Archive for the ‘Falcon Blog Commentary’ Category
I just finished watching episode nine of Game of Thrones season three. Actually, I finished watching it last week but it was so intense I still relive the scene each day. For those of you who are Game of Throne fans you’ll understand what I mean (not Rob!). For the rest of you who are missing out on some intense HBO, here is the abridged version: there was a wedding between two high profile families in a mystical land called Westeros, then things go a bit Pete Tong and one family obliterated the other family, hence the episode name – The Red Wedding (you can imagine where the red comes from).
So why am I bringing this up on our Falcon blog? I think there is a connection between the made-up world of Westeros and web production (or so I like to think):
- Managing People: unless your stakeholders are wearing armor and branding swords it is best to include them in your project. Keep them close and, at a minimum, as involved as their position on the project stakeholder power/interest grid suggests.
- Understand your Assets: I would do almost anything for trio of fire breathing dragons that Daenerys Targaryen uses to conquer several kingdoms but alas, most people aren’t as lucky. Organizations invest in assets in exchange for some future economic growth. There are two parts to this – investing and future gain. When you build a website you are investing in a great asset for your organization but you also have to look at the second part. How will it be used in the future? What gains do you anticipate getting from it? Continuing to ask these questions will not only shape how the content management system is designed, it will keep it evolving and to suite the ever changing organizational landscape.
- Know your Weaknesses: The death of Ned Stark – one of the THE major characters in Game of Thrones – early on in the series left fans questioning how the show could go on. Once the wounds healed and fans were able to reflect on what actually happened we learned a lesson from Ned. Knowing your weaknesses can keep you out of trouble. Ned was loyal – to a fault. Had he acknowledged this he likely would not have made the choices he did or at least would have gotten a second opinion. Everyone has weaknesses and knowing them and asking for help dilutes their grip.
I get that mystical worlds may not sound like everyone’s idea of an action packed evening but whatever you are into whether that be professional sports, romantic novels or paddle boarding there are likely parallel lessons that can be applied. Life is always teaching us something – even through a wild and wicked HBO series. I’m curious to know what you have learned from unexpected sources lately.
My first exposure to project management was as a very low-on-the-totem-pole team member of a very large and very expensive software development project. I like to reminisce about that experience because it takes me back to a time when I didn’t live and breathe project management. It helps me remember another perspective. One that often gets forgotten in large projects: the end user. So often in the project phases – initiation, planning, execution, control and closure – the most important person is left out of the equation and the most important questions don’t get asked.
Back in 2006, Information Technology (IT) Governance was being hammered into every IT manager, director and CIO minds. With the adoption of Sarbanes-Oxley in Canada, IT Governance was starting to grow legs since it related to decision making in IT, management controls and had a direct connection with overall Corporate Governance. You can write entire books on the subject of CSOX, IT/Corporate governance so I won’t go into details but I raise it to outline how that seemed to give more light to how organizations used or viewed technology. For decades, unless you worked for a company like Apple whose purpose was to develop cool techie stuff, IT was always the back box cost-center tucked in the basement. I’m sure IT folks from the late 80’s can tell you some interesting stories about where the IT departments were physically located. My best one was in the basement of a big city hospital next to asbestos’s pipes and the morgue. Call me an idealist, but I believe that where an organizations technology department is located is symbolic to how it is viewed and utilized in the company. If your IT department is in the far reaches of the building, it is likely not part of the company’s overall strategic direction. Again, it’s perspective.
Organizations have moved forward when it comes to leveraging technology. IT Governance is so very 2006 and we are now talking about Social Media, SEO, Cloud and so many other new ideas. The challenge for organizations these days is the multitude of options.
In very simple terms, my role as Project Manager at Falcon is to successfully bring a project through all phases to complete objectives. Each day is different and each project is unique which is what I love about it. The one constant theme that I see in almost all successful projects is who is included in the initial planning phase. Even before the RFP is developed, the project plan is laid out, or the kick-off meeting is set. Right when the idea is hatched, the right people need to be brought on board. To quote Jim Collins since he wrote a book about great companies and I’m kind of a fan:
start with the right people, ask them the right questions and engage them in vigorous debate and you will find a way to make the company great
Often, when we are in the trenches of a project, heavily into requirements gathering or execution we forget to look for the forest through the trees. There is a tendency to believe that taking the time to ask the big questions (that started the project in the first place) is a setback. I find that the opposite tends to be true. It’s an opportunity to reflect and gain another perspective – one that could make or break a project. Technology is here to make our lives easier although it may not feel that way sometimes. It is when we are most overwhelmed when we need to take the longest break.
No one likes to have to enforce the rules right? It would be nice if we all understood the necessity of certain governance policies in order to produce a well polished, integrity driven content delivery plan. However, this isn’t always the case and certain scenarios will ensure chaos unless there is proper enforcement. Luckily, modern CMS systems contain robust and somewhat automated enforcement capabilities in the form of Workflows.
Governance. Sounds Serious
Well sure it is. Accidentally posting misspellings, bad grammar or worse, incorrect information on their corporate websites is generally frowned upon. The term Governance is a pretty lofty term and can quickly produce the proverbial ‘deer in headlights’ feeling when trying to navigate the quagmire of Risk Assessment, Policy Development, Modelling, Corporate, Regulatory, Governmental, Pharmaceutical, blah, blah, blah… See what I mean? For the sake of staying relevant, we will look specifically at Content Management based Governance within the CMS system. This may seem relatively low brow on the surface, but will instantly protect the organization from a huge level of risk associated with an absence of quality control (QC) and processes hierarchy.
Audit the Moving Parts
Any organization can have multiple moving parts in their content delivery from social media to blog content to technical content and service information. All need to be audited against an ideal and efficient method of development from the writer/creator all the way to the website or application front end. Every department will require a unique workflow process that incorporates the most appropriate staff members based on their skill set and experience with the content topics. Develop detailed lists of every single individual who has any involvement in the research, creation, editing or approval of any content asset that lands in the public (or intranet) domain. From blog posts to info-graphics to tutorial videos and presentations. All will need a peer review mechanism in place.
People, not Machines
Okay, well what I mean is that governance begins and ends with a human touch. At each stage of the workflow there is an individual making an informed decision on the ability of this piece of content to proceed along the approval process. Depending on the importance of the content or the complexity of the department, each stage will involve an increasingly greater level of responsibility as the CMS asset ascends the organizational ladder. Take a simple blog post for instance:
- The front line content writer develops a story based on a strategic topic campaign.
- The blog post is submitted into the workflow which notifies the writer’s immediate supervisor that there is some content waiting for peer review.
- The supervisor examines the content for spelling, grammar and contextual accuracy. Perhaps there are some technical details that the writer has tried to describe and didn’t quite hit the mark.
- The supervisor can then make notes and assign the content back to the writer for update.
- The writer would then assess any necessary changes and re-submit the asset into the original workflow.
- Once the supervisor is happy with the copy and context, they would then ‘approve’ its transition into the next workflow step. At this point the supervisor may select which department to push the content to. This could be Marketing, Sales, Business Development, Product Development, etc. Each department would have an appropriate senior manager which should rightfully ‘own’ this last step in the approval process (workflow).
- As with the Writer to the Supervisor, the Manager may elect to provide some suggestions and reassign the asset back down the workflow for further revision. Generally, assets in the workflow will never move more than one step in either direction. Once an asset is approved the approving staff member completely signs off on all steps beneath them (if that makes sense). Once an approval is made, that staff member assumes all upstream responsibility should there be any feedback on the content.
- Once approved by the last Department Manager the content is then submitted and placed into the approved section of the website.
Risk, It’s Not Worth it
It’s going to happen sooner or later. Someone will ask, “Would you like some SaaS with that CMS? What?!
You decide that it’s time to start putting time and research into a new CMS Platform. Whether you call it a WCM (web content management), CXM (customer experience/engagement management), WEM (web engagement management), ECM (enterprise content management), or whatever, they are really just glorified marketing jargon for the same core requirement. That is, a collection of tools necessary to manage all of the various website technologies, bundled into a central system (CMS). Where these systems attempt to develop unique personalities (and contribute ingredients to the ‘CMS acronym soup’), is when vendors start providing substantial ‘add on’ features such as Social Marketing, Digital Marketing, Advanced Analytics, eCommerce, etc. These additional features generally live outside what is traditionally understood to be Content Management (CMS). Our preference is to simply refer to these more advanced, multifaceted software ‘bundles’ as Content Management Platforms. Keep it simple.
So in keeping with the K.I.S.S. philosophy, I’m going to way oversimplify some Cloud Computing terminology that you will run into when evaluating the best possible option based on your particular development capabilities.
Cloud? You Mean Like, up There?
Nope. So now, throw in all the ‘Cloud’ based software terminology and what you are left with is a maddening stew of technical geekery that would send any well intentioned marketing exec into a frenzied tailspin.
Thankfully, the process for taking your organization into the next phase is always the same regardless of your size or particular market: Requirements. There isn’t a single more important piece of the selection process.
- Why do you need a CMS anyway?
- Who is going to use it?
- Have you conducted very detailed interviews with the staff that will primarily engage with the new software?
- And what are your internal IT capabilities…
That last question will often lead you into the Cloud…
What’s all this SaaS Talk Anyway?
The intention of this post is to stay as non-technical as possible and try to ride between the lines of practicality. I know ‘just’ enough to be dangerous so this shouldn’t be too difficult.
Wikipedia actually does a pretty good job of describing cloud computing so check it out. In a nutshell, get ready for this, the Cloud is … THE INTERNET.. Whoa! No Way! .. Way..
So, it’s likely that I’ve way over simplified this but really, cloud computing is essentially storing and managing data on an external network, plain and simple. So, in most cases the term ‘in the Cloud’ is just a network ‘out there’. So don’t get intimidated by overzealous use of the term in order to sound super nerdy and cool.
Getting to the point, I’ll try to explain each of the 3 core Cloud based service options that you may find yourself confronted with, and how each would make sense in your specific scenario. My plan is to be as simple as possible so don’t expect to learn the intricate technical details of each solution. The 3 core offerings are Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS). Let’s dig in.
IaaS is designed to match a completely self sufficient internal IT and Development department to a remotely hosted data center (Infrastructure). It is highly scalable and designed to quickly meet fluctuating hardware demands. In my day this would be loosely considered Dedicated Hosting. All of the hardware is leased by and controlled by the hosting provider. Your IT department has full reign to install and manage the OS and application layer. Whether that be CMS, Intranet, eCommerce application or a mixture of all and more. As with any service there are many variations and feature solutions. So essentially you lease a complete Infrastructure from hardware, networking and connectivity. All ‘hardware’ based maintenance and upgrades are handled at the solution provider. You must have a very capable IT and Development team in order to select this method.
PaaS moves slightly more control out into the service provider’s hands. Here you would still need to have a capable developer on hand to configure and build the various web applications such as a CMS or website or whatnot. As well as the complete hardware and networking responsibilities, the PaaS solution provider also controls all web server specific software duties such as the Operating System, web services, database management, server backups, hardware and software RAIDs, etc… This additional layer is often referred to as ‘middleware’, which lies between the Hardware and Application layers. Again, I’m purposely being way over simplified in order to help with developing a general direction based on your internal resources.
SaaS is the ‘All In’ approach with everything handled by the solution provider. Remember that Hotmail account you setup in the very late 90′s? That was/is a SaaS service. Gmail, Dropbox, Salesforce; it’s infinite. With SaaS, you interact directly with the applications that have been pre-installed on the remotely hosted and managed web servers. These may be virtual or dedicated and may host many other web sites and organizations. The elasticity/scalability of this solution can be subject to the type of software you are subscribed to. For instance you are pretty much locked in to the vendor’s system (CMS) however you may be able to bolt on modules and add-on packs with ease. No core development is needed here other than a fluent understanding of the administrative and content editing functions of the platform (generally significant CMS training is necessary). Support is a huge factor for SaaS systems so be sure to research that to the nines when shortlisting vendors for a SaaS option. Many organizations opt for this option quite simply for the ease of use and time to market. Of course there are some exceptional cost savings when you eliminate the need for complete hardware and a whole development cycle. You are up and running in a matter of days as opposed to weeks and months with an internally managed and developed scenario.
Now that you’ve had a super high level primer,you too should be able to talk some SaaS with your buddies. Want more? You could catch a live webcast about this very subject over here: http://www.cms-connected.com/Web-Content-Management-in-the-Clouds. If you decide to register, consider submitting a question for the panel. They’ll answer it live on the show, so that’s pretty cool right?
As always, I welcome any and all feedback.
I recently caught the latest episode of the CMS Connected news show which happened last week. I found Gabe Sumner’s editorial on the rise of Social commerce and Mobile shopping trends especially informative. He discussed some very practical ideas when approaching the intimidating task of delivering content to the new wave of mobile based visitors. Starting slow, measuring and then making pragmatic decisions based on where your customers seem to be migrating to. And, while a ‘responsive design’ layout is okay as a stepping off point, you really need to commit a dedicated mobile solution to really engage the medium appropriately. However, you need to first determine whether you even have a mobile traffic channel. Don’t waste valuable resources on something fancy, trendy and new if it makes no practical sense for your organization.
Social Commerce and Mobile Shopping with CMS Connected
Anyway, check it out here: Mobile and Social Commerce with Gabe Sumner . You can scroll to the ‘segments’ and jump right to Gabe’s pieces (part 1 or 2), or bounce around to another section of the episode that interests you.
Are we Still Talking About This?
So, there was one instance during the industry news segment that caught my attention. I’ve been involved in some manner of Search Marketing (SEO), Content Optimization and Social Media for the better part of 10 years now (social media only recently of course) and apart from the first couple years of SEO, there has been a fundamental need to observe and measure visitor behaviour in order to better meet their needs. User Engagement and User Experience are entirely NOT new ideas. They’ve only just been made a bit sexier recently with ‘acronym soup’ marketing jargon like CXM, CEM, WEM, etc. So when I heard Tyler reading this Forrester headline: Marketers Need a Customer Journey Strategy, I thought to myself, ‘really’.
If there are ‘Marketers’ still around who still don’t devote most of their strategic research on analytics and customer ‘engagement’ based metrics, they need to read more of the internet. As I mentioned earlier, possibly the best marketers around are the top-shelf, ‘white-hat’ SEO’s who are required to stay ahead of the customer experience curve the whole time. Everything about their strategy is based on customer value and relevance. Every week or month, page data is examined and new strategies put into place explicitly related to the fine tuned metrics regarding the user experience and site usage.
Clearly this report is of great value (it better be for $499, heh). It will surely will help with comprehending the desperate need to look ‘inward’ towards the website instead of pretending to know what’s best for the customer without actually ‘asking’ them or researching how they interact with your website. But to be saying, in this day and age that Marketers should be ‘looking at the visitor journey’ is all fine and dandy, but really, if marketers are still scratching their heads about this, it’s time to get with the program and fast. J
Check out the back and forth from Scott and Tyler (click on the #5 segment), on the show and share your thoughts on what you feel are the priority issues here. They do bring up some great points about return visitors and how the technology is able to preserve that data and consolidate it when this ‘guest’ decides to buy or uses a social connect feature to create a profile and so provide some personal information to the website. The website can now track this person indefinitely.
Also if you feel that this type of report can help your team and you have the ‘cake’ to splash out on it, the report can be found here: http://www.forrester.com/Fragmented+PathToPurchase+Demands+Everywhere+Marketing/fulltext/-/E-RES93061
As always, comments are heartily welcomed and if you’d like to contribute to our blog please get in touch!
Always, always, always put the customer value and experience first when strategizing anything to do with your website. Don’t agree? Let’s have it!
Regretting the decision to purchase a Web CMS is something companies should not have to go through – as selecting the right Web CMS Solution must involve some key steps that resonate with your company’s needs and goals.
We recently released our 2013 White Paper on How to Select a Web CMS from a consultant’s perspective – not from that of the vendors’. Our white paper includes 8-essential steps that will help you make the right decision and will work for your company – not against it.
Some of the highlights of the White Paper are:
Determining the Focal Needs: With so many Web CMS options available, it becomes hard to pick a system that is just the right fit. One of the key elements in selecting the best solution for your organization’s needs is to determine the focal needs without which the Web CMS system won’t work for you.
Going through an RFP phase later in the process not sooner: This crucial step helps get the key information you need from your top potential technology partners and eliminates the need for a 60 page RFP that is merely a sales and marketing piece.
Hire a Consultant: Companies who hire a consultant to help with various steps of the Web CMS selection process avoid the risk of not knowing. It is a good practice to hire a consultant who can refer trusted partners and will help validate the need of getting a new system that works for your company.
To learn more about the various steps and the right approach, download our 2013 White Paper.
And, if you are in the market for a new Web CMS, and not sure where to start, contact us for a free consultation.
Obsession with the Mobile Channel Obscures the Shift to Ubiquitous Computing
Whitepaper by Tim Walters at Digital Clarity Group
The rapid adoption of smart phones and tablets represents an unprecedented transformation in the way consumers access the web and other digital services. This “mobile shift” poses fundamental challenges for virtually every business, and calls into question most established assumptions about how to create, nurture, and sustain profi table customer relationships. Some observers argue that this means “fixed” websites are in radical decline, and that successful enterprises must adopt a “mobile first” approach and prioritize the user experience on mobile devices. Others maintain that mobile access, while undeniably important, is “just another channel” among others.
“The transition from a PC or notebook to the ‘always on’ smart phone or tablet is not primarily about the smaller, more portable, mobile device. It is rather about the fact that computing services are now available virtually wherever and whenever the user desires them. The mobile shift marks an evolutionary leap to the era of ubiquitous computing.” Tim Walters, Ph.D.