Friday, June 19, 2009

Making Horses Think

I put myself into a situation a few years ago while volunteering for a non-profit. As a member of the organization, I had tried to be an instructor and a collaborator on their Web site strategy, at a time when they were neither interested in collaboration nor had the capacity to understand issues of ownership, service, and maintenance. I personally invested thousands of dollars of my time to demonstrate the feasibility of using a database-driven site to manage their marketing programs, using a popular open source CMS to ensure that the system was open and could be worked on by others.

Yet the CMS was discarded and a contract summarily awarded to an ISV to deliver a "Web site" based on the concepts I had introduced. The ISV was all too willing to give a fixed price while asking no difficult questions, and proceeded to construct a closed-source CMS under the pretense of Web site development. In the end, the customer's disinterest in taking ownership worked against them, and they paid several thousand dollars for a low-quality site over which they now hold little real control. The ISV is now holding them a virtual hostage for simple content changes to the site.

You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them think: Sometimes pain is the best instructor.

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