You are ready to upgrade to a new web content management system (CMS) for your organization, and you are just beginning the selection process. You don’t really know what a Web CMS has to offer, or for that matter how it differs from an Enterprise CMS or Document Management solution.
Here are a few tips to consider to jumpstart your education, help you navigate your way through the hundreds of products in the marketplace, and get you closer to your end goal of making a selection.
1. Take the Web CMS crash course: The fastest way to get up to speed on the topic of Web CMS systems is to invest in the CMS Watch Annual Web CMS Report. Published each fall, this 500+ page report will quickly get you up to speed on the terminology, functionality, and products available in the marketplace. It will help you understand what features are fairly standard, what differentiates one product from another, and the relative costs for software licensing and implementation. We have found their product evaluations to be decent enough to narrow your list of available options, but we would not recommend it for making your final decision. On the whole, we find this report to be the single best comprehensive resource for getting up-to-speed on the current Web CMS landscape of features, functions, terminology, and products.
2. Avoid niche, proprietary solutions: The Web CMS products listed in the CMS Watch Report typically have a worldwide presence, hundreds of thousands of production installations, and a solid support base. Smaller, proprietary solutions are available that typically market their product to a particular industry. These products tend to have less production installations and it can be difficult to find local technical resources to provide ongoing maintenance and support. Some of these vendors offer free access to their source code as a benefit and to offset this risk, but the benefit is misleading. Unless you have direct access to developers with a deep understanding of the product’s source code, it is unlikely you will be able to leverage it. Avoid these smaller, niche products unless you have a very unique set of functional requirements that the mainstream products cannot fulfill.
3. Create a solutions-based RFP: Reports like the one mentioned above are a good starting point, but they don’t truly provide enough information about each product to confirm that your organization’s needs can be fully met. Write a solutions-based RFP that clearly describes the user scenarios that the Web CMS needs to fulfill and asks vendors to describe how their product supports those scenarios. Avoid writing an RFP that simply provides a laundry list of requested ‘features’ or you are likely to get several ‘canned response’ proposals that are difficult to differentiate. If you don’t have in-house expertise in writing an RFP, hire a consultant to guide you through the process.
4. Request an in-person demonstration: After you have narrowed down your selection to the top two or three vendors, invite them onsite to provide a demonstration of their products. Tell them you don’t want the ’sales guy’ to give the demo, but rather insist on the person who would lead the implementation for your organization.
5. Factor the project team into your decision-making process: It’s not just about the technology. At the end of the day, the reality is that there are probably multiple products that can meet your requirements. As part of your selection criteria, be sure to place a heavy emphasis on the actual people who will be working on your project. We’re not talking about reviewing resumes, but actually speaking (and preferably meeting) the project team leaders prior to final selection of a vendor. Make sure they have the right blend of technical experience and business acumen, and that they can clearly articulate their implementation and project management processes. Be confident that they can provide a design and information architecture that will successfully leverage the capabilities that today’s Web CMS solutions have to offer.
If you follow these five suggestions, it will help guide you to a more logical, organized, and (hopefully) successful Web Content Management System selection process.