When good CMS projects go bad

Here’s the thing about web governance. Nobody likes to talk about web governance. Frankly, it can be a bit dry. I’ll give you that. That’s why I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of hundred folks register for our webinar this Tuesday in partnership with Sitecore. The topic: Avoding Site Killers with Effective CMS Planning. Here are the slides and a Cliff Notes recap in case you missed it. Just don’t skip class again (without a note).

The webinar was based on the award-winning screenplay (read: whitepaper) we produced with Sitecore earlier this year. It’s a free download on our site if you haven’t read it. It also included fantastic contributions from Non Linear Creations’ Randy Wood.
The presentation introduced the five site killers that can sink any CMS project. There are of course more than five, but we only had an hour.
Here’s the central thesis: Success with CMS is about much more than the technology.
It is such an obvious statement I found myself apologizing a few times on the webinar for saying it. But here’s what I’ve learned after seeing hundreds and hundreds of CMS-driven projects: While almost everyone will agree that technology alone won’t make things better, very few organizations actually surround the technology with the right the people and processes.
In fact, our first site killer occurs when folks don’t think about how the CMS will actually be used. Our recent post on The CMS Selection Myth talked about how the very nature of picking a CMS changes the way you plan the project. Often time organizations can get off on the wrong foot before they even start. This isn’t to say the technology doesn’t matter. You need to find technology that fits. It’s just the 20%, not the 80%. When you look through everything with a product-based lens, you don’t focus on the things that really matter.
Another site killer happens when organizations fail to think beyond the website. Customer experience, multi-channel and mobile are all big buzzwords right now. There’s good reason for the buzz. Digital content is being delivered in completely different ways and the expectation for what a CMS needs to do is changing. This means the way you plan, build and manage CMS-driven websites needs to change too.
We also talked about what we call CMS sprawl. What looks like a solid platform at launch can start to slowly degrade or spiral out of control as folks bolt on features, add content and create new sites. The management of a CMS platform takes real discipline. This is the area where good governance can pay off so you don’t fall into the trap of having to redesign and replatform every 3-5 years.
Perhaps the biggest site killer has to do with the people you put around a CMS. I’m always amazed to see organizations spend six (and seven) figures for a new platform and go through a 1-2 year process only to not invest in any full time content folks to oversee it. The editorial teams that keep the digital lights on are almost always understaffed and underfunded. There’s an incorrect thought that a CMS should reduce the amount of people who need to work on the web, when in reality it almost always requires more resources.
There was a great Q&A with the folks after the webinar which leads me to believe this is a topic people do care about. We’ve also been getting more and more clients ask us to come in and help them with governance issues. While it can be a dry topic, it’s an important one, and I’m glad to see the interest. Thanks to anyone who did listen in this week.
How have you organized your teams for success with CMS? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic.
About the Author
Jeff Cram

Jeff Cram is Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design), a digital agency based in Portland, OR and Boston, MA. As the Managing Editor of the CMS Myth, Jeff is passionate about all topics related to content management, digital strategy and experience design.

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One response… read them below or add one.

  1. Excellent slideshow.
    to avoid most of the traps you identified we promote a process which industrialize localized websites putting content at the core.
    Have a look to a short video which summarize the process and let me know your opinion about our point of view: http://dai.ly/zScBqI

    Best regards,
    Pierre Jean

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