In the Early Days of CMS

In the early days of Web Content Management Systems (CMS), there was a nice man on the sales team who’d once asked me: “Jeremy, why do you developers hate every CMS?” The answer was simple but nuanced: at the time, the platforms did not speak to us as developers.

There were plenty of CMS platforms out there, though most would force a developer into using esoteric patterns which were contrary to the way that a problem would be approached if it were a fully custom solution; contrary to what we knew to be the best way. As well, many of them came with large libraries of pre-built controls. At first glance this sounds like a good thing; however, after the world has seen the same control countless times over, something a little different is often required. Hence the problem: primarily, developers found themselves in situations where the pre-built controls–that were supposed to save them time–were of no use. Solutions often had to be built from scratch.

Ultimately, many of the CMS platforms boiled down to frustrating systems with time-savers which saved no time at all. It’s no wonder that the development team cringed every time a new platform came onto the scene.

After a while, we acclimated. We learned the patterns and they became second nature to us. We would play nice in the sandbox with them, but we didn’t have to like them. And then an interesting thing happened: we evaluated Sitecore for the first time. Initially we had a difficult time understanding it; it seemed quite foreign. One was left with the inevitable question: “how do I create a page?”

Following the developer training, it quickly became clear why we were having a difficult time: it did not behave like the CMS platforms to which we were accustomed. It was abstract and followed object-oriented practices. There were a few “ah-ha” moments that lead us to realize exactly how powerful the Sitecore CMS platform was. It would let us do anything as long as it was properly tied back to the CMS API; not to mention that it’s quick to get out of the way when required. Add in a proper inheritance model and you have a platform with far more flexibility and re-usability than any CMS platform that had been evaluated to date.

When explaining something intangible and abstract, I often like to relate it to something tangible. The early page-based CMS platforms were similar to Lincoln Logs®: they gave a pretty good indication as to how they should be assembled and a project could be built quite quickly. An abstract CMS, like Sitecore, is more akin to a ball of clay: it doesn’t tell you what it’s supposed to be or what form it is supposed to take. One thing is undeniable: so much more can be made with a ball of clay than could be built with Lincoln Logs®.

CMS platforms have certainly come a long way.

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This Week’s Top Tweets (April 16)

1. Box.net Adds More CRM Integration, This Time It’s SugarCRM 6.0
by David Roe on CMSWire

Box.net has been hovering around the CRM market for some time now, but their announcement that their cloud-based content management system can now be integrated with open cloud CRM provider (and Q partner) SugarCRM generated a lot of interest. In October 2009, Box made the same move with Salesforce.com.

Takeaway: The announcement, which was made at Sugar’s annual SugarCon show on Tuesday, means that Sugar users will be able to access documents stored in Box’s CMS.

2. If you don’t take care of your employees… they won’t take care of your customers
by Mark Johnson of Loyalty360

In this brief but impactful post, Loyalty360’s Mark Johnson discusses the alarming results of recent studies on employee engagement. A few highlights:

A May 2009 survey by consulting firm Watson Wyatt Worldwide (now Towers Watson) found that engagement levels for top performers at large U.S. companies fell close to 25% year over year.

Employees overall experienced a 9% drop in engagement year over year.

A March 2009 survey by Gallup found that 52% of U.S. workers over the age of 18 were disengaged and an additional 18% were actively disengaged.

Takeaway: The headline says it all – if you don’t take care of your employees, what incentive do they have to care for your customers? Johnson notes that the levels of active disengagement reported in the surveys costs businesses an estimated $416 billion in lower productivity. It also costs companies dearly in terms of both employee loyalty and customer loyalty. Make sure you take care of your employees and that your marketing and human resource staff work together to drive both internal and external engagement. Your employees and customers will thank you.

3. Twitter: All the Numbers That Matter
by Mathew Ingram on GigaOm

Mathew Ingram summarizes the hard numbers behind Twitter’s growth and size straight from the source – Twitter’s co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams, who announced the figures at their first-ever developers conference, Chirp.

Takeaway: It seems like every other day there are new facts and figures for Twitter, but these are the numbers that matter the most for marketers and tech wizards alike. The bottom line is that Twitter’s growth is showing no signs of slowing down and there are numerous opportunities for businesses to incorporate the platform into their marketing strategies – whether it serves as a medium for engagement or a platform to provide a new service to your customers.

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