The Conundrum of Content Management Systems – The Top 4 Secrets of a Great Infrastructure.

If you’ve been involved with infrastructure projects on a corporate level, you’ve ultimately been pitched or had to pitch Management Tools.

The Classic Sales Pitch Starts Out Something Like This

‟ with our Content Management System (CMS) one doesn’t have to know the pitfalls of HTML, server management, user permissions or understand file-folder hierarchy… It’s all done for you… Through our neat web interface…”

Again the over-all concepts of Management Tools are very logical, and in most cases work extremely well because it offers to someone without a technical background a way to manage sophisticated environments.

For anyone that has used a CMS tool before the Pros and Cons quickly become apparent. The work-flow for adding Meta Tags to a single image appears to be fast and streamlined, but when the situation occurs when one needs to add Meta data to a few hundred images and the work-flow becomes stiff and ridged.

The stiff and rigidness in work-flow eventually causes the company/environment/infrastructure to look for other tools to streamline the process

So the question arises are all infrastructures and environments complex? If so, how do they get this way? Whether they start out complicated or not given time and the normal hum-drum of adding and subtracting Management tools, Servers, Operating Systems, etc. complexity is inevitable. To try and understand how complex environments grow and evolve scientists have been using something called the Complexity Theory.

Complexity theory has been used extensively in the field of strategic management and organizational studies. It is used in these domains for understanding how organizations or firms adapt to their environments. The theory treats organizations and firms as collections of strategies and structures. When the organization or firm shares the properties of other complex adaptive systems – which is often defined as consisting of a small number of relatively simple and partially connected structures – they are more likely to adapt to their environment and, thus, survive. Complexity-theoretic thinking has been present in strategy and organizational studies since their inception as academic disciplines.

Wikipedia

To sum up what this means in an everyday context you could say that a self-sustaining complex environment spawns self maintaining complex situations and that a chaotic environment spawns more chaotic situations.

This is illustrated in a famous lithograph by MC ESCHER Titled Order from Chaos.

The portrayal of dissimilar objects with a geometrically cut prism placed in the middle. Take this concept and now make a parallel to Management Tools and you see complexity theory shedding light on a basic conundrum that plagues ALL
management tools. The basic conundrum is that adding sophisticated tools, to an already chaotic system will not in theory create order out of chaos like in the lithograph, but will result only in further isolation of the already chaotic elements as they are incompatible with the sophisticated tool.

So where does the basic understanding that a Management Tool adds complexity which in return makes work-flow more complex or harder and the basic need for tools to help maximize work-flow leave us? Are we doomed to manual labor and chaos? How do we steer our ships through the dangerous waters of Infrastructure bloat ware and deadly IT Tool pile up?

To understand how to properly use Management Tools you must first understand the top 4 secrets of a great infrastructure.

Top 4 Secrets of a Great Infrastructure

 


1

Technology identification. If you can’t identify what you need you can’t solve the problem.

  • In some cases you may have everything you need but are not utilizing the technology to the best of its abilities.
  • In some cases you may be holding onto technology to long, and the act of doing so causes a ripple effect of longer hours thus causing work-flow issues.
  • Does the technology you have conflict with or play nice with other forms of technology.
  • Does the fear of some technologies costing too much with a result in trying to find dissimilar technologies and trying to make them work together balance out in the long run?

2

At the end of the day people make computers work. If people are confused, computers won’t work.

  • How many User Accounts are needed to log into your Management Tools? How many Management Tools are covered under one governed User Account? Do the User Accounts make File and Folder Permissions easy or hard?
  • Can you log into the Management Tools from outside the environment?
  • How easy is the File Hierarchy of the file server to navigate?
  • Is the File System indexed and is it searchable? If it’s not why?

3

Environments expand and shrink, File Servers, Users, Databases, Software, Back-ups, Phone Systems, Printers, Mobile Devices…you name it they all need to talk to each other.

  • – There is a reason companies buy Microsoft products.
    • Large Clusters of Software socket to each other.
      • Power Point can publish to Share Point
      • Share Point can socket to Exchange Server’s
      • Outlook clients can pull and share Exchange Server
        • FACT – ALL of this costs money$$
    • FACT – roughly 90% of the corporate world runs Microsoft Office
    • FACT – roughly 90% of the corporate world has a Microsoft Server
    • FACT – Most of the applications, servers, databases and services Microsoft provides at a cost, the diligent and technologically advanced IT crowd can find for free (OPEN SOURCE)
      • FACT – Open source while it is free, in most cases “you are on your own”.
        • FACT – DUDE IT’S FREE. THIS IS COMPLETELY AWESOME.
        • This means if you get hacked… Tough Cookies
        • Think about how many companies out there have been hacked lately…ask yourself…how…and…why? If something is open source its innards are out there for all to see, and think about…and take it apart…
        • This means if your server doesn’t exactly socket to a database, CMS, or service “you are on your own” to come up with some sort of strange assortment of cyber duck tape and bubble gum to make it work. WHICH AGAIN IS AWESOME…BUT DANGEROUS.
          • If you spend 1000 man hours trying to solve an Open source problem and end up buying into some ridiculous Open source Linux Application of strange Willy Wonkiness from Kazakhstan for $100,000. You have to ask yourself….why…? What about Open source have you benefited from. When much more modular infrastructures are attainable for much less.
    • Technology talking to each other should be done without human intervention if possible.
      • If you have to download a CSV file and import it into something, this doesn’t constitute integration this constitutes someone taking 30min out of their day.
    • If you delete a user account and have to ripple effect that deletion in 20 areas, things can be streamlined.

4

Change is good… Sometimes. That is if… You know how to change.

  • As I bash the heck out of Open Source, take in mind that in most cases that’s all you need.
    • FACT – Word Press is Open source, and is probably the most widely used Blogging platforms out there.
    • FACT – Hulu was originally built on Open source.
    • FACT – Netflix was originally built on Open source.
    • *** Getting to know the Microsoft’s of the World and Getting to know The Apple’s and Google of the World and knowing how they integrate into each other is absolutely critical. But knowing how they work together is only half the battle, being honest and admitting when a product is better than another is just as critical. We can all admit the iPad is great. But you would be lying to yourself and everyone else if you told someone that the iPad had more capabilities than a highly powered Android Tablet… Just as you could complain that Apple doesn’t care about backwards compatibility, but you’d be lying to yourself and everyone else if you couldn’t admit that Apple’s design presence kicks complete ass. You can complain about Microsoft as much as you want but no single operating system is more connected with the rest of the world than Windows.

So what does all this stuff mean? Does it really matter? The Truth is; it means that your IT dept is made up of individuals that have been given an almost impossible task of not only keeping current with the latest technology out there but also in using it in practice. Which magnify that over an entire infrastructure isn’t always easy… (For the Green Lantern) let alone in some cases a couple individuals. At the same time a self-sustaining complex environment is attainable embracing some of the methodologies above.

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