There is probably no worse strategy for an intranet or public website than content migration. It is doomed to failure from the very start.Joe the manager picks up a jug. Inside that jug is milk that is curdled, sour and foul smelling. As Joe shakes the jug the solids and water separate and slosh about and the smell rises further, choking the air. Joe has a problem.
How is Joe going to solve this problem? Here is the traditional web management solution. Joe decides he needs a new jug. Joe gets a team together to decide what sort of jug is needed. They specify a really cool, all-dancing, all-singing, high-tech portal jug and they go out and spend a lot of money on it.
Then what happens? Another team is assembled to take the old jug and migrate its contents into the new portal jug. Once all the putrefied milk has been drained into the new portal jug there's high-fives and lattes all-round. Job well done, Joe! Project complete.
If you've been involved in the Web for a while then the above story will be all-too-familiar to you. It is nothing less than shocking how little attention and genuine strategic focus most managers give to their websites. Even in 2008, I'm still coming across stone-age strategies that revolve around buying cool new technology.
From a management perspective, content has little or no value. It does not even deserve to be managed. Whether it is good or bad is irrelevant. Just shovel it onto the website. If it was written for print, so what? Just shovel it onto the website. The old website didn't work? Buy new technology and hire a fancy graphics agency. The content? Just migrate/shovel it over from the old website.
You get the website you deserve. Quality content is at the heart of all great websites. This sounds like a self-evident, no-brainer statement. However, as we approach 2009, it still needs repeating.
Taking your old intranet content and migrating it into a new software system is doomed to failure. If your website isn't working then ask this question: why isn't the website working? Is it because of the technology? Is it because of the graphics and the layout? Or is it because of the content? Nine-times-out-of-ten it will be the content.
Content migration-and its first cousin, website "redesign"-are all about pouring sour old milk into new portal jugs. At some stage, we have to address the core web management challenges. Why do we have such bad content?
# We allow the organization to publish puff, fluff and vanity, instead of focusing on the needs of our customers/staff.
# We don't hire web content professionals. Instead we find the most junior person in the department and give them the job of managing the website.
# We don't see the Web as a unique medium-we just take print content and print thinking and shovel it onto the Web.
# We don't review and quality control. We have practically no processes to take old content off our website.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant
, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994.