How to Select the Best Content Management System

With a growing supply of Content Management Systems (CMS) in the market, selecting your organization’s best content management system can be costly and time-consuming. How can you sort through the products? How can you know which product best suits your organization’s unique needs? How can you validate that your organization makes the right decision for the long term?

The keys to answering these questions and selecting the best content management system lie within your approach – inventorying and gaining consensus on CMS requirements, prioritizing requirements, ranking solutions against standard criteria, and comparing CMS application strengths and weaknesses against your organization’s needs.

The Increased Supply of CMS Applications Has Made Buyers’ Lives More Complicated…

As technology has improved over recent years, the CMS application market has grown increasingly crowded, and as a result, product differentiation has grown more opaque. Technology improvements and increased availability of technology and tools have lowered barriers for solution suppliers. Once dominated by on-premise and home-grown custom solutions, the web content management landscape has matured.

Software as a service (SaaS) and open source CMS solutions have emerged, offering lower upfront costs than traditional systems and incentivizing buyers to consider alternative solutions other than conventional packaged and custom-developed, home-grown apps. Although buyers have a more significant set of choices (now), their jobs of selecting the best CMS solution for their organization have grown exponentially more challenging.

Buyers find themselves overwhelmed with the following:

Spotlighting the solutions that are good fits from those that aren’t. Due to market maturation, many CMS solutions possess highly similar features and functionality. With an increased supply, greater product homogenization, and increased competition in the CMS application market, how can you tell the key differences between different CMS apps suited for your type of business? Selecting the right product without wasting time. Companies can research, investigate, and determine which vendor solutions should be on their vendor shortlist. Simultaneously, not knowing how or where to begin inventorying requirements can elongate the selection process. How can you avoid spending months on CMS selection, knowing that time is money? Protecting their organization against choosing the wrong solution. CMS buyers always face intense pressure from their leadership to make the right purchasing decisions for their technology investments. Add an unfavorable economic environment to the equation, and buyer trepidation amplifies. This can, in turn, lead buyers towards making CMS purchasing decisions based solely on short-term costs rather than long-term value. How can you ensure the solution you select matches your requirements and budget now and in the future? … But Those Complications Can Be Eliminated By Using a Four-Step Approach for CMS Comparisons

With the broadening CMS application landscape and added pressures from a poor economic environment, buyers can feel beleaguered over choosing the best content management system for their organization.

Despite the many pitfalls of CMS procurement, buyers can bypass those hazards and navigate the seas of chaos by following a four-step approach.

Step 1: Inventory and gain consensus on your CMS requirements. The first step in any technology solution selection initiative is defining, inventorying, and agreeing upon what the technology should do and what business processes it should support.

Interview business stakeholders from disparate units to understand what and how the web can support their business.

Generally, CMS solutions are used by and impact Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service businesses the most, with some requirements, also coming from IT and Operations.

Building requirements from Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service serve as a strong foundation and baseline for what the CMS should do and how it should support the organization from a holistic business standpoint.

Step 2: Determine requirements as a priority. Arguably the most challenging job in CMS selection is separating ” critical ” conditions versus “less essential.” Too often, buyers approach CMS requirements gathering initiatives as an exercise to develop a detailed requirements list.

While developing an exhaustive list of requirements is good from a due diligence standpoint, it can lead to adverse downstream effects like increased costs or technology over-payments.

Triaging requirements can help you identify “Must-Haves” versus “Nice-to-Haves.” It can also help you zero in on CMS solutions that are good fits for your organization, aid in averting the risks of paying too much for a CMS, and prevent you from having a CMS with rich capabilities that are rarely used and are essential “shelfware.”

Step 3: Rank solutions against the same criteria. Once requirements have been inventoried and prioritized, you’re well-equipped with a standard set of criteria to measure different CMS solutions against one another. Develop and use product scorecards to highlight CMS requirements that you need to meet. Scoring scales, such as 1 = poor, 5 = Avg, and 10 = strong, can measure your requirements criteria against each CMS scale.

With a list of vendor solutions, evaluate and score product capabilities against the scorecard. Tally up the scores and see which solutions come out on top.

Step 4: Compare the apps’ strengths and weaknesses versus your requirements. Once you’ve completed scorecards for the solutions you’re evaluating, review the solutions’ strengths (i.e., where they scored highly) and the solutions’ weaknesses (i.e., where they scored poorly). Compare the strengths and weaknesses against what’s critical for your CMS. By comparing how the solutions stack up to your most essential requirements, you can separate the solutions that are strong fits versus those that don’t make the grade.

Set Your Content Strategy, Do Your Homework, Research the Market, and Build the ROI

Selecting the best content management system is one part art and another part science. It requires a mixture of qualitative and quantitative analysis. In addition to following the steps outlined above and before getting too involved in the CMS selection process, be sure to:

Build and set a Content Management (CM) strategy. Because CMS solutions have an average lifespan of 5-7 years, ongoing refinement and adjustments are most likely required after year one to support changing business needs. Companies must establish, set, and settle on a content strategy to handle changing conditions down the line. Then manage that strategy through metrics like time to create, approve, and publish content. Through metrics, you can witness the effectiveness/ineffectiveness of your system.

Finally, make adjustments incrementally. Making large-scale adjustments, rather than incremental ones, can derail the effectiveness of your CMS simply because of the impact that change can have on your organization’s culture.

Do your homework upfront. Being prepared before involving vendors can save you time and money. Speaking with CMS vendors without a firm understanding of your requirements can result in vendors defining your requirements for you, which can cause them to suggest a solution that might not meet your needs or be more expensive.

Separately, not knowing which needs are crucial versus less essential can steer you away from what the CMS solution should focus on providing. This lack of focus can increase the risk of selecting the wrong content management system.

Brush up on where the industry is going. Although industry trends are not always systemic, it’s essential to understand how external industry factors can affect your approach to CMS selection.

For instance, more firms are integrating their CMS solutions with other digital assets within their organization to produce more excellent value from their CMS and other technology expenditures. By monitoring industry trends, you can weave in external factors and data points into your long-term CMS strategy and determine whether those data points are priorities in your CMS selection process.

Justify your CMS project before you take the plunge. The average useful life of business applications and technological solutions is 5 to 7 years. CMS solutions are no different. After defining requirements, determine what aspects of the business (Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, or other) are ailing and need mending. Size those problems in terms of money. Then, build a return on investment (ROI) model that outlines CMS costs and labor to implement and support the app and forecasts tangible and likely benefits over time.

Technology projects are uses of cash. They should also generate sources of money through their implementation for things like revenue boosts, cost savings, or productivity gains – things that justify “uses of cash.”

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