There’s a famous drawing by Cartoonist W.E. Hill that when looked at one way features an old lady, but looked at another way, shows a picture of a young woman. This drawing mirrors the current world of technology and content; IT professionals and CIOs look at the picture from one perspective, and content managers see it quite differently.
In this day and age, separating content from technology is irrelevant. According to most of our end user research and feedback about portals and websites featuring both internal and external content, it’s clear that most sites are akin to a confusing drawing where the old lady and the young lady often look like one indecipherable, hard-to-use mess. It will take the two worlds of content and technology coming together to make the picture meaningful for the end user.
For years, IT professionals and information professionals or content managers?what I call information content or IC professionals?have been operating on parallel paths. Now their worlds are colliding fast. Computer networks and the Web are cornerstones of our modern workplace. Content is the star attraction on these systems, but who’s paying attention?
In dealing with all the issues and complications of building the fastest networks, the zippiest websites or the most efficient supply chains, it’s easy to miss the forest for the trees?or, as is more often the case, the content for the technology. While we live in a world where technology rules, we must not forget that technology is really the enabler that makes content relevant for real people doing real things and making real decisions. Yet content is often the stepchild (dare I say it??the old lady) in the picture.
Best of Both Worlds
So how do we make corporate portal investments meaningful, e-commerce sites useful, or the terabytes of internally generated content and tactit knowledge available to users? By bringing the best skills from both IT and IC to the development of every application. To do this, however, IT needs to talk more with IC, recognizing that content professionals have been around for years, and they know more about content management, acquisition, filtering, taxonomy development and categorization than any tool or technology. These information professionals?also known as librarians?already know the answers to many of the content questions posed by the IT side of the house. They know where to get content and how to present it in a meaningful way. IT doesn’t have to reinvent the IC wheel.
Real content management exists as a separate competency that is often unrecognized by IT managers. It is the distinct specialty that includes knowledge and experience in a number of areas. Among the most prevalent: assessing user content needs and preferences; evaluating and selecting content from the myriad sources that best match those needs and preferences; negotiating pricing and licensing terms that are favorable to the organization; facilitating the receipt, organization, presentation and deployment of content and making sure it’s integrated with internally generated content; and managing content and Web training, including help desk services for end users.
Some CIOs already have the right idea. They know technology and content are inextricably tied together. Users will be equally dissatisfied if either the technology or the content they rely on is inadequate, but they will not differentiate between the two. Rather, in their eyes, it is one unified function that as a whole is useful or not. With that in mind, it’s time for the IT and IC professionals who see the old lady-young lady drawing differently to take their views and make them one.
Anthea C. Stratigos is cofounder and president of Outsell, a content research and analysis company based in Burlingame, Calif.
By Scott McNealy
THESE ARE THE BEST OF TIMES and the worst of times for the systems administrator. On one hand, industry’s increased reliance on networking has turned the systems admin into your company’s Tom Cruise of technology. Even in these cooling economic times, his employment options are more encouraging than most. And yet, these are the worst of times for the systems admin. The same technological explosion that transformed the systems admin into a geek god now threatens to make his job a living hell of unmatched complexity.
The driving force behind that change is something called The Net Effect, which says growing networking bandwidth will continue to eclipse improvements in chip performance and thus drive a new wave of innovation. In today’s labs, a single fiber in an optical network can handle enough information to simultaneously stream 400,000 DVDs. When you consider that the largest cable today contains nearly 900 of those fibers, you can see how a previously unfathomable amount of information will pulse through the Internet.
For a glimpse of what’s to come, consider that each year the planet produces an amount of information comparable to a stack of 40 billion magazines. That includes information that hasn’t yet reached the Internet, such as 80 billion photographs and 2.5 billion CDs. Can you imagine anyone trying to handle all that with a system that can’t scale nor do the heavy lifting?
The problem is that massive volume equals massive headaches for data-center folks. Managing petabytes of data can smother the most seasoned staffs and send expenses skyrocketing. For instance, the cost of buying a storage system, which is just one element of a data center, constitutes only 30 percent of its total cost of ownership. Managing the system inhales the other 70 percent. Mounting complexity and costs will do more than drive IT folks wacko. It will ultimately bring Internet computing one step closer to the utility model in which companies will outsource their data-center operations.
In the long run, we’ll see packs of systems admins leaving their employers and migrating to service providers who do nothing but data-center management. Expect some of these service providers to outsource portions of their Internet operations to other specialists. But they will need help. Those service providers will need sophisticated but easy-to-use systems that automatically manage their operations?conducting diagnostics, managing volume loads, tracking resources and balancing capacity levels. They need what I call a big, freaking Web-tone switch, which is an integrated system that is as reliable as the dial-tone system.
In the end, expect all of that to give everyone more time to focus on his true core competencies. And contrary to what some may think, the core competency of the systems admin will be to manage the service, not the server. Until then, be kind to your systems admins. They have a lot of work to do.
Scott McNealy is chairman and CEO of Sun Microsystems in Mountain View, Calif.