"Sitemorse has found that in organisations using what the market sees as 1st-Generation tools (i.e. mapping out a digital estate, understanding & reporting on content assessment, etc.) users often drown in a sea of reports. The more they review, the more inefficient they become.
Content has to become smarter.
The good news is that in 2nd-Generation services that provide improved publishing agility, reports are thinner and thinner ensuring things are right first time. This basic reason is that editors finally have the information they need to act.
But could the legacy of problems with 1st-Generation services, dissuade more from making a switch?"
I see what you mean.
Despite the current cohort of Digital Managers being among the first to have access to real insight about online operations, they are often disillusioned by the sheer volume of data to be trawled through.
Perhaps the most talked about issues of this type concern automated accessibility and link checking tools.
I mean, they seem like such a good idea.
"What?! I can check thousands of pages for compliance with legal requirements and quality standards ... in an instant? Sign me up."
Of course, only later do you realise that automation does not necessarily mean discrimination.
While many 1st-Generation services are great at checking pages against simple rules, they are not so great at:
- Recognising false positives
- Separating content from features/navigation
- Ranking results based on importance
When reporting against a complete site, 1st-Generation services could simply be generating additional workload - whilst preventing timely action on matters that really need attention.
We have to constantly remind ourselves that tools like this are just syntactical engines.
Yes, they can shuffle lots of symbols - but any semantics depends on us.
You've never had it so good
You might remember how back in the early days of the web, the most popular means for extracting meaning from data was our old friend Excel.
Of course, the problem with such a manually intensive system of analysis is its lack of scalability.
With so many things happening on a modern online presence, many 1st-Generation are often little better than Excel at creating insight.
Sure, they can generate tons of data, but no-one has the time to sort the wood from the trees.
Indeed, the truth is few Online Managers (especially those on very large scale projects) can really claim to know just how well their systems are performing.
Things are just too complex.
Most haven't the slightest clue whether complications in content may be due to an honest (but mistaken) decision about user needs - or a sloppy team or flawed implementation.
No doubt they would love to find out. But it is as much as they can do merely to correct errors as they arise - "whack-a-mole" style - never mind investigate them all.
And Excel is not the answer.
Even if you were to try, creating the mountains of spreadsheets needed to generate an answer would absorb more time than was being lost by the issue under analysis!
The next generation
All this means that the 2nd-Generation of management tools that can integrate with DAM (Digital Asset Management), CMS (Content Management Systems) and publishing technology, are not only welcome but critical to keeping the engine of online ticking.
More than anything else such tools can help managers to reconnect with operations and disperse the fog of uncertainty that surrounds many sites.
For example, not only do such tools remove the need for mundane manual work, they also generate the semantics needed to apply meaning to data.
Some can now also be integrated with other online management tools to reveal detailed insights for improved decision making
For instance, the effect of a tool that could cross-reference information from various sources including analytics, QA, CMS and more - and imagine how useful it could be for improving the resource allocation ...
"It looks like Katherine is doing a great job.
I see from the CMS that she has published almost 30 new posts to our Wildlife Protection blog over the last month. Analytics tells me each page is also getting lot of visitors and plenty of social media shares, especially on Twitter.
Good work Katherine!
Oh, but I also see from our Site Auditing system that several entries have bad spelling mistakes. Plus readability is sometimes below par - too many long sentences & difficult words.
I think I'll drop Katherine a line to let her know we can help. I'll also tell her about our new "Writing for the Web" training course that's coming up later this month."
Read more about the potential for cross-system integration in my article "Why weaponizing web tools improves decisions".
Of course, it is still early days. There are as yet few examples of this type of cross-system integration.
Nevertheless, some can be seen on large, open sites (such as GOV.uk) whereby data from several sources is mashed-up to create new Performance Dashboards. This represents a first step towards the type of analysis that will one day be commonplace.
Excel, it ain't.
The result will be that entire discipline of Digital Governance will open up to scrutiny as never before, as 2nd-Generation tools reveal insights that were once obscure.
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About Shane Diffily
I am an experienced commentator on web operations. In 2015, I released the web's first online training course in website management and governance. Back in 2006 I published the Website Manager's Handbook, the original guide to online operations.