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“Why Content Projects Fail” by Deane Barker - Now What? Conference 2017

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The content management implementation failure rate is higher than it should be, and projects seem to fail for the same cluster of reasons: unrealistic requirements, expectations, human factors, etc. In this session, Deane will discuss the major reasons for project failure learned through almost two decades of implementation experience, and discuss strategies and policies to put in place at each stage of the project to prevent them.

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“Why Content Projects Fail” by Deane Barker - Now What? Conference 2017

  1. 1. Why Content Projects Fail …and what we can do about it.
  2. 2. Content projects fail.
  3. 3. Five reasons why they fail. Five things we might do to prevent it.
  4. 4. Spoiler: None of these problems are technical
  5. 5. How Projects Fail • Abortive Fails to launch • Quantitative Fails to make project numbers • ROI / Goals Doesn’t bring about desired change • Expectations “It just doesn’t feel like I thought it would.”
  6. 6. Disclaimer This is not meant to be accusatory.
  7. 7. #1 Case Study Syndrome
  8. 8. You know what you’re doing. You have a very limited and slanted view of what other people are actually doing.
  9. 9. Case Study Syndrome • “I read this in a case study, so clearly everyone is doing it.” • People don’t produce case studies about things that didn’t happen. • Form of Survivor Bias.
  10. 10. No one writes case studies about the 99% of companies that aren’t doing anything interesting.
  11. 11. “The Law of Narrative Gravity posits that the public and press are drawn to narratives, and the more widely accepted a narrative, the more it attracts and shapes the perception of facts.” − Aaron Zamost for BackChannel
  12. 12. Case Study Syndrome is the sum total of all the things you’re convinced you should be doing.
  13. 13. Doesn’t fit your market. Not enough staff. Not the right skills. You probably have bigger problems.
  14. 14. Case Study Syndrome steals attention away from more critical problems that you can actually solve.
  15. 15. #2 Development Myopia
  16. 16. Building a New Home • Deciding to move • Developing floor plans • Buying a lot • Budgeting for construction • Apply for financing • Preparing to move • Actually moving • Redecorating • Buying new stuff • Learning how to use new stuff • Planning new services • Planning new commute • Changing vehicles • Changing schools • Sending address changes • Throwing a house- warming party Transitioning to a New Home
  17. 17. We tend to focus on what we think is (1) novel or (2) risky.
  18. 18. Training / Re training Migration Internal Marketing / Reporting Governance Infrastructure
  19. 19. Tool Productization Sales and Marketing Ecosystem Multi-User Scaling
  20. 20. Far more projects have failed over non-development issues than vice-versa.
  21. 21. #3 Control Fixation
  22. 22. We often want effort put into things that don’t provide much measurable value but make us think we’re in “control.”
  23. 23. “I love it when a plan comes together.” − John “Hannibal” Smith
  24. 24. Control Fixations • Workflow • Dashboards • Multi-site management • Exhaustive content management • Form building • Pseudo-application development
  25. 25. “Return on Management”
  26. 26. More effort has been wasted chasing control more than almost any other aspect of a website project.
  27. 27. #4 Deus Ex Machina
  28. 28. The Truth • There’s a good chance significant parts of our problem originated external to technology • We tend not to look to people, governance, or process, because these things exist now • If problems could been fixed without new technology…why weren’t they? • It’s easy to say, “things will be better when we have new technology because we’ll have something we don’t have now.”
  29. 29. Software is one aspect of a content environment, and it’s rarely the most important one.
  30. 30. #5 Big Bang Syndrome
  31. 31. Things that leave on Day 2… • Your budget • Your staff • Your contractors • The attention of the C-level • Any sense of urgency • Your enthusiasm • Your job?
  32. 32. Many projects never make the leap from project to product. In reality, the only time a website is “done” is when it’s permanently removed from the Internet.
  33. 33. Launch day is not the finish line. It’s the starting line.
  34. 34. 1. Case Study Syndrome 2. Development Myopia 3. Control Fixation 4. Deus Ex Machina 5. Big Bang Syndrome
  35. 35. OMG, this is depressing.
  36. 36. Five Things We Can Do
  37. 37. #1 Put First Things First
  38. 38. Stop trying to solve Problem B before you’ve solved Problem A.
  39. 39. Questions to Ask: Content Strategy • Do you know who your audiences are? • Do you know what they want from your organization? • Not your website; your organization • Do you know how they try to get it from your website? • Do you have content to fill those needs?
  40. 40. Audience Need Behavior Content
  41. 41. Questions to Ask: Content Management • Can your editors publish a page of content according to their own standards of quality? • Can your editors aggregate content according to their own needs? • Can they collaborate as a team to their level of satisfaction? • Can they do this without unreasonable frustration?
  42. 42. Questions to Ask: Governance and Stakeholders • Who is your ultimate stakeholder? • What is their model of success? • Are they comparing this project to others? • (Spoiler: yes) • Which projects, and what about those projects makes them a model of success?
  43. 43. “Six months after this project launches, what needs to happen for us to think that it was all worth it?”
  44. 44. We’re so determined to be amazing that we don’t stop to check that we’re any good.
  45. 45. #2 Plan from True Beginning to True Ending
  46. 46. Do not fixate on development.
  47. 47. Build Web Site Task 1 Task 2 Task 3 Task 5 Task 6 Task 7 Task 8 Task 9
  48. 48. Non-Implementation Tasks • Governance planning • Training / Retraining • Internal Marketing • Post-Occupancy Evaluations • Content Migration / Operations • Load testing • Documentation • QA and Rework • Political / Organizational Disputes • Post-Launch Revisions • Staff Turnover / Continuity • Editorial Optimization
  49. 49. Pretend that the actual build is guaranteed. What else do you have to do?
  50. 50. Start: “Hey, maybe we should do something about the website…” (time passes…) Start: Development Begins End: Website Launches (time passes…) End: “Hey, aren’t you glad we did something about the website?”
  51. 51. #3 Keep Rough Edges in Context
  52. 52. Vendors and integrators are in an arms race of promises, fueled by irrational belief from customers.
  53. 53. “One-Stop Shop” “Integrated” “Seamless” “Unified Platform” “Perfect”
  54. 54. Perfect is the enemy of good “Return on Management” is a perfectly valid decision factor.
  55. 55. Factors to Determine ROM • Frequency of the situation addressed • How often does it occur? • Lead time of the situation addressed • How far will we be able to see it coming? • Post-launch proximity to the people who can address it • Can we reasonably code-source something to save budget?
  56. 56. Have honest, direct conversations about budget/polish trade-off.
  57. 57. Cutting corners is sometimes a perfectly acceptable practice.
  58. 58. #4 Don’t Confuse Means and Ends
  59. 59. Technology is a means, not an end.
  60. 60. It’s perfectly reasonable to source content and functionality from outside the CMS.
  61. 61. Spend your money on things that matter.
  62. 62. #5 Set the Stage for Incremental Improvement
  63. 63. This is a process, not a moment.
  64. 64. The Sad Truth: Some things just won’t work… • It won’t fit your content/marketing model • You won’t be able to staff it • Existing staff will turnover • A “feature champion” might leave • Your plans will change over time • It may have just been a bad idea
  65. 65. You need to indoctrinate your organization to incrementalism. If you don’t like something, just wait a minute…
  66. 66. “We’re programmers. Programmers are, in their hearts, architects, and the first thing they want to do when they get to a site is to bulldoze the place flat and build something grand. We’re not excited by incremental renovation: tinkering, improving, planting flower beds.” − Joel Spolsky
  67. 67. “I was drawn to medicine by the aura of heroism—by the chance to charge in and solve a dangerous problem.” − Atul Gawande
  68. 68. “Success is not about the episodic, momentary victories. It is about the longer view of incremental steps that produce sustained progress.” − Atul Gawande
  69. 69. Incrementalism is where innovation happens.
  70. 70. 1. Put first things first 2. Plan from true beginning to true ending 3. Keep rough edges in context 4. Don’t confuse means and ends 5. Set the stage for incremental improvement
  71. 71. Why do content projects fail?
  72. 72. All sides of the customer, vendor, integrator triad are guilty of posturing.
  73. 73. Realism Honesty Advocacy
  74. 74. deane@blendinteractive.com @gadgetopia http://gadgetopia.com/

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