Beware the "Independent" Consultant Who Wants to Build You a Content Management System

Posted by Barry Bealer on Jun 24, 2015 8:12:00 AM

Beware the "Independent" ConsultantIt all seems like the logical next step. Hire the independent consultant who has been analyzing your business requirements for several months to build your next content management system. Who better to lead your organization to the CMS promise land? It doesn’t matter that building software is not their expertise, nor does it matter that they don't actually have a development staff. You like the leader, the onsite business analyst is strong, and you’ve had a great working relationship for a long time. This rosy picture plays out more often than one would think. There is no ill will or deceitful practice, it’s just a natural progression of a business relationship. But over the years we have found many pitfalls with this approach:

  1. Staff it and they will build ...something: If the consultant is truly “independent", they will have no interest in building a software solution. However, if they feel they can build the solution because they are leaving money on the table, they cobble together a development team made up of independent contractors and possibly partner with a small development firm that allows them to act like a general contractor, but none of the project team is an employee. This loosely organized tech team may not have the appropriate skill or bandwidth to complete the project, nor have many of them ever worked together before and they each may have different approaches and methodologies to develop the software.
  2. Analyzing and building are two different things: This is the "no duh" statement but often overlooked.  Just because a consultant can analyze and document business and technical requirements does not mean they have the vision or skill to build a solution that meets requirements. Think architect versus carpenter. Building a custom solution can get very messy very quickly and unless the consultant has the software development discipline (i.e., Agile experience), requirements will go unmet, shortcuts will be taken, and I venture to guess the schedule will be missed.
  3. Where is the “independence”?: Having an independent consultant bring together and lead the development team to build a solution is a lot like asking a lawyer to pick the judge they want for their trial. Of course the lawyer will pick the judge who sides with them more often. The same is true for a consultant who brings in a development team. It’s a biased situation. No one is really creating the checks and balances to hold the development team accountable. If the consultant remained independent, there would be a separation of church and state and a better likelihood that the project would succeed.
The observations above are all situations that we have encountered over the past 15 years since we started RSI Content Solutions. This is not to say that some independent consultants can’t pull off a software development project, but in our experience these projects usually don’t end well. How do we know this? RSI was once the “independent” consultant who one day was asked to build out a CMS. It felt so right, but quickly we learned we needed to operate differently and we did struggle. We eventually got it right, but it was a lesson from over 10 years ago that we still remember. Our suggestion is to make sure you keep your “independent” consultant truly independent and let the software solutions up to the people who do it every day.

Topics: best practices, CMS project, Barry Bealer

CEO of RSI to Present at NISO's October Virtual Conference

Posted by Sarah Silveri on Oct 20, 2014 12:56:00 PM

Barry Bealer to present 'Trends in Publishing Automation' at NISO ConferenceToday, October 21st, between 12:30 PM -1 PM EDT, Barry Bealer, President/CEO of RSI Content Solutions, will be taking a virtual stage at the NISO Two-Day Virtual Conference, sponsored by none other than RSuite client, SAGE Publications.

Barry's presentation, 'Trends in Publishing Automation' will be about publishers and how they have traditionally focused on the development of content along product lines. Barry will speak about how today, publishers are moving towards a product agnostic production focus that requires automation to meet time to market demands. He will then review the current trends in automation technology within a publishing organization.

For more information or to register, please visit NISO's event page.

Topics: RSuite, Barry Bealer, NISO, Virtual Conference, Trends in Publishing Automation

Analyzing The Services Required to Implement a CMS

Posted by Barry Bealer on Mar 10, 2014 7:53:00 AM

CMS Services Analysis resized 600Every so often we get inquiries from our RSuite enterprise clients or prospects about why there are services required to implement our RSuite software if the pre-configured environment is pretty much useful out-of-the-box?  If one digs a little deeper and analyzes exactly what types of services are required, I think a publisher will be surprised that services related to customizing or extending the content management software are actually pretty small.  Sure there will be custom forms for metadata capture or custom search forms, but these are generally a few days worth of work at the most.  On the other hand, services related to content structure and workflow re-engineering have a huge impact on the services required for a content management product implementation independent of the software package chosen.

Content Engineering

Content engineering can be simply defined as understanding the structure of your content and putting a migration plan to make it adhere to some type of standard.  In some cases very large publishers have crafted a proprietary content standard, but many adhere to industry standards such as NLM, D4P, DocBook, etc.  The amount of services required to transform the content from one format to another can vary widely depending on the amount of file formats and complexity of content.  While this effort can be categorized as part of the content management project, it is not part of the content management software.  

Content structure and organization reflects how an organization has worked over time.  If the publisher was disciplined and remained in compliance with industry standards, the amount of services to get the content into the content management system is minimal at best.  Basically, if the publisher has well structured content that adheres to a DTD, then it should just work in RSuite or other systems.  The challenge surfaces when multiple products adhere to different DTD's and then the publisher wants to consolidate under one standard.  Again, a very good idea, but this is an issue beyond the content management software. Or the publisher has no DTD and wants to migrate all of their content to a standard.  Again, an excellent idea, but the effort to complete this should not reflect on the content management software.  As one of our engineers has said, "there is no magic button to transform the content, you either have the discipline to adhere to a standard or it will take some work to transform the content so that it does comply".  There is no simple solution.

Workflow Analysis and Automation

Services related to workflow are generally consultative in nature whereby a business analyst sits with all parties to understand current "as-is" and "to-be" workflows.  In some cases publishers have done a very nice job documenting their current as-is workflows but have a difficult time envisioning the to-be workflows.  This is normal and can generally be addressed by creating some pilot workflows and showing the client how the software will help them.  In some cases though a publisher which has been doing business one way for the past 20-years can have cultural challenges to change to the to-be workflows.  This has been becoming less and less over the past 5-years as the need to embrace multi-channel publishing is critical to the sustainability of the publishing business.  In other words, optimizing workflows, creating efficiencies, and actually automating multi-channel publishing are no longer options.  It does mean in some cases that people within the publishing organization will have to be re-skilled or let go.  That is unfortunately the nature of the game right now for publishers.  Workflow equals efficiency which equals cost reductions which equals a reduction or reallocation of staff or an increase in production throughput.

A publisher that requires significant manual steps (e.g., a person needs to review and approve content) in their workflow will not realize the true benefits of implementing the workflow software.  Manual steps are still required in the editorial process, but minimizing them is key.  An automated step (e.g., content transformation) is the key to gaining the efficiencies that are sought by management.  Depending on the complexity of the automated steps, the amount of services required can vary widely.  The key is automating the highest value steps in the workflow and minimizing the manual steps.  Again, the more a publisher understands how they need to change their process, the less services will be required to implement the content management software.  The software will do whatever you configure it to do, but time spent understanding exactly what a publisher should be doing takes time and requires a visionary within your organization to think outside the box.

The Bottom Line

For both content engineering and workflow related services, the more a publisher is organized in these areas, the less services are required for a content management project independent of whether it is RSuite or not.  The painfulness of addressing years of neglect in a structured or disciplined production of content can require significant services to unwind the structure, business rules, or lack of adherence to standards.  Unfortunately this can be seen as a barrier to implementing a content management system.  

While a new content management system could offer tremendous value in content reuse, version control, and production efficiency, the new software cannot magically address the messiness of the content or undocumented workflow. If your team has been organized and have very structured content with a well documented and agreed upon workflow (even if you are using legacy technology), then services to implement a CMS should be relatively small.  

If you are embarking on a content management initiative, I would highly recommend that you have an honest assessment of your content structure and your workflow.  If these pieces are in order, then you have just increased your odds of a successful content management system implementation and reduced the required services to implement the software.


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Topics: content management for publishers, RSuite, content management, DITA for Publishers, CMS, CMS project, Barry Bealer, content conversion

CEO/Co-founder of RSI, Barry Bealer, to Moderate STM Panel at Publishing Business Conference

Posted by Sarah Silveri on Sep 23, 2013 7:00:00 AM

CEO/Co-founder of RSI, Barry Bealer, to Moderate STM Panel

Barry Bealer, CEO/Co-founder of RSI Content Solutions, makers of RSuite CMS, will moderate the STM panel “Lessons For Trade Publishers From STM Publishers” at NAPCO’s Business Conference and Expo on Tuesday, September 24 at 11:05 AM EDT. This major event brings publishers dozens of sessions specifically geared toward book and magazine publishing executives.

This session will engage a panel of STM publishing executives to discuss the benefits of XML-early workflows, cultural changes necessary to adopt new technology, and barriers to change. Trade publishers will gain insight from decades of XML experience from the STM publishing community. Attendees will learn the main areas all publishers need to address to take full advantage of digital opportunities, how to determine where best to implement XML into your workflow, and gain ideas for successfully unifying content management and digital asset management.


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Topics: RSuite CMS, Barry Bealer, NAPCO Publishing Business Conference and Expo, STM, Panel, Lessors For Trade Publishers From STM Publishers

Metadata Madness: What Publishers Already Knew

Posted by Barry Bealer on Jun 19, 2013 8:45:00 AM

Metadata Madness: What Publishers Already KnewI find it almost comical that our mainstream media is latching onto (and blowing out of proportion) the report about the NSA pouring over phone records and other data.  First, metadata is not new.  It may have been disguised as health records, or school records, or whatever, but it is not new.  People didn't care about the information in years past because it was secured and locked away on a printed piece of paper in a file cabinet at your doctor's office or at your child's school.  Fast forward to today where many of our personal records, bills, and pretty much everything else is electronic and you have a massive amount of metadata.  Yes, there is a massive amount of this metadata that lives in our world, and yes the NSA is not the only organization looking at it.

Twenty years ago when I worked at GE, we were hired by a well known large bank to develop a data mining system that would be able to forecast the likelihood of a person defaulting on a loan or missing a credit card payment.  This system aggregated a ton of metadata including financial credit scores, loan payment history, economic status, etc.  This was a commercial business, not the government, but why is this any different than the NSA using phone records to secure our country?  Aren't both organizations (banks and NSA) invading our privacy?  I am perplexed by our citizens who feel that our government is required to keep us safe, but don't want any inconveniences or intrusion in our lives.  Meanwhile, public companies, advertisers, banks and pretty much every other large business is looking at your metadata to figure out your buying behavior. This is nothing new.

Up until a few weeks ago most people in the United States had no idea what metadata was and frankly, probably could care less because it was a techie thing.  For most publishers, metadata is the backbone of their content.  Publishers have invested heavily in metadata as their printed product revenue has evolved over time into electronic product revenue.  We have touched on this subject several times over the past few years on this blog:

The Second Rule of Content Management:  Enrich with Metadata -

Centralized Metadata, Content, and Assets:  Paradise Lost -

Metadata Lessons from Google Books -

Metadata management will continue to be a key part of their publishing and product development processes.  This is one of the main reasons we developed RSuite CMS.  There was a significant void in the CMS market when it came to both content and metadata management.  We believe we have solved this issue with RSuite and welcome the opportunity to discuss our product with publishers who feel the need to more efficiently apply and manage metadata.

The recent elevation of the word "metadata" in the mainstream media probably has most publishers chuckling a bit, but the investment in metadata by publishers is very real and will continue as the ability to find content becomes ever more complex.

Topics: RSuite CMS, Barry Bealer, metadata

Content Management System: To Build or Not to Build, an Ongoing Management Question

Posted by Barry Bealer on Oct 19, 2012 11:42:00 AM

A couple years ago there was an article from under the Cubical Culture section that struck a chord with me: “Management to IT: We don’t like you either.” As evidenced by the title, the inherent conflict between IT and management is never ending. And even though the article was published 5 years ago, we still see the conflict arise in many publishing and media organizations.

Management today at many companies expect more out of IT organizations than in previous years. It's no longer acceptable to request an 18- to 24-month project life cycle and not show a return on investment quickly. If IT continues to do these types of things, they will render themselves useless and out of a job. The old days of “we can build it better than any product on the market” is long gone.

For publishers I have seen a shift over the past 5 years related to this build-vs-buy mindset. If your IT organization is still touting that they can do it better, cheaper, faster by building a critical system (e.g., CMS) from scratch… run, run away as fast as you can. Given the wealth of tool sets available and the openness of many products on the market, why would an organization ever take the build-it-from-scratch approach? I'm genuinely interested in this and welcome your dialogue in the comments section.

I’m not biased when I make these statements. I’ve seen a renewed interest by publishers to license a product and show a return on investment quickly. This has been our mantra since day one with RSuite CMS. Our goal was to make a highly configurable CMS that can manage any content and be operational in a short period of time (under 12 weeks) to meet core requirements. Yes, there will be some organizations that require 12-month projects to migrate from one system to the next, but overall the trend has been implementing a new system, even for larger projects, in a much shorter time frame. The only way IT will be able to handle this shortened timeline is to license a software product that meets 70% of their core requirements pretty much out of the box such as RSuite CMS.

I can certainly understand why IT organizations at publishers want to build their own CMS. First, it’s fun to build software. Second, it gives more of a feeling of accomplishment than integrating third-party software. Finally, a programmer can have a job for life just making endless changes to the software (ok, that was a cheap shot).

Management today needs to understand that IT does have value and IT needs to understand that management has the right to ask questions. Reducing the stress between these organizations is critical to publishers making the right technology choices and implementing new systems on time and within budget.

Let us show you how RSuite CMS satifies management's desire to demonstrate ROI on CMS investment and IT's desire to play with cool technology.

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Topics: content management for publishers, RSuite, CMS for publishers, RSuite CMS, RSI Content Solutions, CMS project, Barry Bealer, Build Your Bottom Line With Strategic Content Mana, Content Mangement Project Team

Really Strategies Recognized by Philadelphia SmartCEO Magazine: 2012 Future 50 Award

Posted by Marianne Calihanna on Jan 13, 2012 10:06:00 AM

2012 Future 50 AwardReally Strategies was recently recognized as a winner of the 2012 Philadelphia SmartCEO/ Clifton Gunderson Future 50 award. The award recognizes the area’s 50 fastest-growing companies based on employee and revenue growth over the past 3 years. The impressive group leads companies that boast $10 billion in collective revenues and manage more than 55,000 employees in the Greater Philadelphia area.

In addition to the group of Future 50 winners, SmartCEO recognizes Emerging Growth and Blue Chip winners. Emerging Growth companies generate $1 to $5 million in revenue, but have experienced significant revenue and employee growth over the last 3 years. Blue Chip companies generate more than $500 million in revenue, have demonstrated steady growth, and have a reputation for providing high-quality management, products and services.

“While the past 3 years have been economically tough all over, Really Strategies has consistently maintained that publishers can increase profit growth through better content management. Our award-winning software helps publishers accelerate revenue, which in turn strengthens our company and commitment to our product line."
- Barry Bealer, CEO and co-founder, Really Strategies, Inc.

“Comprehensive growth is applause-worthy in healthy economic times. This year’s group of winners has ignored the recession and created innovative new avenues for growth. The business community is healthier and stronger due to their efforts.”
- Craig Burris, president and co-founder, SmartCEO magazine

Topics: content management for publishers, Barry Bealer, Lisa Bos

Barry Bealer inducted into Philadelphia 100® CEO Hall of Fame Society

Posted by Marianne Calihanna on Dec 20, 2011 9:11:00 AM

barry bealer

Really Strategies is closing out a stellar performance in its 11-year history and is pleased to announce that CEO, Barry Bealer, was recently inducted into the CEO Hall of Fame Society at the 2011 Philadelphia 100® awards ceremony. In recognition of steady leadership, continued growth, and constant innovation Mr. Bealer was recognized by the Entrepreneurs´ Forum of Greater Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Business Journal, and Wharton Small Business Development Center.

Induction into the CEO Hall of Fame requires the executive to have held the position of CEO for five or more instances of the company’s inclusion on the Philadelphia 100® list of fastest growing privately-held companies in the Philadelphia region.

Mr. Bealer along with his colleague, Lisa Bos, CTO, founded the company in 2000 to provide XML and content management consulting services to publishers and media organizations. In 2006, the company transitioned to become a software provider, offering three different types of content management software for publishers and technical publishers---RSuite CMS, RSuite Cloud, and DocZone.

"Indeed I am honored and humbled to achieve this recognition but no one person is responsible for success," stated Mr. Bealer, co-founder and CEO of Really Strategies. “Sustained growth is a team effort. The Really Strategies’ team has always involved both employees as well as our customers. We measure success by client satisfaction.”

Mr. Bealer has held executive positions with Reed Elsevier and project management and senior software engineering positions for GE Aerospace. He holds an MBA from St. Joseph’s University and a Bachelor of Science in Communications from Millersville University.


Topics: Really Strategies, Barry Bealer

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