We're never 'finished'

Gerry McGovern says we should treat content management as a process, not a project. One example of this kind of thinking is making sure that the things we build are maintainable once they are built and that a procedure for maintaining them is in place.

Gerry’s talking mostly about content management on intranets, but this is clearly applicable to online publishing.

I remember a meeting in the early days of the Web when our project manager told the team, “When the server upgrade is finished, things are going to be a lot better.” To this our webmaster replied, “Don’t you see? We’re never going to be ‘finished'”. I’ve told this story over and over because it points out the difference between two schools of thought in IT generally and the Web in particular. I wouldn’t call our webmaster a pessimist, although the project manager probably perceived him that way.

I’ve always readily admitted that it’s a lot more fun to build Web sites than it is to maintain them. If you’re not careful, this kind of thinking can lead to the creation of lots of cool features that don’t work all that well and eventually break. Gerry says that this point of view also leads to the idea that everything will be fixed in the next redesign. But, if you don’t change your way of thinking, you’ll find yourself in the same fix when you’re done.

Gerry says we should be building a small number of important features (e.g. search, directories) that exceed our users expectations and can be maintained in that state over the long run.

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