Learning Lessons As We Make Content Services A Reality

[Originally published on the TeraThink blog]

Craft, hand-painted chocolates are the ultimate in user experience.I’ve been speaking a lot about content services of late. At TeraThink, we are a big believer that good content services are a solid foundation for excellent user experience. This is why I’ve been focused on dispelling some of the hype around content services. One of the reasons I, and TeraThink, have been trying to push past the hype is because we are actively using content services to deliver solutions at scale.

Along the way, we’ve been trying to share some of our lessons. James Fintel shared what we’ve learned about building content services agilely using Kanban. What I wanted to share was some of our lessons on the delivery of content services to a government agency.

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ECM, Content Services, or Just Doing It?

"It's deja-vu all, all over again." - Yogi BerraRecently, Gartner issued a note announcing The Death of ECM and Birth of Content Services. This has been met with several, mixed responses. Many pointed out to Gartner that many of us have been talking about this for years. I wrote a post on Content Services, Not ECM back in 2013. Going even further back, the concept of Content Services is core to Content Management Interoperability Services. In 2009 I outlined the three fundamental use cases for CMIS, or any content service.

I could spend all day linking to old posts but I want to take some time to bring something new to the discussion. A lot has changed over the years and perspectives have been refined. The last few days have seen my mind wandering and debating this whole topic in my spare, and not so spare, time.

Let me sum it up for you, it is a false dichotomy. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) is not a thing you buy. It should not be taken into isolation. Content Services is useless as a replacement as it is completely different.

Let me break this down.

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Empathy in Product Management

Swiss Army Knife with too muchI’ve discussed the need for us to use more empathy in our projects. One easy step in is to stop talking about users and remember that people use the solutions we create. There are fellow human beings trying to get things done with what we deploy.

This consideration needs to be taken back another layer. We are people as well. The products we are forced to use, from the standard Content Management System (CMS) to the most complicated Information Governance suite, needs to be easier to use. It shouldn’t take a week of training to just start using a system, much less being productive. Mistakes made in the beginning shouldn’t doom us to years of pain.

Enterprise software User Experience matters.

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Forget Users, Think People

We have a problem in this industry. We live in a world where we constantly think about the “users” of our software. In that identification, we dehumanize the People that are using our system. While this is a small detail, we have to remember one thing…

Words Matter.

Everywhere I look, in proposals, requirements, and manuals, the People that use the system are referred to as Users.

Not Writers.

Not Publishers.

Not Creators.

Not People.

It is pervasive. We hold User Conferences. We write User Manuals. We assign User IDs.

The cruel thing is that we don’t do it to ourselves. There are developer conferences. The creators of the software get to be People, why not those who have to live with the software?

We even try and perfect the User Experience.

Why are we not working on the Human Experience?

Why do we insist on calling the People whom our software helps users? We aren’t pushing a drug. If we were, more People would be willing to use it.

imageDrugs are addictive. Content Management software is not.

One thing that we do have in common, aside from calling People “users”, is that we have to push People to use the software. We have to convince them to take that first step in using the software. People view the software as dangerous, a risk, something to be avoided.

We need to change this approach. As Content Professionals, we need to think of everyone as People. The first step is to change the way we talk.

I am not trying to help users.

I am helping People.