Jeffrey Veen has written an article titled "Why Content Management Fails" on Adaptive Path. This is an issue which has come up in my firm. I have often lamented the massive amounts of paper that is wasted in the course of the work we do and often joke that there is a portion of the Amazon rainforest set aside for my firm. I started scanning my documents and working digitally as much as possible a few years ago after I saw an American system employed in a matter where there was a tremendous amount of paper involved.
On my return to my office I started speaking to my boss and the people in our IT department about implementing a similar system which uses databases of documents scanned and converted into pdf (portable document format) documents. It is a simple enough solution and pretty effective. It has the added benefit that it is relatively cheap and doesn’t involve the payment of large licensing fees.
What I discovered is that even though the system made a lot of sense in principle, it jus wouldn’t work in that environment. The reason is, as Jeffrey discovered, that people don’t like to change the way they work.
I’ve spoken to a number of Web teams that have used a CMS with
varying levels of success. One problem I heard repeatedly was that the
project worked fine, but nobody used the software once it was
available. I call this the Stupid User Argument, and it’s a favorite of
IT departments. The techies did their jobs, after all: They diligently
gathered requirements, scoped out the solution, carefully selected a
vendor, and managed the project to a mostly on-time and on-budget
So how come nobody actually uses these systems once they’re in
place? The answer is easy: People don’t like to change the way they
work, particularly knowledge workers.
Knowledge workers spend years building strategies to accomplish
their jobs, practices that likely date back to study skills acquired
during their education. So changing those processes — no matter how
valid the provided technical solution — is nearly impossible. Users
will rebel, even after substantial training.
I have wondered how to get around this seemingly stubborn refusal to change to system that is more efficient, environmentally friendly and future-friendly. Part of the solution is persistence and patience. The people who have been around longer will take longer to change, if at all. Newer people entering the firm may be more inclined to adopt the newer systems because they are used to any particular system just yet and because younger people tend to be more technology friendly. That, at least, is my thinking. Jeffrey has a few other ideas:
To have any chance of success, a content management project must
follow the same user-centered design practices as any other project.
Task analysis, rapid prototyping, usability testing — all of these
methods are crucial to a CMS rollout. It’s foolhardy to unveil a
mammoth, nine-month project to an unsuspecting user community and
But there is a larger issue at play. Even the most thoughtful
projects may be misguided. Over and over I’ve heard the same complaint
about these projects, “Turns out, after all the budget and time we
spent, we really didn’t need a content management system at all. We
just needed some editors.??
Interesting topic, I think.
(via Six Apart)