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Don't give me a CMS, give me a content management system!
A rather exaggerated look back on the rollercoaster life of a web professional.
Remember the days when the big vendors would love to tell you how, if you purchased their CMS, that would be you sorted? You would have complete control over your content and through their ground breaking web based client you could edit content from anywhere. Wasn't the world an easier place back then?
Back then it was easy. The web was your only channel, and if you were really down with the kids, you did an RSS feed as well. We designed to the resolution that was most common amongst our users, checked it for compatibility with the major desktop browsers and then hacked in fixes for IE.
But we were happy! We controlled the web and the customer had to come to us for information. So we gave it to them in buckets! Everywhere, about everything, and anyone. Resources weren't a big problem. We had a CMS! We could give as many people control of their little bit as was needed.
And then the world changed...
The ground underneath us shifted and suddenly we were seeing a raft of new technologies coming on stream that excited and thrilled us. Our designs suddenly had to cope with a rapidly increasing array of resolutions that seemed to change quicker than we could keep up. The concept of the one web design went out the window and suddenly they had to be responsive to the device. We now had to now take into account not only the precision of a mouse pointer, but also the sausage like devices called fingers poking and prodding our sites on screens little bigger than the business cards from CMS suppliers that adorned our desks.
Our last bastion of hope was that we had the monopoly on where our customers got information about us, then it got wrenched from our grasp. We now had to make sure all our information was posted to third party sites. Comparison sites of all things! Social networks sprang up and we suddenly found that people were talking about us, but not always in the way we would prefer. Sanctions, policies and procedures sprang up left right and centre to try and stem the tide of reviews, but it was as much use as trying to staunch the flow of a fireman's hose using little more than your index finger. We distanced ourselves from them and pretended they weren't there, but still they came.
As if the court of public opinion wasn't getting in the way enough, suddenly the legal courts turned on us as well. Page after page after page of out of date information was hitting our bottom line as we were made to honour the details that our customers had found buried in our sites. Information that random John Smith, long since left, had placed in a spirit of openness now threatened us with heavy fines and sanctions that would make even the strongest lawyer weep and wish for home.
But we fought back with our secret weapons. Analytics! This would teach them, this would show them what we'd been saying all along. This would tell us what we could cull and what we could keep. This would tell us the very mind of the user and allow us to peer deep into their soul and give them exactly what they wanted. But which analytics to use? Google would come to our rescue we thought, surely its hallowed data centres could show us the light! But what about all those other channels that aren't covered by Google. Our Facebook posts, twitter feeds, pinterest boards and sparse Google+ accounts. We piled the analytics high and bought package after package and got the numbers we wanted.
Well, we kind of did. We did our best to interpret them. Then we realised that the Frankenstein like user created from the thousands of individual hits perhaps wasn't a true representation of what the individual wanted. The one size fits most memo didn't seem to get through to those trying to get our information.
The information was out of control. The content going out as well as the data going in. And then a spark of an idea lighted on our minds. We don't need a content management system. We need to manage our content. We need to break free of the traditional shackles of the web model that currently binds our feet. The future isn't in a fancy website, it's in the careful curation, management and collection of data and then deploying it back out to where it needs to go, at the right time, and to the right person.
Trouble is...I'm not sure such a system exists yet.