One of the things I REALLY like about my job is the chance to talk to clients, prospects, and people throughout the industry. Nothing helps you learn a technology or vertical like a project, but nothing helps you keep a broader perspective than talking to a wide array of people.
Last month I visited two such companies that were taking different approaches to the same situation. While both approaches have benefits, I began to ask myself…
Which is the best approach?
Strategic Program versus Tactical Project
The basic problem facing the companies was that they both had decided that they needed to put together an Enterprise Content Management (ECM) strategy. Kudos to both of them. They both wanted to settle on default systems to serve as their go-to technology for all content solutions. All admirable goals except…
They both have business problems that need immediate attention. From what I assessed of their strategic Content Management efforts, they were both at least six months away from making a decision. They are both international companies but making sure that they can address all of their needs takes a little more effort than setting up meetings with people down the hall.
They both have an immediate tactical needs with business owners that are ready to address their problems. They both have efforts underway to standardize on a default Content Management platform.
What should they do?
Flexibility is Critical
We are living in an age where technology and business needs are evolving as fast as IT can keep up, if not faster. This makes it inevitable that in any large organization there will always be multiple technologies serving baseline needs. This happens for many reasons:
- Legacy systems that keep working and aren’t worth the effort to update.
- Critical application that works better on the non-default IT stack.
- New technology brought in to test out new architectures.
- Rogue applications implemented by a department that gains enough adoption to warrant survival.
I don’t ever expect to see a large organization with only one Content Management system for those very reasons. What makes this tenable as a point-forward reality is making sure that all systems are open. That means well documented APIs and strong support for Open Standards.
My advice to both companies, solve the tactical problem using software that meets the immediate need without creating a closed-off silo of content. Don’t wait for a strategic effort that is months away from reaching a conclusion. In fact, this is an opportunity to test drive some of the very technology that the larger strategic effort is evaluating.
If the business problem is properly solved with an open solution, the worst case scenario is that the problem is solved and they will have ruled out a potential standard solution. Best case, they will have the problem solved and will have found a Content Management system that meets their broader needs.
Either way, a group of people will have their business problem solved and the information will be accessible to the rest of the organization. At the end of the day, isn’t that all we are trying to do anyway?