Forget about management, we need to focus on the content

Need to simply let users do their work

Guest post by Laurence Hart
Content Management Strategist at Alfresco

I was at the Gartner IT Symposium a couple of weeks ago when the topic of Enterprise Content Management entered a presentation. I have repeatedly said that the word "Enterprise" was a dangerous word and led to more problems than it was worth. Gartner seems to agree, as they have recognized that most successful projects operate at the Department level.

Now we just need to get rid of the word "Management".

Mark Gilbert of Gartner said that he wanted to bury the word "Management" and I think it is time that we replaced the term. The word "Management" is what has made the Content Management Systems of today so problematic. If we want to push forward to a place where all content is properly handled, we could begin to think about what we really do with content. 

Management in the Way of Simple

Content Management projects that were "completed" have traditionally failed because the solutions are not adopted. They aren't simple enough for people to use without being forced. People get tired of jumping through hoops to get their jobs done and look for their own ways to get things done.

What makes all these systems so hard to use? We have pushed the Management of Content to people who are just trying to get their jobs done. They don't want to "manage" content. They may need to create, find, share and collaborate on content. Even then, the content may be secondary to their mission.

All people want from their content systems is to be able to find and use content from any context. They don't want to classify it, tag it or anything complex. They don't want to manage a workflow or a site. They just want to collaborate with their colleagues, with or without content.

Simply put, they just want to hit "save" and know that when they need that document again it will be there.

Feature Bloat

When you look at the average CMS interface, most of the options are strictly there to help manage the content. Many people don't even understand half of the options displayed. Heaven knows I am regularly confounded by one option or another, and I am a "professional".

We need to remove Management from the forefront of the technology and move it to the back, acting as the brains of the system. A CMS should be simple enough for the average person to use for storing all their content and smart enough to manage it effectively behind the scenes. That is what we need.

We don't need any more features. We don't need new ways to manage content. We need ways to make these content systems usable.

We need to shift away from looking at Content Management Systems as solutions unto themselves and look at them as Productivity Solutions. People don't want a generic system; they want Contract Management or Project Management solutions.

What we need are Content Collaboration or Content Publishing systems. If we focus on simplifying how people can use content to do their jobs, we will increase adoption. That adoption will finally allow the effective management of content.

After all, you can't manage documents sitting on a person's desktop. 

Laurence Hart is the Content Management Strategist at Alfresco. Laurence works with organizations to help them evaluate their strategy as it relates to their Content Management efforts, bringing two decades of experience solving the various challenges implementing content solutions. You can read more at his Word of Pie blog or follow him on Twitter.