Accenture's Kaspar de Boer gave an interesting talk this evening on portals and information architecture. I particularly appreciated the review of the basic architecture concepts around portals and content management systems in light of my current engagement.
In general, the problem with CMS implementations has been an issue of requirements overload. De Boer discussed this as a basic issue of requirements overload. Rather than trying to create one big implementation, it is much better, says de Boer, to limit your efforts while keeping the end game in mind.
One of the best parts of the discussion, for me, was de Boer's suggestion that Content Management and Portal architectures need to be developed together. Once you've done an inventory of content and what you want, limit the content types as much as possible (fewer than 30). Each content type will have its template, additional metadata, and workflow. For each content type, there should be at most three presentation templates. Finally, there should be one portal gadget ("portlet") for each presentation template.
From the portal side there will also be an inventory of preferred portal styles. Again, de Boer recommends a strong limit to the portal page templates (less than 20), and for each portal page there are typically five to ten portlets.
Designing this way limits the number of design elements to a very manageable size, and helps drive the entire project to success.
Obviously, this isn't the only success factor, but starting with a good design will create a good basis for all the change management and other aspects of such a project.