(featured image: Me wearing Google Glass, a much-hyped but now defunct technology.)
Last year, we made the decision to discontinue the Active Media Manager (AMM), our proprietary CMS that we have been developing for over 15 years. By February 2019, we will be terminating the platform altogether. A number of clients are currently using the platform to manage their websites, which meant that we had many conversations about the factors that led to the decision and what we, as partners, should do next.
A Brief Note on our CMS
The reason we’re no longer developing our CMS is simple: we can do better work for our clients using other technologies. When we started the AMM, the technology landscape was vastly different than it is today. Back then, in 2002, most websites were hand-coded. This wasn’t efficient, cost-effective, easy to use, or performant. We knew that our client’s digital properties and their customers deserved better. And we made it so. Our platform allowed us to provide a great service, a great product, and a great experience.
Fast forward 15 years and there are many, many platforms available to us and our clients. These platforms, and their available integrations, are often excellent technologies and allow us to build solutions that fit objectives, budgets, and timelines. We can focus on service and experience, and draw from an array of customizable platforms and products to achieve our clients’ objectives.
What to Look For in Conversations About Technology
We’re living in a time when new innovations happen every day and the definition of digital evolves rapidly. This means that at some point, a technology you’re using or rely on will likely change dramatically, and maybe even go away.
Our conversations with clients about the AMM could have been very difficult. But most of ours weren’t that hard. They were involved, and detailed, and took time, but they didn’t end in tears or yelling. Why? Because we focused on the partnership, not the technology.
If you find yourself in a conversation like this with a digital partner or vendor, here’s what to look for to ensure your best interests are being met.
They provide a reasonable explanation for the change.
Business and technology change, and that’s okay, but a company should be able to explain the reasons for the change. They don’t need to walk through every financial detail or their entire product roadmap, but they should be able to tell you what’s going on in clear language. As a client or customer, this tells you that they want you to understand.
If they are transparent, and logical, about their business decisions, you can have more confidence in their recommendations for your business.
They act in alignment with their values, in good times and bad.
In business, a company’s values tell you a little about what it will be like to work with them. If their website says they value collaboration, but you don’t feel that in the work, that’s a sign. Difficult times are when values — ours and others’ — matter the most. It’s easy to be a great partner during a project kickoff meeting. Emotions are running high, and positive. Later, when unexpected or unfavorable things come up, values should guide how your partners respond. We have a saying here at Clockwork: Good news and bad news at the same velocity. This behavior underscores our value, “We tell the truth and keep our promises.” Our clients know that even if the truth is hard, we will tell them.
When a company’s actions and words align, you can trust that even when things are uncertain, they will act in a predictable way.
They ask questions before giving a recommendation.
When you’re faced with a new problem, it’s human nature to want an immediate solution. That sounds great, right? But that would be too easy. The right (or right for now) technology solution will likely be discovered through a lot of conversation. There should be a discussion about your 3-5 year business plans; scalability and growth; market competition; and users, target audience, and employees. Even if you’ve worked with a partner for years, big decisions require foundational discussions.
Good questions are the key to great solutions.
In the end, choose a partner, not a technology. Technologies come and go. Partners can last forever (if you want them to).