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Technology & Engineering December 07, 2011

Stop working against CMS platform features


When doing consultancy assignments helping teams get used to their new CMS platform we usually run into a number of the same problems.One of the most regular (and potentially most disruptive) is due to the technical team’s adoption of the new technology. This isn’t due to their technical expertise (more often than not they are very talented), rather their reluctance to think about solutions to problems in different ways. Unfortunately the new CMS platform looks like it is going to force them to think differently, and this is where the problems begin.

It’s perfectly reasonable. New concepts take a while to come round to – especially concepts that may not made sense the first time you hear them!

I’m usually met with comments like “It’s doesn’t fit in with the way we do things”, “why doesn’t the tool have feature XXX out of the box” or “why doesn’t it work like the next version of {insert fashionable technology of the day here} – no one likes {insert well supported language} here”.

They are all valid concerns, but they start to become the focus, rather that the problems that the current solution has that the tool is there to solve.

Of course the worse comment is “why are they implementing this? We could code our own in a few weeks”. This is usually from a team who have dozens of people struggling to maintain a custom built tool to the frustration of the colleagues in other parts of the organisation!

So you spend time showing them why things have been implemented in a certain way and trying to explain the business benefits – “remember feature xxx that takes so much support engineer time at the moment? Well although you it may not sound like the way you’d like to do it, it will allow the CMS to solve their issues, get the websites updated faster and reduce the overall maintenance effort”. Slowly you start to win them over and they begin to appreciate the real power and benefits of the tool, even if doesn’t make immediate sense.

They then start the implementation themselves. You check in after a couple of weeks to see how they’re doing and what you find is that they have tried to design/implement a system that works directly against the key features of the software you’ve demonstrated. This becomes dangerous, as the CMS tool may start to react to these unexpected ways of doing things, and this is where performance and stability issues can creep in. If it is left to carry on, then the implementation will also be difficult to use for the internal users, or worse, severely limits the flexibility it offers those teams to manage their websites.

Most major CMS platforms have been designed to solve some very specific problems seen across many installations. A lot of thought has gone into the architecture and design – and although it may not be immediately obvious there’s a reason and logic why things are the done the way they are, it may just take a while to realise what they are.

What’s more, the stakeholders have bought into this vision of doing things and have identified that the problems that the software solves are affecting the business.

So don’t try and hijack the tool by forcing it to work in a different way as it was designed. Doing this only leads to an unsupportable and unworkable CMS implementation. And one that is usually very difficult to upgrade.

The reason a new CMS is being implemented is because the current solution isn’t working. So embrace the change – thing about things in a different way – it might even be fun!

Nuno Linhares from SDL has a great blog post about the same issue and Tridion implemenations here:

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