licensing for Office 2011 subscription-based installations after it’s setup. However a complete uninstall/reinstall would likely take care of removing Office 365 subscription-based licensing from a Mac. Existing methods of modifying licensing plist files to reset license status doesn’t seem to work after the license model is changed to subscription-based.
February 13, 2013By Joshua Brechbuehl
Recently, we investigated a performance issue affecting a Microsoft SQL Server hosting a System Center Service Manager 2012 Data Warehouse database. The performance issue seemed to center itself around a lack of available memory on the server. After digging a bit deeper, it was discovered that SQL Analysis Services (SSAS) was consuming a much higher amount of system memory than was originally anticipated when the server was built and sized. What we found was SQL Analysis Services manages system memory much differently than SQL Database Services.
For those of you who are already accustomed to performance tuning your SQL Server Instance, you already know that you can access the correct window by starting SQL Management Studio, right clicking on the SQL Instance you would like to view, selecting properties and clicking Memory from the left hand pane.
As you can see, adjusting the Minimum and Maximum memory usage for a SQL Database Services Instance is quite simple and self-explanatory. Once set, SQL will use as much memory as it needs up to the Maximum amount. This is especially useful if you have a multi-purpose SQL server hosting multiple SQL Database Instances.
In SQL Analysis Services, however, this memory configuration is handled very differently. SQL Analysis Services has a special memory “cleaner” background thread that constantly determines if it needs to clean up memory. The cleaner looks at the amount of memory used. The following basic processes are used by the cleaner to control amount of physical memory used by SSAS:
- If the memory used is above the value set in the TotalMemoryLimit property, the cleaner cleans up to this value.
- If the memory used is under the value set in the LowMemoryLimit property, the cleaner does nothing.
- If the memory used is between the values set in the LowMemoryLimit and the TotalMemoryLimit properties, the cleaner cleans memory on a need-to-use basis.
To view or modify the SQL Analysis Services Instance memory configuration, follow a similar method to Database Services above. Open SQL Management Studio and right click on the SSAS Instance you’d like to view, select Properties and the window below will appear. Notice that HardMemoryLimit is set to 0 by default.
If the value specified in any of these properties is between 0 and 100, the value is treated by SSAS as a percentage of total physical memory. If the value specified is greater than 100, the value is treated by SSAS as an absolute memory value (in bytes). Note that when Analysis Server is processing, if it requires additional memory above the value specified in TotalMemoryLimit, it will try to reserve that amount, regardless of the TotalMemoryLimit value.
In the troubled SQL environment, we found that while the TotalMemoryLimit was set to a percentage of 25(%), the HardMemoryLimit was set to 0, which is equivalent to unlimited. This is what caused our SSAS memory to increase uncontrollably.
We reset the Hard Memory Limit to 30(%) and restarted SQL Analysis Services and monitored memory usage.
This solved our problem of the runaway System Center Service Manager SQL Analysis Service.
**NOTE** The percentages shown in the screenshots above may not reflect Microsoft best practices. Every environment is different and you should research, test and validate settings in your own test environment prior to pushing changes to production.
February 12, 2013By Peter Day
What is a blue screen?
If Microsoft Windows has a serious problem it might give a “blue screen” error. When this happens all the Windows close and a dark blue screen with white text appears. This is commonly referred to as the “blue screen of death” or BSOD, and your only option to recovery your computer is to record the error message and reboot the computer.
How is a blue screen useful?
The blue screen often contains information that is essential for IT staff to be able to diagnose and repair the cause of the error. However, most end users will reboot the computer when they get a blue screen and that diagnostic information is lost.
How can you recover the diagnostic information?
If you reboot after a crash after your computer starts then you can review the System Event log for an entry of type “Error” that resembles the one below, and informs you a “dump” file has been created. The dump file will have a .DMP extension, and the event log will give it’s location on the local drive.
Sometimes there is no further useful error information in the Event Logs so we need to analyze the dump file instead.
How can you analyze the dump file?
At this point I would download and run a useful tool called “Blue Screen View” from Nirsoft. It is Freeware and available at the following site: http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/blue_screen_view.html
Once installed, this handy tool will scan the C:\Windows\MiniDump folder for .DMP files and list them in the top pane of the program. As you click on each .DMP file in “Blue Screen View” the corresponding blue screen is re-created in the bottom pane of the Window. You can then see all of the diagnostic information from the blue screen error, as shown below. (Note, that if a MiniDump has never been created then the MiniDump folder will not exist).
In the example above the mention of “watchdog.sys” led to a web search that pointed towards issues with the graphics system, so now I had a lead on where to start further troubleshooting.
You’ll see in the title bar of the above example that the MiniDump files being analyzed are in the C:\temp\ folder, this is because I copied them from a failing machine for analysis on my management workstation. To do this you need to choose “advanced options” from the Options menu to change the folder being referenced, as shown below:
What if I need more help?
Collectively, New Signature staff have decades of experience in troubleshooting and repairing Windows systems, so please give us a call if you need help recovering from a blue screen.
February 4, 2013By Joshua Brechbuehl
Microsoft System Center Service Manager (SCSM) 2012 delivers standardized, compliant and automated IT as a Service. SCSM can be used for not only managing Incidents, but also managing Change Requests and providing a Self-Service Portal and Knowledgebase for customers.
The most anticipated new feature arriving in SCSM 2012 Service Pack 1 (SP1) is the charge-back feature. In 2013, IT continues to transition away from traditional IT to a cloud-optimized IT model. In traditional IT, infrastructure was largely physical, service level agreements (SLAs) were typically periods of weeks and months, and capacity was owned and managed by the consumers. Cloud optimized IT is changing this behavior and allowing on-demand solutions, shorter SLAs and, unfortunately, exacerbating problems caused by typical consumer behavior: over-subscription and under-utilization of IT resources. Luckily, SCCM 2012 SP1 includes a feature which can assist in solving this problem.
In SCSM 2012 SP1, charge-back allows IT organizations to communicate more effectively with consumers about how they consume resources and capacity. Consider the Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) Cloud-based SLA model. Each cloud may have a different SLA, and may be managed and priced differently. For instance, a messaging cloud including Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft Lync may be managed with a different SLA than a backup and recovery cloud. Because of these differences in SLA, SCSM 2012 SP1’s charge-back model is flexible and allows for multiple price sheets to be available. A price sheet can be created and assigned to a VMM cloud.
SCSM 2012 SP1 charge-back reporting is online analytical processing (OLAP) cube based, which allows easy customization of the reports that can be delivered to IT consumers. These reports display infrastructure use and cost, including, for example, VM Days of Use, VM Memory Use, VM Storage Use and Total VM Cost. Such detail is key to allowing a dynamic cloud IT environment to operate efficiently and cost effectively.
What’s New in SCSM 2012 SP1
- A charge-back model can be created for use in organizations where accounting and recouping for time and costs is required.
- Improved Operations Manager Integration.
- Operations Manager SP1 Agent installed automatically as part of SCSM SP1
- SQL 2012 Support
- Windows Server 2012 Support (Except for Self-Service Portal SharePoint Web Parts)
Looking to implement System Center Service Manager? These new updates through Service Pack 1 bring some significant enhancements. Reach out to New Signature to learn how you can take advantage of them today!
January 31, 2013By Joshua Brechbuehl
Microsoft System Center App Controller 2012 provides a self-service portal for application owners to manage their IT services housed in private clouds and Azure-based public clouds. It accomplishes this by using System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) Service Templates. App Controller is a Silverlight-based, IIS website with a SQL Database back-end that connects directly to SCVMM.
The most anticipated App Controller feature coming in Service Pack 1 (SP1) is the ability to seamlessly migrate a virtual machine (VM) from a private cloud to Azure. First, store the VM in the virtual machine manager (VMM) library and setup a virtual private network (VPN) between your network and Azure. There are a number of ways to move a VM into Azure, either just the virtual hard disc (VHD), or the whole VM. The VM can be deployed as a stand-alone VM, or a scalable cloud service in Azure can be created to contain the migrated VM.
New Azure-Specific App Controller Features in System Center 2012 SP1
- Upload a virtual hard disk or image to Windows Azure from a System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) library or network share
- Add a VM to a deployed service in Windows Azure
- Start, stop, and connect to VMs in Windows Azure
- Migrate a VM from Microsoft private cloud (SCVMM) to Windows Azure
- Deploy a VM in Windows Azure to create a cloud service
- Windows Server 2012 and SQL Server 2012 support
- Connectivity with other third-party private cloud solutions
Looking to implement the System Center App Controller? These new updates through Service Pack 1 bring some significant enhancements. Reach out to New Signature to learn how you can take advantage of them today!
January 30, 2013By Peter Day
What is FIM 2010 R2?
Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager (FIM) 2010 R2 is an enterprise-grade system for efficiently managing the life-cycle of identities across multiple heterogeneous systems. One part of this is synchronizing data about objects across multiple disparate databases.
When might you use FIM 2010 R2?
Here are some scenarios where the use of Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager might be appropriate:
- A large company with many new staff added each month.
- A smaller company with high turnover.
- Any company that needs to add identities for new staff to several different systems and have them managed and synchronized in an accurate and consistent way.
What is a typical use of FIM 2010 R2?
Let us imagine that you have 3 systems that hold information about user identities, for example: a 3rd-party HR system, a Microsoft Active Directory domain and a Microsoft Exchange server. With FIM 2010 R2 you could set up the following:
- When a new employee is entered in the HR system and her “employment status” attribute is set to “employed,” then a new user account will be automatically created in a specific OU in Active Directory.
- When the above happens, if the new employee’s “department” attribute in the HR system is set to “accounting”, then the new user in Active Directory will be automatically added to an Active Directory security group for the Accounting department.
- When a new user is added to a specific OU in Active Directory that is managed by FIM, then a corresponding email account is automatically created for her on the Microsoft Exchange server.
You can see that the goal in the above example, is that when a member of HR adds a new member of staff, the rest of their account provisioning takes place automatically.
What about ongoing identity maintenance?
Forefront Identity Manager uses a concept of sets that are similar to but not the same as AD security groups. A set might be the group of identities that have their “manager status” attribute set to “true” in Active Directory. With FIM you can define rules stating what will happen as identities transition in and out of sets. As an identity transitions into a set they might be given access to specific areas of the file system through being added into a security group, and should they leave the set then another rule could state that they would then be removed from the same security group.
Using this type of functionality enhances system security by helping to ensure that staff have the security rights to do the job role they are currently fulfilling – no more and no less. Should they move to another job role then their security rights will be adjusted automatically.
What about users’ passwords?
The Microsoft Forefront Identity Manager self-service password reset portal provides a web-based interface where users can reset their passwords. They do this by identifying themselves through their answers to a series of questions that they had previously defined. Alternatively, FIM also supports having a one-time password sent to the user via email or text message. This can greatly reduce the volume of password resets that require assistance from help desk staff.
What about the end of the identity lifecycle?
When an employee leaves a company there can be a serious security risk if their account is not disabled promptly. With Forefront Identity Manager you can automate the whole deprovisioning process through a set of rules that states what happens when the “employment status” attribute of an identity in the HR system is set to “terminated.” Changes to the rights of access to multiple system that might have taken days manually might take only a few hours when automated through Forefront Identity Manager.
How can I track what is happening?
The new R2 version of FIM 2010 contains a new reporting component as standard. You can, for example, generate a report that gives you the history of membership changes to a security group along with data on who approved the changes. To take advantage of this functionality you will need to Install Microsoft System Center Services Manager (SCSM) 2010, as FIM 2010 R2 uses SCSM to capture data and provide reports. (Note: SCSM 2012 is not yet supported with FIM 2010 R2). This means you will need at least one additional server dedicated to SCSM. Like other features in FIM the reporting component is optional so you can choose not to implement it if it is not needed.
Where can I find out more?
Forefront Identity Manager 2010 R2 is a large product with many features that requires extensive research and preparation to implement successfully. You can use the links below to learn more about the product and its capabilities. Also, keep an eye out on this New Signature blog for further posts about specific functionality within FIM 2010 R2.
1. Forefront Identity Manager Resources list by Microsoft:
2. Test drive Forefront Identity Manager with hands on Virtual Labs at:
Note that some of the Microsoft pages about FIM 2010 on the web are outdated – they refer to the original version released in 2010, not the R2 version of FIM 2010 R2, released in 2012. While it is the same product there are some big differences between the two versions. For example, the FIM Reporting functionality is new to the R2 version of FIM. In addition, some of the 2010 R2 pages talk about it still being in Beta, but it is now available.
3. Check out “Forefront Identity Manager 2010 R2 Handbook,” by Kent Nordstrom, Packt Publishing (2012): http://www.packtpub.com/microsoft-forefront-identity-manager-2010-r2-handbook/book
January 24, 2013By Jessie Collins
The Importance of Putting Content First
It is not uncommon for an organization to invest tremendous resources in developing the framework for a web site that is well-structured, well-designed and well-developed on a robust platform.
Surprisingly it is also not uncommon for the same organization to invest very little in the content that is to be featured in this web site. As a result, many sites suffer from insufficient, inadequate or inappropriate content. Yet, the primary reason users come to a particular site is content. Without effective, usable content, the value proposition for the customer cannot be delivered and the site is a failure.[i]
Organizations don’t intentionally set out to produce poor content. It’s just that most lack the processes, tools and resources to get content right. Clearly, content deserves more time and attention.[ii] And that attention is needed up-front, in the planning stages. Failing to allocate the necessary resources to develop content along with the rest of the site risks: [iii]
- Rework (IA, design, database, etc.)
- Delayed timelines
- Blown budgets
- Frustrated stakeholders
- Stressed employees
- Bad content
- Bad usability
- Unhappy users
- Unsuccessful project
Improve your Chances of Success [iv]
Creating content is a complicated process. The effort required to create and maintain good web content should not be underestimated. Planning, researching, [actually] writing and editing the content is just the beginning. Numerous stakeholder and legal reviews of each piece of copy can send production schedules into a tailspin. To improve your chances of success:
Think of yourself as a publisher. [v]
You, or someone you know, has to own the process of creating content for and managing content on the site. As a site owner, it is your responsibility to make sure fresh, relevant content keeps flowing to sufficiently satisfy users’ demand.
Create your content team.
The sooner you can identify a core set of individuals who will be part of your publishing process, the better. Give these individuals specific responsibilities and make it part of their official job.
Ruthlessly limit the amount of content on your site.
Do not bite off more than you can chew. It seems obvious that a small web site would be easier to manage than a large one [vi]. Yet, many sites are bloated with weak content. Focus on quality over quantity. Measure any requests for new content against your business goals. Your users will thank you.
Plan for maintenance.
Make sure you know what you are signing up for in the long term. Some ideas that sound great require far too much regular upkeep to keep them fresh and compelling. This includes blogs, newsletters and any daily, weekly, or even monthly promises of new content. Set up an editorial calendar that your content team can handle along with all of their other responsibilities. Consider the natural timing of information production in your organization and work with it.
Be prepared for change.
This is the web. What is true today will likely not be true in six months. Be nimble, be responsive and continuously ask your users what they want and need from your site.
Content is not a commodity and there are no shortcuts. Done well, content can build your brand, close the sale, improve retention, and win loyalty. Done poorly, it will cause you to lose your audience’s attention and trust. [vii]
To learn how New Signature can help your organization successfully plan and manage your site content, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This piece is derived from great work produced by some of content strategy’s best known stars.
[i] Rahel Bailie via Karen McGrane’s presentation “Content is King”
[ii] Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web
[iii] Michelle Rach’s presentation “10 things every business person should know about content strategy”
[iv]Derived from Melissa Rach’s presentation “10 things every business person should know about content strategy”
[v] Joe Pulizzi via Karen McGrane’s presentation “Content is King”
[vi] David Hobbs via Karen McGrane’s presentation “Content is King”
[vii] Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web