Does your CMS fit?
This article was originally published as part of our Connective Thinking newsletter (delivered every full moon). Since it’s especially relevant to our CMS Myth readers, we’d love to hear what you think.
Searching for the perfect web content management system can be a long and bewildering journey. One littered with hundreds of vendors, aggressive sales tactics, confusing terminology and a smorgasbord of features you may never use.
Traditional thinking in the CMS selection process includes jotting down a list of desired features, watching a generic demo and evaluating vendors based on who ‘checks the most boxes’ and gives the best end-of-quarter pricing. This process is fundamentally flawed and all too often results in poor technology selections and dismal implementations.
We believe there is a better approach. One that takes a holistic look at how CMS fits into the organization and aligns technology to key business processes and marketing strategies.
Our fundamental belief is that there are not good or bad content management systems – simply ones that are a better or worse fit for each organization. We’ve developed six fit factors to consider when evaluating web content management systems.
While the underlying technology should not be the first consideration, the technical fit is very important. After all, the CMS needs to fit into your existing web infrastructure, align with internal developer skill sets and scale to meet the future needs of the organization.
It becomes increasingly important within enterprise organizations that have standardized platforms and application frameworks. We’ve yet to meet a developer without strong opinions about software applications. However, it’s important that the technical fit is evaluated based on the long term needs of the organization, not the preferences of a single developer.
Talking about culture and CMS together sounds like squishy science to many involved in a technology selection process. Looking inward to assess cultural fit factors like staff skills, their adaptability and old-fashioned agreeability, can make or break the ultimate success of the implementation.
Finding publishing tools that have a familiar paradigm for internal users can help with adoption. In one case a global organization felt more comfortable with a European vendor because the product had a more familiar orientation for its international users. Sometimes a CMS just “feels right” and that’s a critical fit factor to keep in mind.
At the end of the day, a CMS needs to support business critical scenarios within the organization. Different site types have different processes. A large ad-supported content site has different needs than a document-rich Intranet.
Key processes may include sharing content across multiple sites, building complex forms for marketing campaigns or rapidly provisioning new microsites for sales. Organizations should painstakingly document these processes and insist vendors include them in the demos and proof of concepts.
CMS evaluations all too often start and stop with the feature lists. While features are important, they should be evaluated in the larger context of the six fit factors. It’s important to isolate the feature-driven requirements for your organization that will differentiate the vendors.
Be wary of the vendor that promises to do everything within the CMS. Some of the more attractive features are often bolted onto the core product and don’t represent best of breed functionality. Keep in mind a CMS is only one piece of your web infrastructure. The evaluation process can run amuck when organizations insist on features that are not core to content management technology.
The marketing fit may be the most overlooked factor as strategic ownership of the web has swung from IT to the marketing department. For many organizations, the CMS has to support complex marketing requirements to bolster search engine optimization, landing pages, forms and multivariate testing.
CMS vendors are scrambling to sell into marketing, but many products are still far too IT-driven and ill suited to support a complex marketing organization. As with the feature fit, it’s essential to identify what your CMS will handle and where you will look to external tools. Features like analytics and e-mail marketing for example are almost always better left to an external application.
Selecting a CMS goes far beyond buying a piece of software. It’s a partnership with an organization that will be helping to drive your web infrastructure for years to come. Go beyond calling client references to look at the long term viability of the organization, product roadmap, market momentum and partner landscape. Insist on seeing the product roadmap to confirm it aligns with your future goals. Look at the training and support offerings and make sure that this is an organization you can see yourself with for at least five years.
Finding Your Match
While there is a lot to consider, finding the right CMS is one of the more important technology decisions and organization will make. A CMS is no longer a piece of software to run a website. It’s a publishing platform to run your business. Looking at the six fit factors will help you make a more informed decision and take into account the needs of the entire organization.
What other fit factors have you used to help guide your CMS selection? Leave a comment and share your story.