A False Choice for Web Content Management

Today we welcome a guest MythBuster. Heather Hanson, interactive project manager and our colleague at Connective DX, offers sage advice on balancing “fast, good, and cheap” in a CMS initiative. Heather knows of what she writes: a project roster rich in CMS has gained her official (and unofficial) product-certified status on a number of platforms — and some well-earned street cred.

By Heather Hanson
Guest MythBuster &
Project Manager, Connective DX

You’ve probably heard this saying:

“Fast, Good and Cheap. Choose Two”

Almost every project manager I’ve run across has a version of this slogan on a poster, paperweight or, in the case of one particularly hardcore technorati, a tattoo.

As widely referenced as the expression may be, it’s worth examining in the context of content management deployments.

The truth is that CMS-driven websites have a low likelihood of long term success, if the time isn’t taken to thoroughly research the user needs, marketing goals and internal staff capabilities before determining a final schedule (and for that matter, budget).

And believe me, as a project manager, schedules and budgets are two things I hold near and dear to my heart.

So you’ve gone through many discovery sessions (at Connective DX, we call this the “blueprint phase”) and thoroughly documented how your goals tie to your website initiatives.

Now your marketing department is asking to see the results from all the meetings you’ve put them through. You know exactly what features you’ll need to make your website sing and what internal resources will be needed to support the website once it’s up and running.

The pressure mounts to set that launch date and you ambitiously promise your team that the new site will be ready to rock in one month, before consulting the development team or agency that will produce said website.

Stop right there; remember the slogan.

You’ve spent the time to research, which puts you ahead of the poor souls who jump straight into development, but you forgot about the “good” and “cheap” parts.

Now, are you ready to tell the powers that be that the website will be exponentially more expensive than original estimates?  In order to make that schedule, your interactive agency will need to staff round-the-clock developers and designers, plus project managers and strategy personnel to keep the project within scope and marketing vision. And don’t forget to keep the team’s mugs full of extra strength espresso. Chances for an implosion are high in this situation.

Or, would you rather let the bosses know that they’ll get their site on time and on budget, but instead of that fully-interactive, web 3.0 compliant, CMS-driven website they thought they’d see, they will have a lite version with a limited feature set.

Neither option is particularly appealing given the expectations set up front.

Go back to step one and take those discovery results to your development team. Tell them you want a realistic quote on the time and budget it will take to make your ideas actualized. 

Your development team should be willing to work with you to honestly assess what can and can’t be done in the time and budget you have. In fact, they’ll probably even be happy to help you create supporting material to present to your budget-holders.

Finally, go back to your team. Talk to them about what you’ve determined they’ll be able to get based on their time/budget/feature needs, take a deep breath and get set to win that Webby.

Getting back to our phrase (fast, cheap or good – pick two). The moral of the story is to not put yourself in that situation in the middle of the project. Setting right expectations up front and scoping a project with all of your stakeholders can have you making fewer compromises along the way.

Of course, there are still the pitfalls to contend with like scope changes, content-entry purgatory and training your internal staff to use your new CMS, but those topics can wait for a future blog entry.

About the Author
David Aponovich

A former 'CMS Insider,' David is relentlessly focused on the gap between vendor speak and customer adoption. In addition to keeping a keen eye on industry trends, he works with clients on the cultural and process implications of CMS that are so often overlooked. David wrote for the CMS Myth during his time working at Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design).

More articles from David Aponovich


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  1. chris says:

    This article is excellent in that it has recognized the gap between a customers experience with a CMS and a vendors sales talk. This article is a good forewarning to those who plan to invest in a CMS soon. If you are planning to adopt a CMS, you might want to consider CrownPeak, one of the better known names in the market.  CrownPeak has a product for every customer be it individual or business and their prices are attractive too. For details you might want to visit http://www.crownpeak.com/

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