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Where content meets technology

Dec 23, 2010

11 Content Management Wishes for 2011

I don't generally write (or even read for that matter) upcoming year prediction posts. They seem more for the benefit of industry watchers than practitioners in the trenches. This, I know: some vendors will flourish; others will get acquired; early adopters will believe themselves to be leading lasting trends; many of them won't be; many employees will be frustrated that their companies are not following these trends; the rest of the world will take little notice. Now onto my hopes for the new year. I wish these things not just for the trendsetters but for everyone working in content management.

  1. I hope that expertise follows the technology. We have seen a trend of corporate web publishing moving out of the Information Technology group and into the Marketing department. This is great but I haven't seen marketing departments develop the talent to manage these technologies. People in marketing don't have enough experience hiring and managing technical people, enforcing engineering rigor, and buying technology services. This is particularly problematic because the content management products they are buying have a huge upside if you understand how to implement and maintain their sophisticated features.

  2. I want "Creative Developer" to emerge as the dominant role in most web teams. I have had the pleasure of working with some talented people who are good enough with design, HTML, CSS, AJAX and can also hold their own on a software development team. They can maintain their own development environments, can get around a command line, can pick up server-side coding, and have a genuine interest in engineering. For a while I got spoiled and didn't have an idea of how rare these individuals are. I would like to see this skill set become the norm rather than the exception.

  3. I want analytics to become a core competency. Nearly all companies practice web analytics but very few have achieved the level of mastery it takes to leverage this information. Setting and striving for metrics-based goals isn't baked into the culture. Traffic trends are more of a curiosity rather than a call to action. Typically companies are smartest about analytics immediately after purchasing a product and sending a team member to training. Then the intelligence decays as other operational aspects take priority or the person leaves. Often I see companies on the market for a new analytics system when they could do just as well by retraining on their current system.

  4. I wish everyone would dump IE6 support. Can we just do this already? By continuing to support IE6, we are not only wasting money and stifling innovation but we are also enabling companies to force their employees to use outdated, insecure technology.

  5. I wish technology companies would get more sustainable. The current pattern for technology companies is to: 1) burn lots of cash to build a product; 2) build a user base; 3) cash out by being bought by some other company. Customers are drawn in during phase 2 and then get screwed in phase 3. We see this in enterprise software (Vignette, RedDot, Merant) and in consumer software and services too (most recently with Delicious). Knowing this, I prefer solutions that I can see a sustainable business model from the start.

  6. I want a focus on content strategy to become the norm. Last year was big for content strategy. The field has been gaining awareness and key visionaries are starting to emerge. My hope is that this discipline continues to be incorporated into standard business practices. Teams need to start with the content rather than the container. We will know we are close when we stop seeing lorem ipsum in wirefames (another blog post I need to write).

  • I wish for the return of the corporate librarian. Too many companies believe that they can buy technology to play the role of a corporate librarian. Rather than invest time to organize and curate information, they leave it where it is and hope enterprise search will find it. The problem is that there winds up being so much duplicated content that the search engine can't effectively prioritize and recommend what it should in a search result. Either every knowledge worker needs training in basic library sciences, or companies need corporate librarians to help teams organize and share their information.
  • I hope the social intranet gets real. Up until recently companies have been operating under the myth that if you launch an internal Facebook, employees will jump in with the same enthusiasm that they poured into the real thing. That hasn't happened and it isn't going to happen. Nobody wants to invest their entire social being into their employers system where it only can be seen by co-workers. However, I think the social intranet concept has more legs than its predecessor which was to create a shared corporate brain (repository) that employees would voluntarily dump all their knowledge into and be able to leverage when they needed it. All the science says that knowledge and learning doesn't work that way. People learn by experience. The learning happens faster with immediate feedback. Someone else's feedback is almost as good as the natural feedback from a good or bad decision. If the social intranet can simply connect people who are learning skills with people who have been through the learning process, there will be huge returns. The challenge is to align the rewards to create a culture that prioritizes those types of exchanges.
  • I hope publishers develop a sustainable web business model. The foundation of the web is interconnectedness. Visitors bounce around from site to site and share links with each other. Traditional publishing has focused on building a captive audience — getting the full attention of a customer and renting some of that attention to advertisers. That is easier to do with a paper magazine or newspaper in hands of a person in a comfy chair than it is in a browser under the control of an attention challenged, click-happy web user. Publishers either need to either figure out away to monetize a non-captured audience or re-capture their audience. Apps and pay walls (the current infatuations of publishers) attempt the latter but they take the publisher out of the web ecosystem. I don't think that is going to work over the long term. This problem is more than a year away from getting solved but I would like to see some progress during 2011.
  • I hope Net Neutrality is preserved. I am getting dangerously close to industry-watcher territory here, but the threat to net neutrality really concerns me. It wouldn't be a problem if there was real competition between internet service providers, but most consumers have only 1 or 2 broadband service options. If the government is going to allow (and enable) these monopolies to exist, it has a responsibility to regulate this overly monopolistic behavior.
  • I hope content professionals continue to be passionate about their craft and earn their place in upper management. In order for that to happen, we will need to realize the rhetoric of content as a strategic asset. This means demonstrating how better content management can make businesses more effective and competitive.
  • As you can see, we all have our work cut out for us. Get some rest over the next couple of days and get ready for 2011. I expect great things from you all!

    Happy holidays.