Why do CMS platforms long for the big time?

Content Management's Greatest Hits

One could argue that most CMS platforms start relatively simple: constrained to specific use cases, content types, usage patterns, and markets. Then they begin to grow, adding complexity as they do but also gaining in power. (Of course some start out rather complex and get more complex from there, but the general trend is still in the same direction). Content Management platforms, like other software projects, tend to grow with each release, supporting more use cases, more markets, and more features as they mature.

Watching various CMS platforms shift from “departmental, small site” platforms to “mid-market” and then to “enterprise,” I’m reminded of this week’s entry in Content Management’s Greatest Hits: Peter Gabriel’s 1986 hit “Big Time.”

The song’s persona declares his independence from his simple origins:

The place where I come from
Is a small town
They think so small
They use small words
- But not me
I’m smarter than that
I worked it out
I’ve been stretching my mouth
To let those big words come right out

Every time I watch a business development person or a project founder talk about all the enormous sites that are powered by their platform, I can’t help but recall these lines:

My parties have all the big names
And I greet them with the widest smile
Tell them how my life is one big adventure
And always they’re amazed
When I show them round the house to my bed
I had it made like a mountain range
With a snow-white pillow for my big fat head

Why are prospective CMS users so easily impressed by the logo slide?

I could see how case studies of similar organizations to one’s own could be useful and relevant, especially if they came with some more detailed dive on how the platform was used – but generally these logo slides are an inch deep. It’s credentialing by proxy – if we were good enough for [insert Fortune 500 company here] we should be good enough for you.

Why do CMS platforms long for the big time?

Money, certainly (“and my bank account . . . “). But it isn’t just licensing, it’s also bragging rights.

But what about platforms which uniquely and precisely meet the needs of their users without trying to hit the big time? Isn’t it better to find a platform that fits your organization across many fit factors than one with famous friends?

What would it look like for a CMS to promote itself based on average user satisfaction across all installs, not just the few briefly flashed logos of the biggest organizations who have deployed the platform?

Of course, even that approach might fall into the selection myth. Choosing a platform that’s hit the big time (or even on that’s still small town) will not even make a difference if the fundamental strategy and governance plan for the project are a failure.

About the Author

Formerly the Managing Director of Boston Connective DX office, John's passion for technology and the role of CMS are clear in his point of view.

More articles from John Eckman


One response… read them below or add one.

  1. John Coonen says:


    You had me at “Peter Gabriel.”

    I poured truth serum into the drinks at our last event, and asked the Fortune 500 buyers why – no really, why – they chose a certain CMS. Answers often sounded something like: “I first used this CMS at my church, and it rocked, so I snuck it in the back door.”


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