Skip to content

#futureWCM – some thoughts from the last month…

November 30, 2009

November began with a virtual attendance at JBoye 09 and some remote involvement in the #fixwcm debate started at the event and continued online by Jon Marks. Crossing from West to East last week for a visit to China gave ample opportunity to think about #futurewcm and the upcoming debates on this being triggered by the Gilbane event in Boston.

So, in my blog round-up for November, I’m going to summarise some WCM client side views for this discussion and debate and hope that this provides a catalyst for other client views as these debates have a tendency to be dominated by vendors, analysts and commentators.

Getting back to basics…

In my first post of the month that coincided with the #fixwcm debate I looked at the CMS Watch definition of Web Content Management and in some further thoughts traveled even further back to how the father of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee described his original invention and how he describes its transition into something greater – the Giant Global Graph (GGG).

So, ten years from now, will Web Content Management still be “A system that lets you apply management principles to content.” ? and to what extent will WCM have evolved so that it can be distilled down into the simplistic description of the GGG – ‘content plus pointers plus relationships plus descriptions’?

It appears one of the biggest barriers to the development of the Semantic Web is the degree to which information can be deliberately manipulated. Could ‘social network’ frameworks such as Twitter provide a human driven semantic process that machines can actually make sense of? Or will the same issues of deceit and manipulation render such information as increasingly unreliable?

How far have we come in the last ten years?

As my #futureWCM post here emphasised, we’ve got the costs of WCM down considerably during this decade. A sub $50K mid market proprietary solution will pretty much do what an upper tier one did 10 years ago and Free/Open Source solutions will do as much if not a lot more of what the mid market solutions offered in the early to mid noughties.

However, the average organisation still struggles to make content management integral to its employee’s roles and CMS providers across all tiers are still struggling to make the content management process as intuitive and user-friendly as it needs to be. I’ve started a wish list at the end of my previous post for capabilities I’d love to have at my fingertips in my current role.

My personal belief is that CMS developers across all tiers and types tend to be focused far too much on the next big thing rather than understanding how the basic elements in the system need continual focus and development to make sure tasks can be achieved in as productive a way as possible. Let’s make the next ten years the ‘age of user experience’ and revolutionise the processes of creating and managing content online with some fresh thinking rather than too much herd behaviour.

The bigger picture

From my ramblings over the last month, you’ll probably have gathered that I feel Microsoft has hindered the progress of information management during the last decade through its efforts to protect its desktop dominance. Although I have been a big user and, at times, advocate of SharePoint the heritage of that product will always pull it back to the past rather than looking to the future. It is my personal belief that information management as a whole will benefit from Google making further progress into the average medium to large organisation.

Beyond the big software ideology battles that will doubtless continue to influence WCM development considerably over the next ten years, I think we will see new regional influence. The US led the way in the 90s, Europe has dominated the 00s and I believe that the East will come to dominate the 10s. Why? because in the same way the US has never really understood Europe, neither Europe or the US really understand the East.

When will the social media bubble burst?

As I’ve mentioned in posts during this month, alarm bells are ringing for me on ‘Social Media’. It’s another bubble for sure as I’m hearing the same levels of irrational comments and exuberance I’ve experienced many times now over the last 15 years or so.

Personally, I think organisations would do well to not get unhealthily distracted by the hype and really focus on what it is they do well. After-all, if the products and services they provide live up to their promise, they will be talked about with positive sentiment and the brand advocates will naturally do their part to drown out the negatives. Conversely, if social media becomes one big game of manipulation, trust will be undermined to such an extent that nobody will take any notice anyway and return to the long-standing beacons of trustworthy information – more than often the historical media properties whose people have been trained well to sniff out the truth. Citizen journalism is here to stay, as is ‘the cult of the amateur’ – the last few years of this decade have shown the benefits of this, but also the downsides and I am looking forward to a return to common sense during the next decade that brings some balance to some of the more ridiculous social media hype around today and lets us recognise reality from pseudo-reality.

A 2020 vision…

Ten years from now I’d like to see Microsoft Office (as we know it today) consigned to history and for people to be having nostalgic conversations about the days when they used to spend most of their working days creating Word documents or PowerPoint presentations and describing how ridiculous it was compared to how they work today. I’d like to imagine us all working in ubiquitous ‘context aware’ and ‘adaptive’ tools that help create and manage content assets in universally standardised ways and for that to become a basic commodity that nobody really feels the need to talk about anymore. In 2020 I’d like us all to be ‘web’ masters and not for web publishing to still be seen as a technical domain divorced from the rest of the operation.

I absolutely don’t want to be feeling that we are locked into a particular vendor or implementor or that in order to benefit from new ways of managing information for the web that we are going to need to start almost from the beginning again. I’d like to be sure that when we say we are making iterative improvements we are actually improving rather than just approaching the same issues from a different direction or adding a superficial veneer of improvement but not fixing the basics.

In an ideal world I’d love for us to be able to ‘engage’ with our web users on a ‘one-to-one’ basis. Firstly though, they’ve got to really want to do that in the first place. Secondly we need to be so good at managing the information flow throughout our organisation that we can engage with an individual customer in a meaningful and useful way, beyond how it’s always been done. Right now I don’t think the average organisation is remotely close to achieving this. Maybe the next ten years will finally make ‘one-to-one’ web ‘engagement’ a reality – but only if it really makes sense in the real world.

One Comment leave one →
  1. November 30, 2009 5:59 pm

    Thanks James, a really insightful article …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: