A Retort Sir: Content management systems are NOT killing creativity

A colleague shared with me an article by Mark Gowland on Venture Beat claiming that “Content Management Systems are Killing Creativity” – a claim that on its face could seem, if not reasonable, then certainly plausible. There has been, with the heavy influence of technology, a sentiment among creatives that anything that begins with structure, is limiting creativity.

I take exception to that claim. I have worked with creatives my entire career and yes, there are some who can’t incorporate the concepts of a data model or abstraction into their creative process – but this is hardly the byproduct of the CMS itself, it is a limitation of either the creative or their technology comrades. In fact many of the most creative creatives I have worked with don’t see CMS as a limitation at all, but another tool in their box of tricks.  A tool that allows lay people to manage, adjust and revise the very thing that users came to the property for in the first place – the content.

The article asserts that three points:

1. Content management systems aren’t client-friendly

It is true that often a CMS selection is made ahead of design.  It is true that marketing teams can struggle with adoption.

But here is where I disagree.

A CMS selection should be driven by requirements, business & creative.  So blaming a CMS for not handling the experience well, is like blaming a Corvette for not being able to go off road.  If you choose the wrong tool, the onus is on the person, not the software.  Adoption of the tool being blamed on an un-intuitive structure is  again placing blame inappropriately.  The culture, skill set and intent of the system administrators should be considered in advance of a CMS selection.  In concert with that is the burden a systems integrator bears to configure the CMS appropriately.  True some CMS’ have more flexibility in its own administration than others.  It doesn’t negate the fact that it needs to be considered.

2. Content management systems struggle to keep up with digital trends

False.  the majority of features any enterprise CMS or Experience Platform espouse go largely unused by a huge portion of their administrators.  I believe it is human nature to find reasons why things can not be done, rather than how they can.  The ‘can do’ mindset is often found with entrepreneurs, start ups, and those passionate and excited about their work.  If there is a trend that you feel your CMS cannot play into, my advice would be to challenge the people who are using the system, not the people who made it.  Make them prove to you it cannot, and when they do, challenge their hypothesis and make them prove it again.  Too much money is being lost on re-platforming rather than evolving the skills sets administrating the platform itself.

3. Custom-built solutions are back

Wrong again.  While the largest corporations may have the budgets and resources to execute custom solutions, and perhaps the need, the huge majority of most markets depend on software to accelerate their projects.  And let’s not forget that platforms are just that, accelerators.  They are created to meet some percentage of what most of the market needs – similar to the 80/20 rule.  If your business is so specialized that no platform makes the project simpler, then yes, custom is the way to go.  But I have a hard time believing that scenario is so wide spread that custom built solutions are the high-demand answer.