The other day I was chatting with our copy editor—who was in diapers when I was already hammering away on my first typewriter—about the possibility of reviewing an online collaboration tool together. We were outlining the parts of our job it might make easier, including having only one version of a file at any time, working with all of our remotely located authors (not to mention each other: he's in WI and I'm in CT), and having an audit trail of who changed what when.
Like any good codger, I felt compelled to bore him with some anecdotes about my early days in publishing: "In my day, authors used to send in typed manuscripts that a typist would then key into the Varitype machine for print out and paste up." I'm not exaggerating when I say we rejoiced when authors starting mailing in manuscripts on 5 1/8 floppy disks. Then (he was undoubtedly in a coma by this time) I told him about an author I once worked with who drove me nuts because his fax machine and email were always down. In explanation, the author mailed (it took about a month) a picture of the grass hut in Botswana where his office was located. I hung that picture by my desk for years to remind me of how technologically blessed I was to have dial-up and Microsoft Office.
Back then, when salesmen approached publishing companies with new products, they usually targeted the publisher or production manager to pitch a point solution. Then, as the expectation that computers communicate within an organization developed, publishing solutions transformed into technology solutions. Slowly, such solutions became the domain of Information Technology professionals (aka IT guys), whose exclusivity of expertise made them a sort of geek elite.
Fast-forward to widespread Web access to cSo, last year, the content management mantra became all about lowering the barriers to entry. This translated into simplified user interfaces, modular (affordable) solutions that could be scaled up as needed, and growth in the Web content management sector. The bottom line seemed to be all about the bottom line: lower the price by offering point solutions that solve specific business unit problems (and make the products simpler so that these individuals can actually use them). But that approach is so 2003. ontent of all types for users of all types. Making Web sites the launch pad for information has shown companies in all industries that they have to think more like publishers in conceiving compelling content and delivering it in a readable, intuitive, and aesthetically pleasing fashion. Unfortunately, most companies built early sites with priorities placed in the reverse order. But today, a growing number of companies realize that their sites need to contain useful information delivered in a way that meets user needs.
When content management systems hit the scene, they were a big, scary, expensive proposition. While organizations that used relational databases might "get it" fairly easily (at least in theory), most companies didn't get too excited when faced with a six-figure, year-to-implement proposal for a solution to "simplify" their lives. Especially since, given the technological complexity of these solutions, the individual taking the sales call was probably an IT guy. While visions of no more manual posting of content onto sites (not to mention any minor correction or update) might have appealed, the cure probably sounded a whole lot worse than what ailed them.
So, last year, the content management mantra became all about lowering the barriers to entry. This translated into simplified user interfaces, modular (affordable) solutions that could be scaled up as needed, and growth in the Web content management sector. The bottom line seemed to be all about the bottom line: lower the price by offering point solutions that solve specific business unit problems (and make the products simpler so that these individuals can actually use them). But that approach is so 2003.
The shortcoming in providing point solutions to business-unit managers—like directors of marketing or human resources—is that often the scale-up potential of CM is not realized because the individual in charge of the deployment is focused on solving a single problem, doesn't have a high-level view of how CM might help the company in other ways, or doesn't have the clout required to get those with high-level views to take a closer look.
In a recent chat with Ektron's founder, president, and CEO, Bill Rogers, something promising arose: the emergence of the title "director of content management" within organizations. While "director of human resources" produced 200,000 hits on a Google search, "director of content management" turned up a quaint, yet encouraging, 395 hits. So, from a numbers perspective, the 2003 approach of taming the product to meet the needs of the department still holds the clear advantage. But not too long ago, if one had talked about deploying a CMS at the department level, people would have laughed, so maybe there's room for another approach.
According to Rogers, "Before, it was the CIO or VP of marketing in charge of CMS, but you almost need someone right in the middle to take charge. You need that director to have the skills most marketing people would have and yet be technical enough to understand how that information should be delivered." He believes that the emergence of individuals dedicated to effective CMS deployment will be a boon for the content industry as a whole.
"CM will get more and more common place," he says. "Back about ten years ago, we'd walk into a small business and say, ‘what do you think about having a server?' And they'd say, ‘maybe.' Now every company has a server." CMS needs to find the right master to serve it up so that it serves us well.