Where Is Your Website Going?

The team at Connective DX recently wrapped up a successful strategy engagement and CMS selection process for a well-known business school. As one might expect from an organization responsible for educating business leaders, the marketing team and business leads had done a fantastic job preparing for the project. Before our first meeting, they had identified exciting goals and objectives for their new website. With a tremendous amount of sales in the executive education space, we quickly learned this project was going to be much more about lead generation and acquisition and less about campus pictures and alumnae news.

After our first meeting I remember thinking: This is going to be easy! They’ve done their homework and they know exactly what their vision is. All we have to do is pick a cutting edge CMS which meets their unique requirements and we’re done. On to design…And then the guys from IT showed up.

Suddenly, the conversation included evaluating an incumbent, all but abandoned static platform in the CMS market – a CMS one leading industry analyst labeled as “In a slow death spiral”. We were no longer simply discussing dreams and aspirations for a better website. Now we were in the middle of a struggle which has existed since the earliest days of business technology. Jeff Cram eloquently described this issue as “Managing Operational and Strategic priorities” in a recent CMS Myth post. I lovingly refer to it as the epic battle between marketing and IT.

Getting back to our client, in spite of the case for ease of operation presented by the IT team, this still felt like an open and shut case. The incumbent system simply did not support the business goals identified by the marketing team and business leads. However, frustrating issues like ‘centralized support’ and ‘existing maintenance contracts’ kept cycling back into the conversation and it became clear this was not going to be as easy as we thought. Obviously any platform selected is going to have maintenance costs which can be mitigated by many, many different factors…And frankly, don’t necessarily vary to a significant degree. Why are we talking about this during CMS selection process?

It was during a long meeting about vendor availability when I realized, as is often the case, the trick here was to unify the organizational vision of the future. And, at that moment, another metaphor was born: CMS as a mode of transportation.

In other words…The real question for organizations considering a new content management system should not be: ‘Which content management system should we purchase?’ Instead, the really important question is ‘What’s our destination?’ Are we headed towards a goal state where flat, static templates will answer the mail? Or are we headed towards a destination where only the latest dynamic, responsive technology will do?

Go to MordorAfter all, you wouldn’t use a car to get from Boston to Paris, or take a plane from Boston to Cambridge. In the world of content managed web sites there are widely varied goal states and you need the right vehicle to reach your destination. For this particular client, it could not be more obvious. If the entire organization, including the IT team, agreed on the destination (business goals and objectives), there’s no way the selection process would include an obviously deficient, incumbent platform.

In this case Marketing and Business objectives prevailed. However, this is not always the case. It’s important for the sponsor of a CMS project to make sure all the relevant stakeholders are at the table at the earliest possible opportunity. The first order of business: Agree on a destination!

And so we ask you, readers…What’s your destination over the next 3-5 years? Where are you taking your web communications strategy?

About the Author
Jake DiMare

Jake has spent the last 15 years helping organizations plan, design, develop, and implement effective online experiences with a strong focus on large scale web content management systems and integrated online marketing suites. Jake wrote for the CMS Myth during his time working at Connective DX (formerly ISITE Design). Google Plus Profile

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