2.3 Management systems
A conservation management system (CMS) is simply a tool that aids and improves the way in operational plans are made for heritage assets.  Its prime function is to target projects at measurable objectives in order to promote efficient and effective working and recording.  It also enables the exchange of information within and between organisations. These are essential components of any management system, whether for a village pond, or the control of neighbourhood crime.  Therefore a CMS applied to manage a community’s green heritage assets is a model that can be applied to other areas of community development.
A CMS is a project-based planning and recording system aimed at managing conservation features within acceptable limits of variation. A 'project' is simply a programme of work leading to an output e.g. 'construct a footpath', 'patrol an area' or 'record a species'.  Projects are aimed at specific factors limiting the attainment of management objectives.  Each project includes a description of a process, e.g. the work to be done, when and where it is to be done, and the inputs of resources required to produce specified outputs.  When a project is completed, the actual outputs are recorded; e.g.. the length of fencing, the number of plants identified.  
The outcome is the results of all outputs aimed at fulfilling a management objective. It is the actual state of the feature at the end of a project, and is measured by performance indicators.  Performance indicators are quantitative or qualitative attributes of the features and are assessed by special monitoring- projects in order to gauge success in reaching the management objectives. Copies of all projects and their outputs and outcomes are retained in the CMS to provide a progress-register, and an archive to support managerial continuity. 
The prime function of a CMS is to enable site managers control the operational functions of a management plan as a feedback work-cycle by:-
  • identifying and describing, in a standard way, all the tasks of work required to manage the site's conservation features by addressing the key limiting factors (positive of negative), which influence the condition of the features.
  • producing and budgeting various work programmes, for example five year plans, rolling-plans, annual schedules, financial schedules, and work schedules for specified categories of staff.
  • providing a site/species monitoring system to check the effectiveness of the plan against the objectives that were set for it.
  • facilitating the exchange of site management information by reporting, within, and between, sites and organisations.
A CMS for professional conservation managers is maintained and developed as a software relational database by the UK CMS Consortium.
However, a simple CMS plan can be organised on paper, a spreadsheet or a simple 'To Do' list.  Examples are given in 'Making a plan: practical tools'.