Not My System

I was on a 12-day road trip to Toronto, London, New York, and Seattle last year. On the first day, my luggage got lost. I talked with half a dozen people at the airline. As we walked through various logical scenarios (at least to me) of how they might get my bag back to me, all of them seemed unaware of how bag handling works.

They didn’t understand the overall process, the technology: the system. 

They knew only their tiny cog. And I certainly don’t know the intricacies of baggage handling. So, in every scenario, the end box of the flow chart remained the same – a dead end: “We’ll just have to wait and see, Mr. Rose.” And then in each and every interaction – this amuses me now – the comfortable script comes back: “Thank you. We appreciate your patience in this matter. Have a great day.”

It reminds me of a familiar scenario I’ve seen of late with regard to content systems. I’ll be sitting in a meeting with a group of marketers, content strategists, and technology people. My role there is to understand the opportunities the company might have to expand or create a content marketing program.

Eventually, the conversation turns to the overall process, the technology: the system.

I ask the group, “What about ____?” [Insert idea where we could track audiences, get content insight, optimize platforms, etc.] The room goes silent. Then…

Technology: “Sure, that’s possible, we’d just need to X, Y, and Z.”

Marketing: “You mean we can actually do that today?”

Technology: “Oh yeah, our system can do a lot of stuff we’re not doing.”

Content Strategy: “And if we organized a tagging strategy and a better taxonomy, could we A, B, and C?”

Technology: “Yes, that’s right.”

Marketing: “Wait really? So we don’t need to replace the CMS?”

Content Strategy and Technology: “You want to replace the CMS?!?”

As we look at content as a strategic asset – one that will not only flow through our company more efficiently but also be optimized for our customers, we need to understand the opportunities in the system. It’s easy to think that the system “is the way it is” or “needs to be replaced.” With that kind of thinking, we can find ourselves in a constant “buy cycle” for replacing capabilities of a system we haven’t fully explored yet.

Why do we do this? Is it because the system was implemented a certain way originally, and that implementation has been dictating strategy ever since? If so, it’s time to ask, “How should we implement the system today?”

Now, the answer to that question is usually an uncomfortable one. It requires change and multiple people stepping up, people who may not want to face the challenge. But facing the challenge – taking ownership of your system rather than letting the system own you – beats ending your meetings with attendees folding up their laptops and following the comfortable script: “We appreciate your patience. Have a great day.

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