The CMS project gut check

A new CMS project is like putting on a brand new pair of socks.

It’s clean, fresh, and there’s an extra hop in your step as you start the project.

It has that blank canvas type feeling. You’re typically rebuilding the site from the ground up and the possibilities seem limitless.

The project team is given the reins to rethink the user experience, brand, functionality and overall role of the website in the business.

A diverse group of stakeholders are invited to dream up wish list features, outside consultants bring in new ideas and executives set ambitious goals for the future.

Anything seems possible.

Dreaming at this stage of the project is important. It’s also dangerous. The expectations set here will ultimately define its success or failure.

We know that most organizations woefully underestimate the overall effort and cost of a CMS project. This is, in part, a byproduct of how the solution is sold. In order to build the business case for CMS, all parties are motivated to paint dreamy pictures of seamless integrations, easy to use interfaces, rapid organizational adoption and out-of-the box functionality.

But let’s set the implementation expectation gap aside for a moment.

The reason CMS projects are interesting (to me at least), is because of the change it can impact for the business.

A CMS project can support new publishing models, new experiences, an amplified content strategy, new digital properties, revamped governance structures, and more.

These are big ticket items that go far beyond the boundaries of the technology. The organization needs to be honest with itself about how much change it is prepared to support. These can’t just be rolled in.

I’ve seen countless projects where organizations have lofty aspirations, but are only able to muster up a basic website redesign effort. The business stakeholders end up upset (and vocal) over the gap between what was promised and what was delivered. CMS turns into a four letter word and the web team starts looking for new gigs.

Big digital ideas that drive change require an organizational commitment to succeed and a relentless internal stakeholder to see it through.

This can mean staffing changes, large investments in content and changes to the way the business fundamentally operates. Not typically items a CMS-centric project is tasked to solve, nor investments organizations readily understand. It’s a gut check moment for the organization.

My advice?

Be honest with yourself and your organization on what type of problems you’re trying to solve and willing to support. Be vocal with executive stakeholders on what’s needed to support the big ideas. And don’t be afraid to be the wet blanket if the resources and commitment aren’t there.

And when you see that big idea that can change the business? Jump on it. Make it your own, secure the resources to get it done, and demand the raise you deserve when it becomes the wild success you envisioned.

About the Author
Jeff Cram

Jeff Cram is Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder of Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design), a digital agency based in Portland, OR and Boston, MA. As the Managing Editor of the CMS Myth, Jeff is passionate about all topics related to content management, digital strategy and experience design.

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