- Andrew Kos
- Bill Burlein
- Bryan Williams
- Christian Vozar
- Jeff Brown
- John Kraus
- Joseph Mak
- Josh Durbin
- Mark Daugherty
- Matt Van Bergen
- Melissa Geoffrion
- Michael Kang
- Michael Chan
- Michael Hodgdon
- Mike Motherway
- Molly McDaniel
- Nadia Maciulis
- Pat McLoughlin
- Paul Michelotti
- Puru Hemnani
- Rohit Srinath
- Ryan Lunka
- Tom Kelly
Maximizing the Value of Your WCM Implementation
Friday, September 14, 2012
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Everyone on the planet has heard this Chinese proverb in some form. I believe it to be the fundamental philosophy behind the concept of a web content management system. WCM is about empowerment. It’s about enabling the experts in communication to optimize how they use the web as a platform for that communication. It’s about getting the technology out of their way without taking it away. It’s about enabling (buzzword alert) communication agility.
Enterprise technology typically does not align with this philosophy. There are politics. There are barriers. There are long-held traditions, whether intended or not. All of these diminish the value of the WCM, because they affect the implementation in such a way that it becomes just like any other platform. Traditional enterprise mentality says, “Here is what we want. Build it.” I’m not about to open the Costco-sized can of “agile vs. waterfall” worms, but I wholeheartedly believe that design-then-build processes do not allow organizations to maximize the value of their technology. Yet, it’s unfortunately embedded into so many cultures that it continues to affect new technology implementations from day one. WCM implementations fall victim to it the second the CIO says the words, “We need a new website.”
The problem with those five simple words is that from day one, you’ve established that the philosophy is to buy a fish. It may be a bigger, prettier fish, but it is still just one fish. To really select the best-aligned WCM and then to unlock maximum value, the first words should be, “We need a new platform for communication.” It’s a subtle difference, but a fundamentally important one. The former will eventually equate to requirements about what it looks like and what it does, so that someone can build it. The latter should equate to a list of required tools that allow the communication/marketing team (who are usually not programmers) to manage their digital presence. Someone can build those tools and the marketer can build the site.
You will still have mockups of your site. You will still have information architecture. Branding and styling are still important. The key difference is how to discuss the value of these requirements. Viewing them holistically (the website), though necessary, is not enough. When the requirements are viewed as componentized tools, then you are zooming in on the micro-value that each of those tools provides. Then collectively they provide the holistic, macro-value of your website. A website on a WCM should be the collective stacking (by non-programmers) of a set of building blocks. This is what enables the agility that really empowers the communicators to do their jobs well.
As an implementer of WCMs, I consider a successful implementation one that puts me out of a job. If I’ve done my job correctly, you will not need me to manage your digital presence – assuming you don’t come up with new tools you want. The goal is to build a framework in which the marketer has the freedom to do as they choose, but also the boundaries to remain inside the branding and architecture. I’ve heard folks at Adobe use the phrase “build freedom within a framework.” I love it. The bonus for me is that my job then shifts to discussions about building cooler, newer tools and unlocking even more value. Our time and money can be spent coming up with creative new ways to manage the digital presence, instead of managing maintenance and cleanup or worse, using development effort to update content.
I don’t mean to be “pie in the sky” about this, and I’ll be the first to tell you that this fundamental shift in philosophy is difficult. It requires a different kind of thought abstraction and it requires working through frictions that were started long before I walked the earth. To me, it’s an ideal for which to strive – one to evolve towards. It’s what makes me encourage clients to get the WCM experts involved from day one of conception, not day one of development (shameless plug for CITYTECH). Too many organizations spend millions of dollars on incredible WCMs to simply plop what they were already doing on top of it. Even worse, many implementations are abandoned. Subtle shifts in values and messaging during the conception of a WCM implementation could reap huge benefits. Buy a pole for your marketers and let them fish. Your digital presence will be better for it.
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