Is Your CMS Project a Dead Monkey?

Attempting to do a precise time and cost estimate at the very beginning of a CMS project can be a difficult if not a bad thing.  These type of estimates can come back to bite you, and they can bite hard.

At the heart of the problem statement is that someone—a client, a boss, a procurement officer—is demanding a precise answer to a question that cannot be answered with certain precision.  Now if everyone understood that simple fact everyone could be happy and we could ride our unicorns off into the sunset, but in the real world people get those imprecise estimates and dates fixed in their heads, and odds are that that number is going to be lower than the real number.

Let me use a very… colorful… example to illustrate the point.

You’re a rocket scientist. Someone comes to you with the problem statement: “I want to send a monkey to space. I need you to tell me what that will cost and when do you think we can launch?”


Aside from the fact you want a monkey shot into space (been there, done that) the problem here is the wild imprecision based on not knowing… a lot of things. For starters:

  • Is the monkey alive?
  • Is this a one way trip?
  • If there is a return trip do you want the monkey to be alive when it comes back?
  • How long is the trip?

Out of that first round of questions come a whole slew of second tier questions like: if we’re launching a live monkey what is it going to eat? And what are we going to do about the monkey poo?

Give me five minutes and I’ll have 20 more questions—each of which impact scope, time, and price of the monkey-to-the-moon initiative.

At the end of the day, an estimate for strapping a dead monkey to a rocket with duct tape is not quite the same doing a round trip of 10 days, with ripe bananas on the menu, and expecting a dancing monkey at the end of the trip.

The moral of the story is that CMS projects can be very complex and need a solid and comprehensive planning stage in order to fully understand what questions and demands are being asked of the CMS and the development and implementation teams.

For the welfare of monkeys everywhere, please make sure you conduct enough planning to ensure you have a live monkey at the end of the day.

About the Author
George Ross

With more than a dozen years of experience leading enterprise web projects, George has seen the good, bad and ugly when it comes to CMS deployments. George brings an objective eye and a healthy dose of cynicism in evaluating the role of technology in the enterprise.

More articles from George Ross


One response… read them below or add one.

  1. John Hawkins says:

    On the other hand, the monkey may be dead from the beginning. It’s certainly not unusual for the planning to take so long that your CMS never gets off the ground at all. Focus and a well-defined scope are essential in the planning process.

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