Go Beyond Feature List When Seeking CMS

by on June 19, 2008

Here at the CMS Myth we make a point to climb our soapbox and espouse a pragmatic approach to dealing with the content management issue (Here’s a quick hit: CMS is a software tool; content management is a discipline – recognize the difference!)

So it was refreshing at Web Content 2008 in Chicago this week to hear advice, cut from the same Myth cloth, provided in generous portions to the web, content, marketing and tech pros all trying to crack a similar nut.

Among the preachers: Jarrod Gingras, analyst at CMS Watch, whose comments on how to craft an RFP ring true. Among his points: De-prioritize the feature checkbox. Vendors typically provide “no real explanation in a checkbox about what went into meeting that requirement,” he says.

Instead of crafting an exhaustive checklist of features, write the story of how things run today with your website processes. Construct a complete and colorful narrative about who does what, when and how inside your organization to make stuff happen online, in all its ugly glory. What’s the current process to get information published? Who touches it along the way? Why do things get bogged down? Name names. Provide the painful details. Tell the story.

From that approach emerges the picture of what’s not working and what a CMS vendor needs to solve. Instead of a vendor firing a feature list back at you, demand vital details of how they would help you improve things, following along with your narrative. 

Pragmatic advice is always good. To which we would add one more bit for any organization that gets its news, as it were, from the RFP document: Pick up the phone and have a clear conversation with a vendor or service provider about what you’re seeking. Thirty-minutes on the phone will do wonders to clear the fog from a 100 page RFP.

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Tom June 19, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Couldn’t agree more.  

I work for a large CMS vendor and I’m often the one who responds to RFPs.  RFPs give vendors little perspective on what companies are actually trying to do with a CMS.  The best questions to ask a CMS vendor tend to be open ended.  By asking open ended questions, you’ll get detailed responses and a better understanding how each CMS vendor approaches a particular problem.  There are indeed very significant differences among the CMS vendors and these differences often don’t show up on the typical RFP.  

Take the typical RFP question… "Does the CMS support workflow?".  This leads to the generic "Yes, our CMS supports workflow" response.   A better way to ask the question might be: "Describe how your CMS helps automate the publishing process".  Save the checkbox items for factual information like platform support and architecture.

I’d also recommend that CMS buyers provide more access to internal resources during the RFP process.  RFPs alone often don’t provide enough information for us to accurately prepare a response.  By speaking with the business users of the CMS, vendors can better understand the unique challenges and requirements in your  business and make sure our RFP response (and then later, demo) are tailored to your specific needs.

-Tom

2 David Aponovich June 20, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Tom, Good points across the board. Especially the idea that CMS buyers need to make available the real users of the systems, the internal resources who have those business issues to solve — and, who will end up living with the CMS decision for (probably) long time.

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