Day of Reckoning
An editor faces her own useful(less)ness.
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Every technology editor should have to go through what I'm going through right now. It's called putting your money where your mouth is. Or, more accurately, putting your company's money where your pen is. After years of writing about the process of evaluating, purchasing and implementing enterprise software, I suddenly find myself entrusted with this staggering responsibility at my own company.

This is all because destinationCRM.com is in search of a content management system (CMS) to replace the homegrown one that we outgrew almost as soon as we implemented it last year. So much for scalability. The one we are shopping for will be used company-wide, not just on the Web site...thus the possibility of failure on a grand scale if our project falls short of expectations.

In this new capacity I have done what I have always done--attend trade shows, talk to experts, view product demos and ask lots of questions. But unlike reviewing a product for editorial purposes where I stop short of specific customization issues, I must now delve deeply into technical areas, about which my knowledge, I'm discovering, is rather shallow. I'm referring to platforms, servers, databases and all the details of system integration. I run the specifics of each system past our webmaster before venturing an opinion that might reveal my technical limitations. And in doing so, my knowledge increases.

Nonetheless, I find myself prone to tunnel vision. I am so desperate for a new CMS, that I am easily seduced by product demos that effortlessly perform tasks over which we currently labor. There are interfaces so brilliantly flexible and intuitive that I feel like I've just walked out of a cave and into a cathedral flooded with holy light. When these longed-for options and features come to life at six times our project budget, I think, budget-smudget. Let's get this baby online!

Budget, however, is a dog that always has its day. Immediately, we eliminate all the big players with whom I've become familiar in the course of my job. The Interwovens and Vignettes are beyond our needs as well as our means. We may write about solutions for global enterprises, but we fall into the small to midsize category. So we began researching scores of smaller, less familiar CMS vendors.

Meanwhile, I encounter in real life all the topics on our editorial calendar. Should our solution be open source or platform specific? Best-of-breed or out of the box? Should we integrate in-house or hire a consultant? We try to be methodical, comparing the pros and cons of different systems, eliminating systems that use the wrong architecture or are priced beyond our needs, for example. We finally narrow the field to three solutions and present them to members of the executive committee who are impressed with all, but sold on none.

Why? Because our parent company is implementing a CMS for which they hold several licenses. The system has no track record yet, but the price is right and if customized properly, it appears to be able to deliver the features we need. Is this our solution? Was our research just a formality to support a foregone conclusion? Do I care? In the end I am just a simple user who wants a CMS that lets me think and act like an editor so I can return to the honest work of advising others on finding the best solutions for their enterprises.

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