March 1, 2005: Stop the Pendulum; I Want to Get Off
Although Gerry McGovern makes good points in his latest article and
elsewhere, I'm really uncomfortable with this statement:
"The natural home of the intranet is in communications."
I'm not sure that any single department can be the home for a
multi-departmental intranet or, for that matter, a large public web site.
Can Communications really be responsible for the accuracy of the highly
technical documentation that Product Development is churning out? Can it
manage the tuning of the intranet's search system without some help from IT
staff? Can Communications (or any one business unit) conceive of--much less
assemble and manage--the kind of multi-disciplinary team required to design
and manage a truly quality information system? What about organizations
which don't have centralized Communications departments?
Maybe I'm not clear on what a "natural home" means. I do know that much of
the Web's success can be explained by its decentralized nature--in effect,
web sites exist because they don't require a single home or owner. If this
wasn't true, wouldn't the Web have been nipped in the bud by some
centrally-administered enterprise application years ago?
There are really many natural homes for different aspects of our information
systems, from design to branding to evaluation to the workflow of content
creation and publication. Some of these aspects benefit greatly from
central control, such as branding; others require local and even multiple
owners because they simply couldn't or shouldn't be owned by one unit.
Content creation is a good example.
I realize that provocative statements have their uses. They're easily
consumed, digested, and remembered. They make for nice quotes in other
people's PowerPoint presentations. And they are certainly useful to forward
to lunkhead managers who won't listen to similar pleas that their own
employees have been making for eons.
But it's way past overdue to acknowledge that complicated problems require
more subtle, complex, and often hybrid solutions. In the case of intranets
and other large web sites, degrees of centralization and local control can,
must, and already do co-exist in countless combinations. The challenge is
to step back and look for opportunities for improvement through two things:
more rational centralization where it makes sense, and more rational
decentralization where it makes sense. The alternative is to continue with
an either/or mentality, swinging continually from failed attempts to impose
central control to failed efforts to empower departmental and individual
BLOUG PERMALINK & COMMENTS
Gerry McGovern's latest column ::