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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Choosing the "Best" CMS

David Aponovich is a web CMS strategy consultant at ISITE Design in Cambridge, MA, and co-authors The CMS Myth blog, and he wrote a really great post on choosing the right CMS in 2010. I think it has some great insight, so I felt compelled to share it.

You say 2010 is the year to find a new web content management solution? No pressure there. It’s only the success of your online marketing and corporate web presence that hangs in the balance. But before you go mad in feature spreadsheets, spend weeks pecking through vendor websites or go cross-eyed from too many demos, take a more reasoned approach. Clear you mind and consider these ideas before choosing a web CMS in 2010.

Think about strategy first, technology second. Web CMS has a notoriously high rate of failure. But it’s usually not the software’s fault. It’s usually due to poor planning, poor implementation and a lack of vision for how to harness a CMS to achieve web goals. Before you search for a tool, first define the problem, why it needs solving and how best to solve it. Don’t just throw software at your website. Web CMS is not a silver bullet.

Bury the CMS feature matrix. Hundreds of rows of feature check boxes? Does it really help now that most (mainstream) CMSs offer near-identical core capabilities? Sure, vendors are scrambling to add tools marketing, social media, personalization, measurement and more-–it’s changing daily. But, with today’s flexible platforms you’re just as likely to get certain functions outside the CMS. Instead, conduct initial vendor sorting by focusing your criteria on a few high level differentiators that matter most based on your real world needs.

Don’t expect to find “the best” CMS. With commercial, open source, and on-demand web CMS solutions numbering in the hundreds, there’s no single “best” answer. But is there a good-better-best ranking aligned to your requirements and priorities? Probably. Choosing a CMS usually involves heavy requirements gathering, priority shuffling and feature trade-offs. Aim your search at finding a shortlist of two to three choices. Then ask: What will life be like with each of these systems based on what I prioritize?

Measure against key fit factors. Another way to make a CMS search more manageable and to achieve success is to take a holistic look at how CMS fits into your organization and align technology to key business processes and marketing strategies. On our blog the CMS Myth, we term this the six CMS fit factors; they cover the technical, cultural, process, feature, marketing and vendor “fits." Read more about the benefits of this approach here.

Tap the community for validation. Social media has made transparency a wonderful thing when researching a purchase--whether a new car or a new CMS. Are customers happy or not? Can you call a real user you found online? Is there evidence of a robust developer or user network? Check social networks, Twitter, blogs, developer and marketer forums and elsewhere to conduct primary research on prospective CMS choices, and to validate your shortlist and eventual selection.

When in doubt, ask the experts. There are a lot of people who’ve been there, done that, and answered CMS questions for all sorts of organizations. Find a web CMS expert, a qualified independent consultant, integrator, interactive agency with CMS specialty or someone else who’s been down this path before, and who can take an agnostic view toward your situation.

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Blogger Zach Gardner said...

Solid advice. A few years ago when I was the IT Director of KJHK, the student radio station at KU, I had to go through the process of selecting the right CMS for our needs. I eventually decided on Drupal because I had enough knowledge to modify the core code, and because there was a Radio Station module with all of the functionality we needed. There are a few things like RAM consumption and average hits per minute that I wish I would have taken into account. Planning the implementation better would have made it easier. Taking time to think about implementation is great advice.

1/26/10, 6:03 PM  
Blogger Tracy Kemp said...

Wow, he is exactly on target with what he is saying. That is why we take a different approach with clients where we work with them to help develop that web strategy and get them going with the CMS. We also recommend to our clients that they start out with the basic functionality so that they have time to adapt and master the process of content management before completely delving into all the fansy stuff. That way they actually are able to take advantage of the cool functionality that the CMS has to offer.

1/28/10, 9:32 AM  

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