Onward with the Content Management March!

Change management practices for good content management system adoption.

Kristina Podnar
October 3, 2012

Yet again, I had the privilege this year of judging the CODiE awards, focusing on the “Best Content Management Solution” category. It is always amazing to speak with the folks who make the technology, for they are really trying hard to make a difference in the life of the end user. New features are added every year, and the (sometimes more and sometimes less) interesting interpretations of functionality in toolsets is fascinating.

In general, I like to have live, guided demos of toolsets. They allow for many questions, the opportunity to challenge vendors, and to learn a lot that I can then feed into my work. The pre-demo chit-chat is in a way my favorite part. It is telling of how technical the folks are on the call. My tolerance for marketing or sales-only folks had been decreasing as the judging went towards the end, until a complete and utterly sales guy asked: “Why do you think people still don’t adopt CMS?”

Now here is a guy who knows enough to know that he doesn’t know enough. I liked him. I especially liked the fact that he put out there a common truth that most consultants don’t tell clients. Or vendors for that matter. Not that all vendors want to hear the answer…

My experience with content management system (CMS) implementations, which has now spanned some 14 years, has been that folks resist its adoption. They resent not being able to hand-code HTML and thus be one of the only 2 people in the organization that can post content the “right way”. They resist it because they fear their font colors will be limited. Or the picture they took at the last workshop won’t make the page cut, since there is no neat place to put it in a CMS template.

It can be utterly frightening for those who still remember the use of answering machines to trust their written word to a software application such as Microsoft Word, let along a CMS which may take their best ideas and place them in a magic box that can only be opened by a special password.

As the years pass, I realize that all of these folks who are so resistant to the concept of content management and rally against their CMS don’t deserve to be locked out of our processes, our debates, or our new way of getting content out there. But what they need is more handholding, more training, more reassurance, and less technical talk and scare tactics that say they must “or else”. We need to fold them into the process, ensure they have a voice. That they are represented from the time we dream of using a CMS to the time it is deployed, in the know the entire time.

It sounds painful, and it sounds time consuming. It can be! But the benefit of really getting the masses to adopt this technology category that is so promising, and yet so relatively slowly evolving, is immeasurable. The opportunity to actually use content management the way it was intended, to have chunks of content that are properly tagged, reusable, and stored in an industry-standard type of way, should be the norm and not the hope. And when that happens, I will be forever grateful, as the CODiE’s will step it up. And no vendor will ever have to ask again, why do people still not want to use a CMS.

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