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How Many CMS Admin’s Does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?

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Three.  One to search the repository for an answer, one to have written it so that it was in the repository and one to actually do the job.  Or maybe it’s really four. 

Ok a REALLY bad joke but it’s just as bad as the regular joke I here from IT groups of companies deploying or that have deployed ECM systems.  “Why does it take ‘so many people’ to run an ECM system?”  In some cases I am sure it is not mentioned as a joke.  But for me often the chuckle starts when I see who’s really asking the question.

Support Team Size
An EDMS system is no more complex than any other enterprise application.  In fact, quite often the opposite.  It’s much easier.  Take RDBMS as an example.

When the question of support is asked by the RDBMS team, it really gets me laughing.  In fact it’s like when you get a crazy case of the giggles.  I had a customer where their DB Team was upset on the support team size.  You see their ECM deployment required a full time system administrator and a backup administrator to support four repositories.  But the Director of DBMS Applications, felt two people were too many.

When I had the my conversation with the director, I found that he had three managers reporting to him.  There was a manager for the DBMS itself, one for internal facing applications, and one for external facing applications.  Then each of these managers had a team of two to three people assigned to each application.  All in all, there were over thirty people supporting the RDBS applications.  I later came to find out that his count did not include any of the development resources used to build new applications or modify existing applications.

Yet for this director, having two people in his staff supporting the EDMS platform (they treated it as an internal application) was too many people.  Did he consider the number of users of the system?  No.  Did he consider the amount of unstructured content store in the system?  No.  Did he consider the number of repositories being supported?  No.  He looked at it in relational database terms; table space size.

Depending on application complexity and user counts.  One should expect to have one support person per repository, with possibly a second to support international users or as backup.  Typically this second person could be share.  In fact, most ECM systems offer some level of self maintenance reducing overhead even further. 

ECM Requires Specialty Training
And while I’m at it another questions I find funny is,  “Why does ECM require so much special training?”  Granted I can only look at this through the eyes of a US university graduate, but I took two semesters (over six months) of RDBS classes to graduate with my degree in IT.  From what I’ve seen in other schools, RDBS classes are a standard requirement.  So this means that a significant majority of IT professional leaves school with over 80 hours of RDBS classroom training.

On average it takes a week of training to get up to speed on ECM.  And the concepts are very similar to relational database technology.  What is probably the case is that most people are afraid of something new.  Which is strange to when it comes to IT.  Most IT folks I have meet are always interested in what’s new.  Once you’re over the newness of ECM, you quickly discover that many of then concepts are really rather simple.

In fact if you think about it.  Every solution deployed within an organization always needs some sort of end user training.  Is it really crazy to think that the people developing or maintaining the solution would require some training too.

Getting Past the Bad Humor
The real punch-line here is that ECM technology is no different than any other standard enterprise application.  Every new application will require some training even if it is only to learn one little thing.  And there is no enterprise application that requires ZERO administrative support.  So the next time someone asks you one of these question try not to laugh.

1 Response »

  1. Like the post. I think that you can lower the database admins, at least for SQL Server ’05. Sure, there are efforts when you get things going, but once live, two part-timers cover it, and only 2 for when somebody is out.

    As for other admins, it all depends on how many users there are and the stability of that user-base. The number of moving parts, workflows and document tranformation services to name 2, can increase that number a bit.

    Training is key. Train as many as possible in IT so that they at least can appreciate the moving parts. Bring the admin training in-house and fill every slot to spread cost out. I’ve conducted this training between Christmas and New Years to get maximum turn-out as active user support was minimal.

    At least one, full-time, dedicated support person, regardless of system size, is non-negotiable. Two is better as that allows one to focus on Production and the other to focus on Test/Dev, with each person backing the other up.

    Laugh, I wish. I usually go, “Oh no, not again!” That is usually followed by a loud thump as my head hits the table/desk. This sometimes has to wait for the client to leave the room. Sometimes.

    -Pie

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