Back in September 2001 TechWatch published a report on Content Management Systems, written by Paul Browning and Mike Lowndes. At the time it very quickly became one of the most popular TechWatch reports ever published, and is still a steady favourite, even today.
I can’t take any of the credit for the report as it was published before I took over TechWatch, but one of the first things people asked me for, back in 2004/2005, was an update to the CMS report; particularly the CMS product list. I did think about this, and even went as far as approaching the original authors to see if they were interested in a reunion. However, as I started to think about what the report would cover I had a crisis of remit.
The most important factor for me was what this was no longer a ‘future’ issue. As well as being a very practical report, exploring the nitty gritty of procuring a CMS, Paul and Mike’s report was also conceptual, outlining the bigger issues such as: “In reality a CMS is a concept rather than a product. It is a concept that embraces a set of processes”, and “… the boundaries of the CMS space are blurred. Substantial overlaps exist with document management systems, knowledge management systems, enterprise application integration systems, e-learning systems and portals”. In 2005 these concepts just hadn’t moved on far enough to warrant a new ‘future-facing’ report.
In addition, although there was a lot of demand for an update to the CMS product list, this isn’t within our remit. The purpose of the TechWatch reports is to start the ball rolling and hopefully stimulate interest/uptake elsewhere – we just don’t have the resources for ‘maintenance’.
However, this decision keeps coming back to haunt me, and when I was in Keele for the JISC Innovation Forum 2008 meeting last month, someone, once again, asked why there hadn’t been an update to the TechWatch CMS report. In fact, what this person was really saying was: “I want to procure a CMS but your report’s out of date”, and that’s really quite a different matter.
This got me thinking and revisiting the notes I made in 2005. My conclusion is that the answer is: “things have moved on a lot since then and perhaps you shouldn’t be buying a CMS”. I will elaborate on this in future blog items, but for now, suffice it to say that there is a paradigm shift brewing in institutional ICT provision, of which the institutional CMS is only one part. The future of the CMS is actually caught up in technological reinterpretations of the big concepts that Paul and Mike identified in 2001: processes rather than products, and blurring the boundaries between systems.