Technology is not a solution

I’ve been working on a talk called “Yes, Your CMS is Trying to Kill You.” My argument is that content management systems are technological tools, not miracle-machines. Just like any other tool, a content management system can cause misery when it is misused. So this promoted tweet from Microsoft was serendipitous:

Many people seem to think that’s true. And there’s no doubt that technology is a critical part of success for most people. But you have to know what technology you need and how to use it effectively; otherwise all you’re doing is buying fancier and more expensive tools. The tools never solve problems alone. But we want to think we can buy success off a shelf, so we fall into the “treadmill solution.” If you have a treadmill / clothes-rack, you know how this works:

  1. You decide you become more active.
  2. You buy a treadmill.
  3. You don’t use it.
  4. You eventually decide you’re not using the current treadmill because it does not suit your needs.
  5. You dispose of the treadmill.
  6. You repeat from the top.

Chances are there is nothing wrong with the treadmill. It is a perfectly good treadmill and barely used. Either it does not suit your activity-building strategy, or you had no strategy to begin with.

The thing is, I see this same thing happen time and again with web sites. People launch web sites then let the website gather dust and clutter. After a few years they decide it’s time for a redesign, and they rip everything out and start over again. And every time they start over, they tell themselves the same story: the CMS is terrible. The technology is old. There’s a new fad in town.

Sometimes a rebuild, redesign, and relaunch is necessary. But unless it’s approached with a clear understanding of where you are trying to go and what resources you need to get you there, the new web site is not likely to perform any better than the old one.

Microsoft is right: for many people, business success has become synonymous with business technology. But it shouldn’t be. No tool can get the job done unless it is used mindfully.

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