Historically used simply as tools for creating webpages, Content Management Systems (CMSs) are now key to the effectiveness of every marketer’s digital strategy. As the CMS market has developed and matured, vendors have sought to differentiate their product and we have seen an increase in the number of marketing-focused features, such as personalisation, user profiling and A/B testing in addition to the core set of technologies. Now there are over two thousand CMS vendors serving over 250 million websites, each boasting an array of advanced features designed to improve the way you engage with your audience digitally.
Far too often we see businesses investing vast amounts of money (more than necessary) on platforms that don’t sufficiently meet their requirements and lead to project failure. Here are some guidelines to help you choose the right CMS for your business and avoid a costly disaster.
1. Validate Your Business Need
Before even beginning to consider which CMS platform to integrate into your web strategy it’s crucial that you clearly identify the advantages of having one and assess whether or not you already have the suitable technology in place.
2. Understand Stakeholder and Business Requirements
Knowing what the high level business requirements are, who will be using the platform and how, will help you to identify exactly what criteria the CMS must fulfil without being blind sighted by the countless additional features vendors convince you that you need. Start with a blank canvas and consider the entire team, from managers to administrators. It is also worth considering your IT policy at this stage as this may dictate whether your site will run on an open source (PHP) environment or in .NET.
3. Identify Functional Requirements
Once you have established your business needs, you will need to relate these to the functional prerequisites of your new CMS. You will often find that in order to fulfil one criterion sufficiently, you may need several functional features. Whether outsourced or available internally, it is important that personnel with the right technical expertise are involved in the process (such as a CMS expert) to effectively identify the features that correspond to the need.
4. Shortlist Vendors
This is very much a process of marrying the requirements of your business with the technology offered by the vendor. There are a core set of features that most CMSs offer as a standard, such as security, ease of use, WYSIWYG editing, performance and scalability, structured content and so on. The distinction lies in their advanced feature offering, for example A/B testing, user profiling and personalisation. Using a phased approach, compare the basic and more advanced requirements with the capabilities of each CMS.
5. Identify the Implementation Partner
This step depends a great deal on whether you have a team of developers in-house or whether you need to outsource the CMS implementation project. Although some vendors offer internal implementation services, they more frequently use agencies with the appropriate expertise to deliver this service on their behalf.
6. Conduct a CMS Review
At this point your list of candidates should ideally be narrowed down to three or four potential vendors, allowing you to carry out a much more detailed assessment of their capabilities. When it comes to CMS technology there are a number of third party sources that can assist you with this process, such as analysts, testimonials, case studies and independent reviews, in addition to the less objective vendor websites, so do your due diligence. This will allow you to better review the advantages and disadvantages of the CMSs including their subscription costs, and the costs associated with upgrading to new technologies and features in this fast moving marketplace.
7. Carry Out a Request for Proposal (RFP)
The key here is to initiate a dialogue with the shortlisted vendors to reinforce the findings from the CMS review and to ensure they are competent in delivering the services you require, further facilitating the elimination process.
8. Carry Out Proof of Concept (POC)
This is an opportunity for vendors to really showcase their functional capabilities, enabling you to make your choice based on visible evidence rather than the word of others. Investing in proof of concept before making your final selection is crucial and could be the difference between a costly failure and successful project.
9. Start the Procurement Process.
Integrating the right CMS platform into your digital strategy could be one of the best investments you make in your business and is guaranteed to impact every element of your digital strategy moving forward, not just your website. Streamlining your organisation’s content management with a well-structured and effective content creation process will improve its efficiency and ultimately dramatically increase the ROI.