Monday, February 9, 2009

James Robertson's Rule of CMS Usage

James Robertson has a great post called James Robertson's Rule of CMS Usage. The rule is:

Over time, CMS usage will head towards the middle of the road.
What it means is that companies typically start out thinking that they have very unique requirements and select elaborate systems to cater to the peculiarities of their process. Natural selection extinguishes individuality that is not a competitive advantage and companies are left with capabilities that are no longer needed. A classic example of this kind of unstable situation is where you have a web site that looks very average but is managed by exceptionally complex systems and processes. In James's words:
The gap between back-end complexity and front-end simplicity quickly became apparent. This has increased the amount of effort needed to create new sites, and to manage the CMS on an ongoing basis. In summary, a greater than average amount of work to publish very average sites.

This kind of suboptimal solution often happens when a software selection is done by a generalist project manager or functional analyst that does not have the perspective necessary to challenge the status quo. It also happens when the selection is dominated by an expensive software vendor that tries to win the opportunity on flexibility. In order to make the case for flexibility you need to convince the customer that they are an exceptional case that cannot be supported by a simple solution. This is why I tend to focus on leading requirements and keep the progress grounded in the practical by pushing back on unconventional requirements that do not add to extraordinary value. That is not to say that all companies are the same; I love working with a client and discovering something innovative that gives them an edge. It is just that companies with similar goals are less different than they tend to think they are and can benefit from converging to the "middle of the road."