Plone for managers

published Oct 12, 2022

Talk by Fred van Dijk at the Plone Conference 2022 in Namur.

Full title of the talk is Plone for managers: how to achieve good ROI for your organisation and really use and value the strengths of Plone.

During my 15+ experience as a Plone consultant, developer, trainer and project manager, the online software ecosystem has exploded into a complex but essential part of most organisations and their core processes. I have consulted quite a few organisations in the last few years where Plone has fallen out of grace of management and the responsible manager is looking for a replacement CMS.

Almost always (and there's not a milder way to put this) the reason is one of mis-management because of wrong expectations and assumptions about what is required nowadays and which organisational resources are required to operate a large CMS backed website besides the software itself. By the time I get involved it's almost always too late: it's easier to save your face as a manager by switching to another CMS and blame the software than admit you are responsible by not understanding and underfunding the context in which the software really can and will shine.

Actually: the responsible manager is often not to blame as well because it's the developers and integrators like me and the Plone community itself that does a poor job of giving context and guidance on a management level.

This talk is not only for said managers, but even more for integrators, developers and the Plone community at large providing Plone to clients.

Disclaimer: I will exaggerate and 'inflate' situations and processes to make a point. It is not my intention to annoy, be rude, or hurt people.

This is not just about Plone. The same can happen when you support a Wordpress site, Drupal, Django.

In most cases evolution is better than revolution. If you have to replace the complete system, this is usually bad. It is not just the software, it is also a whole organisation that needs to adapt. Editors will have to be retrained. Internal knowledge is thrown out, and this comes at a cost.

Problem: ICT and the web are revolution.

As a manager: do not bet your organisation on a hype. What is popular today, may not be popular or supported tomorrow.

Also, your website is not a project with a beginning and end date. It is ongoing. For most companies it is core business, ongoing work, never finished.

I have too many topics for this presentation, hard to see a thread. There are separate topics, but all related. See what you can pick out for yourself.

My model: look at the TCO, total cost of ownership. What does it take to run an online presence or do online marketing for a growing organisation 'well' for many many years. Where are the costs?

  • Software stack.
  • You need hardware, hosting.
  • You need to actually create content. A developer can create lots of code and features, but if it is not used and you only have twenty pages, then it is a waste of money.
  • Support for editors and users
  • Third party tools and services, like marketing automation.
  • You need management attention and involvement.

If the TCO goes more than 30-50 percent to the software stack and hosting, something is wrong. You do not spend enough on the other parts.

If the TCO goes less than 30-50 percent to the software stack and hosting, something is wrong as well. The software will get outdated.

You can spread development and hosting. Do everything in house, hire external developers for parts, or for the whole, or use SAAS. Tip: make a split between who does the hosting and who does the development. If one company goes down, the other can still take over and save the day.

My personal belief: a cooperative model between an in-house work force and external assistance is the most flexible model with the least risk.

Let's talk about attention spans. Over generalised:

  • PR / communications team has an attention span of 1 to 3 weeks.
  • Marketing is into campaigns, 3 weeks to 3 months
  • IT-department: 3 months to 3 years.

Can you see the problem when IT people speak directly to PR people? IT cares about stability, security, backups. PR: fix a PR problem, publish a news item and forget.

Should your marketing manager be responsible for the website and TCO domains? Think about a different example: is the sales manager responsible for the ERP system?

End users care about new features. IT wants to sink the system to the bottom of the ocean so it is stable. A bit unusable though. You know I am exaggerating, right?

Is organisational knowledge kept? Or is an interim manager responsible for the website, and replaces every year, with no knowledge transfer happening? The developers are pushed into a help desk role then, training the new manager every year. This is costly. Have a help desk in house. Let editors support each other.

Other these interim managers or marketing managers use Plone one or two years, and then move on to a different company that uses Drupal or Wordpress. So it is not in their interest to gain and retain much Plone knowledge. Mid or higher level managers need to keep the longer term in mind: ensure that knowledge stays in the organisation when people leave or move to a different part of the organisation.

With Plone we like to focus on content editing, but these days more is involved: marketing automation, analytics, privacy, GDPR, etc. And we want to grow, grow, grow.

A lot of companies prefer hiring externals over internal employees: you cannot easily get rid of employees, so it is a risk. But then you have no knowledge at all in your company.

There is also venture capital and the software lottery. Financial companies invest lots of money in a few startups, in the hope that one of them becomes a unicorn, becomes very successful. The others die, and if you have moved your site to such a failed startup, you might have one year to move your website somewhere else. And if you bet on the successful one, their prices may go up because they have you locked in.

Because Plone is completely free, there is not one company that decides the future. See also Erico's talk. We are small companies and need to cooperate. Apply the Pareto principle: use 20 percent of your time to give back to the community.

Corporate social responsibility. Do you throw away websites after three months? Do you invest in your local economy or do you help a big American IT company?

Fine a balance in the total cost of ownership of your website. Regularly scan your current setup. Reconfigure, extend, expand. Talk to your customer about it.

Here is a link to the slides on dropbox, including many, many skipped ones.