Gerry McGovern // New Thinking

Why do organizations hate their content management system?

August 4, 2013 -- Gerry McGovern

There seems to be a major disconnect between those who purchase a content management system (CMS) and those who actually have to use it.
 
I sat in a boardroom meeting recently listening to an IT director explain how they were going to go about purchasing a new content management system. The old system was a disaster. Everybody hated it.
 
The IT director carefully explained the process they were going to go through. How they were going to select vendors, what the preferred technology was, etc. At some point another director interjected. “Do we actually know why we want this new CMS? Do we really know what we want to do with it?” Such novel questions. And there was total silence.
 
It is still true—to a frightening degree—that technology is bought for its own sake. It is bought because it fits into already existing IT systems. It is bought because of some new, cool features. It is bought because it ticks each of the many boxes in an enormous, unwieldy ‘kitchen sink’ Request For Proposals. It is bought because there is a belief that technology is transformative in and of itself.
 
“Too often, management naively believes that new tools only will improve practices but I find that is rarely the case,” JoAnn Hackos, President of Comtech Services, states.
 
Something is seriously wrong with the process by which organizations commission their content management systems. In all the years I’ve been doing this I can’t think of an organization that was genuinely happy with what they have. Many of the systems are usability nightmares with tortuous processes for creating, editing and—particularly—deleting content.
 
And it’s not solely the vendor’s fault. One vendor told me that they would love to make their system simpler but that they would not survive in the marketplace. “Organizations may say they want simplicity, but they buy complexity,” he told me. “The more complex it looks—and the more packed with features it is—the more impressed they are.”  
 
So something is seriously wrong in relation to how many organizations buy technology. And this problem has been around for at least 15 years and doesn’t seem to be getting much better.
 
Organizations need to have a much clearer idea of what they actually need. What is really, genuinely critical. (What are the publishing top tasks?) There also must be a much greater focus on the content professionals who will have to use the system on a day-to-day basis. (A surprisingly neglected group, sadly.)
 
Information overload or content bloat is often a hallmark of content management systems. One of the key selling points is often that you can distribute publishing throughout the organization. But distributed publishing is often a disastrous strategy as it allows content amateurs to flood the environment with low quality content.
 
This is exacerbated by the fact that a great many content management systems have extremely poor review and deletion processes. (A typical CMS is like a digestive system with no capacity to poop.)
 
The Web has turned millions of organizations into accidental publishers, whose strategy has often been to buy technology to deal with this. But that’s no strategy. Strategy begins with a purpose. What is the true benefit to us—and more importantly—to our customers?