The CMS selection myth

(This post was originally published on Connective Thinking)

The web content management system you select matters a lot less than you think it does. Yet, over and over we see organizations make the mistake of focusing on the technology first.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the hundreds of products available. They come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from complex enterprise platforms to nimble open source products. Given this sea of options, organizations rush to kick the tires, schedule demos and compare features in hopes of finding the perfect CMS.

Herein lies the myth: Selecting a CMS has little to do with your eventual success with content management and web publishing.

I’ll take that one step further.

If you center your planning efforts around the CMS selection process, your project is probably already off track. This is because you start looking at everything through a product lens.

Sure, you still talk to stakeholders, gather requirements, map use cases and prioritize your wish list. It feels like planning, but it’s not the planning you need.

None of this is to suggest the technology doesn’t matter. It matters a lot.

If you’re heavily invested in open source technology as an organization, you won’t want to bring in a commercial .NET or Java-based platform.

If you’re a global company thinking about a large multilingual rollout, there are platforms that simply will or won’t support these requirements.

But these are relatively easy things to sort out after you’ve figured out the role of the web in your business and your overall digital strategy. The problem is that these big-ticket items don’t usually get sorted out when you’re going through a CMS selection process. It’s not part of a product-based discussion, nor areas that a CMS vendor is particularly focused on helping you sort out.

From CMS Selection to CMS Readiness

In our CMS Strategy engagement with clients, we try to help reframe the approach from ‘CMS Selection’ to ‘CMS Readiness.’ We help focus the organization on the overall approach to the digital channel and how to best align it for success with a new publishing platform.

This means taking a big step back and answering some important questions:

  • Vision: Where does the organization want to be in 3-5 years and what’s the overall vision for how digital will drive the business forward?
  • Customers: How will your customer interact with you across their entire journey and what is the role of digital (web, mobile, e-mail, etc.) in enabling these experiences?
  • Content: How are you approaching the overall content strategy and how will it support the experiences you hope to deliver?
  • Team & Culture: How will you support the digital channel and CMS and do you have the proper roles and team members in place?
  • Measurement: How will success be defined and how can analytics and optimization be used to drive ongoing value?

All of these questions inform the technology decisions that need to be made and ultimately help you select a CMS that is a great fit for the organization.

While there are plenty of horror stories of organizations rushing into new technologies and failing, seeing it get done right is extremely rewarding. A new CMS can have an enormous impact on an organization that has a well thought out digital strategy.

It’s a big reason why we started blogging about The CMS Myth years ago and why we remain passionate about helping organizations succeed with web content management.

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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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