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“RE: Ugly Secrets of Content Management Systems”

From: Art Pena In Response To: 157  Ugly Secrets of Content Management Systems
Date Posted: Tuesday, July 11, 2000 8:54:14 PM Replies: 2
Enclosures: None.
In his article entitled "The Ugly Secret Behind Top Media Sites", Jimmy Guterman advocates a return to a paradigm that dates back to the days of old big iron, where all solutions were custom solutions. History can teach us the error of that thinking and today's IT markets further reinforces those lessons.

IT turnover is a real and constant event in the life of any size firm with an IT department. There are more job openings than there are technical people to fill those positions. One of the direct results of this turnover rate to in-house projects, as Mr. Guterman advises, is that inevitably there will be subsystems or entire applications, a package, used in the custom solutions that will have no documentation, no design specifications, and no one with the specific knowledge to maintain that package. A commercially developed application short-circuits this problem.

The developer of a CMS, or any application, has one primary mission during his product's life cycle, that the application is maintainable by his current staff. The average corporate IT department can't maintain the focus of resources necessary to ensure the success of that mission.

Also at odds with the recommendations of Mr. Guterman's article is the cost of developing solutions from the ground up. Why redesign and build the wheel when you can go to your local automotive parts store and buy a wheel? That wheel represents significant expenditures of resources to its maker: the design, testing, and manufacturing. This is a lesson learned in the days of mainframes as well, the cost to develop from scratch is significantly higher than buying off the shelf or merely customizing. A custom solution to the CMS problem represents a significant investment, often more than your average small company can afford to make for an item outside it's realm of expertise. Not to imply that a custom solution is not a viable option for a company. However, Mr. Guterman fails to fairly express these costs in his article.

So the decision any company has to make is which is the best for their business; write 100% of an application, i.e. reinvent the wheel, or perform 15-25% customization to an already existing tool, i.e. add chrome to the wheel. Again "Why reinvent the wheel?", is the question I'd ask.

Use a product someone else has developed. They've taken the time to think out the problem. And spent the time developing a solution to that problem. In addition to having spent on the staff and their tools to develop the product. And after all these significant investments, the developer of the product has a self interest motive to ensure the CMS continues to expand in capabilities.

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