The National Cotton Council of America (NCC) is the cotton industry’s trade association. The NCC serves as the central forum for consensus building among producers, ginners, warehousers, merchants, cottonseed crushers, cooperatives and textile manufacturers. As with most associations, the NCC's website has been an important means for reaching more than 28,000 members across 17 US states and internationally.
According to Webmaster Matt Linxwiler, about three years ago the Memphis, Tennessee-based Council brought the maintenance of the website in house, and implemented NetObjects Fusion to achieve a consistent look and feel for the site. However, the web development team remained responsible for updating content, causing a significant bottleneck. Linxwiler set out to find a solution that would remove the IT department from the content approval and updating process, and enable more effective site management.
“We invested about 12 months in researching mid-market CMS products, and determined that CommonSpot™ had the features and functionality we were looking for,” commented Linxwiler. Among the features sought were a search engine, workflow and approval processes, page index control, custom authentication for managing member logins, and a user-friendly front end. “We wanted to enable staff members in the communications and marketing groups to be able to add and update content, without involving IT. We found the CommonSpot interface to be extremely intuitive. The users love the product.”
To get up and running with CommonSpot, the NCC brought in PaperThin for a 5 day jump-start session, including one day of end user training. After that, the NCC’s Web team took over all the remaining tasks of building out the site. With the revised site, www.cotton.org, the NCC has dramatically improved the efficiency of content management. As the site is heavy on news and other fast-changing information, this has meant better quality information, which is authored, reviewed, approved and published by the right people, thus eliminating the technology bottleneck. “Our IT team is now free to focus on development tasks and other appropriate site development activities.”
What have been other key benefits of implementing CommonSpot? “The page index control has been one of the best features we have implemented. The site has never been this fresh.” Linxwiler is currently in the process of implementing custom authentication handling to authenticate users against the NCC's member database, a feature commonly required and implemented by member associations.
Because the NCC has many different audiences, including members, government officials, the media and the general public, Linxwiler will also be implementing personalization features, to enable more targeted presentation of content depending on the user’s profile. “We also liked the idea that CommonSpot’s functionality could be extended through integration of custom ColdFusion modules,” added Linxwiler. This customization capability meant that the NCC could add any number of features using ColdFusion.
How did the National Cotton Council measure the ROI of implementing a CMS system? “We didn’t have a financial measure per se. Our objective was to eliminate the technology bottleneck so that we could keep the site fresh and relevant, which we were absolutely able to do.” Linxwiler added that by implementing CommonSpot they were able to stay well within their projected budget for both software and hardware.