Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Real-Time Publishing - Reality or Consulting Fantasy?

Can you publish something directly to your organization’s Web servers? I’m talking about pressing a button on your PC that moves new content to your staging server, verifying the change and pressing another button to move the new content directly onto your production server and see it go live. Can you do that? Are you being told by your WCMS consulting team that you will be able to do that?

Well, you better find out. In transactional Web sites for large organizations, this is pretty rare. But it is part of the sales pitch and every WCMS consultant’s Powerpoint deck, and almost no one ever questions it. Sure, it’s technically possible, but is it culturally and organizationally possible? Often not.

If you purchase hosting from a third party, then the chances are better that, for a price, you can make immediate publishing work. But if your organization runs its own Web servers, then you may have a problem. You have to deal with a team of gatekeepers who’s mission is in complete conflict with your mission. You want to publish fast and often, they are only concerned with keeping what is already live on the site up and working. They live in fear that something you are about to upload will bring the entire site down, so they will create an impressive gauntlet of approvals, signoffs, wait times, and procedures to slow the whole process down to a crawl.

In my organization, we have a whole team of migration specialists who keep the staging and production servers completely isolated from the rest of the company. If I want to get new content up on the site, I have to open a migration request, they have to approve it (in other words, they have agree that my content change is worthy for production), my team then creates a TAR bundle that get’s FTP’d to the migration team, they unbundle it, play with it a bit, then schedule a migration to staging. Some updates sit in staging for 4 or five days before I can get them up to the production servers. And oh, they don’t do any migrations on Friday or after hours unless you pre-arrange to have someone standing by.

So if you THINK your shiny new WCMS will allow you to push new content out 10 times a day, you need to find out who actually controls your Web servers.

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