Quantitative easing – not the answer for managing websites

Gold computer mouse on a sheet of one dollar bills.
It takes a tough web manager to seize a golden opportunity and manage the website strategically.

A lazy and feeble web manager will take the easy alternative of a quick fix on content and functionality. This creates a “debt” in managing your website that will require significant levels of “quantitative easing” to resolve.

When faced with an impossible deadline or more often a pig-headed stakeholder, it’s easier to do a good-enough-for-now job rather than a smart one. In effect, you are increasing your “debt” of managing your website as it will require more fixes and time to make the corrections in the future. Keep doing this and suddenly you have debts the size of Greece. Quantitative easing seems the only answer.

Some examples of this debt that I’ve come across are:

  1. Live projects remain unfinished as you had to launch without the full demands met. Your website is a graveyard full of part-finished work and loose ends
  2. Functionality is stuck in an unfinished “phase one” as you don’t have the time or inclination to re-visit to finish it correctly
  3. Not checking your work in a test or staging environment (do you have one?) before going live. Worst still, not following your publication process as that’s “inconvenient” for your stakeholder.
  4. The CMS is poorly set-up back end and you therefore design your personal “work-arounds” for the front-end. At the Met Office, our IT called this “fiddles”
  5. The website fix or improvement relies on some other application upgrade that never happens. Tying to fix too many issues at once and you end with fixing none of them

The question to answer is do we optimise for the short-term, saving a few hours now (i.e. increase our debt)? Or do we optimise for the long term, putting in extra effort now in return for the long-term benefits of efficient maintenance/updating, improved visitor experience, and less "open ends"? In other words, do we "pay off our debts"?
The big risk of choosing for the short-term quick-fix route is that you end up with a chaotic and unmanageable CMS. You are forced to spend most of the time for even simple updates of the website. Your business pays "interest" every day on the debt. And paying off the principle gets further and further out of reach.

To avoid getting to deep into CMS debt, the best approach is to set priorities over quick solutions. Look for the simple wins. Plant the seeds early with your key stakeholders for the more complex fixes.

It’s important to raise the awareness that managing content is like managing an asset rather than just performing a minimum set of tasks to some short-term end. That is, if you do not continuously invest in it, the business value of your content and systems will degrade. Inversely, following the right processes combined with an unrelenting focus on quality in all aspects of the job is the key to managing your content wisely.

Smart content management is not easy. It requires energetic and tough web manager who takes responsibility for the long-term well-being of your CMS as well as for the visible result on your website.

At SNR Denton, I’m fortunate that I report to a manager who understands and appreciates this. Some of our most senior partners are also encouraging me to take the more strategic view.

It looks like at SNR Denton, they won’t need quantitative easing for their website!

This page was last updated on Sunday, 16th October 2011.