Before you bet your business on a CMS, you need to do your homework. The answers to these 10 questions will provide you with information needed to determine if a vendor can truly meet your requirements.
1. Is it easy to use? Is IT necessary to get things done? When selecting a CMS, make sure your content contributors can quickly and confidently make changes to a page, as well as add new functionality, assets, and forms without relying on IT. A solution that can innovate and grow with your organization without having to go through the IT department is key. They are inundated with requests by marketing and other business functions for changes, so a CMS that takes the stress away from IT and focuses that energy on giving your organization the tools for success will be the best option.
2. Is your CMS innovation-friendly? Technology moves too fast to be locked into a platform that can’t keep pace with the ever-changing needs of your customers. Your CMS should be open and extensible, allowing your technical team to develop new capabilities without waiting for the vendor. It’s impossible to know what the next Big Thing will be. Can your CMS integrate into whatever it is quickly? Often open source CMS platforms innovate faster due to the large communities behind them.
3. Does your CMS play well with others? With the explosion of the Internet and digital, most marketing now takes place online. every organization will be using a unique blend of marketing systems and platforms from a set of different vendors including CRM, marketing automation, analytics, BI (business intelligence), commerce, and maybe even Big data systems. Check with your prospective vendors to determine how they integrate and whether APIs or modules already exist to work with your current platforms. Also ask how quickly they develop APIs and modules as new, innovative systems and social media platforms appear every day.
4. Does your CMS get the whole “social media thing?” Content, community, and commerce have all converged in today’s digital experience. To be truly connected to the consumer requires a digital experience that is integrated to all current social media platforms, and that can easily be extended to emerging platforms. Check with your prospective vendors to see how they integrate with platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and what their commitment is for connecting to the new platforms that will certainly continue to spring up. How quickly will new integrations to new social media platforms be available? Will you be caught short while your competitors are in the new social space?
5. How quickly can you deploy? How difficult is content migration? CMS implementations are measured in weeks, months, and even years, depending upon your requirements and the product you select. Making the wrong CMS choice can be a huge setback for your company as you miss deadline after deadline. To minimize the risk of a failed CMS implementation project, you should ask possible vendors to help you run a proof-of-concept where you download, install, and use the CMS. This will help you understand the technical complexity of each of the systems against your real-world scenarios. Take a look at what is involved in migrating your old content to the new system. Is the content format proprietary or open?
6. Does your CMS travel well? How easily does it do mobile and tablets? Digital natives seamlessly consume information across devices that include smartphones, tablets, computers, wearables, virtual reality, and devices no one has thought of yet. Therefore, mobile agility, responsiveness, and design is key. For campaigns to be successful, the user experience has to be consistently satisfying and connected across all platforms. Make sure when selecting a CMS that it supports responsive mobile design out of the box and that it can create a seamless customer journey across all channels and devices. You should ask possible vendors to help you run a proof-of-concept where you download, install, and use the CMS.
7. Does your CMS make customization easy? Is it a closed system or an open platform? Most CMSs provide 80 percent of an organization’s desired functionality out of the box. It’s what they can do with the remaining 20 percent that is important to the success of the company. Many projects fail because it takes too long to create custom coding to deliver against the requirements. Does the CMS require changing the core product, or does it allow the use of new modules and plugins? With the premium on agility and flexibility in the marketplace to remain competitive, today’s CMSs need to serve a platform with an extensible framework that can be easily and rapidly added to, within tight parameters that assure functional success and security. A CMS must be built to change and expand to be relevant in today’s business environment. Check with your prospective vendors to understand how their system meets the requirement for rapid and continuous change.
8. What’s the total cost of ownership? CMS project costs can be grouped into four buckets: software license, support fees, implementation, hosting. The software license cost varies wildly between vendors, from the free open source CMS products to ones that cost in the millions for some high-end proprietary vendors. The support cost is generally a fraction of the software license cost and is sold as an annual subscription. The implementation costs vary on the complexity of your project and are often 3 to 5 times the cost of the software license. Lastly, the hosting costs vary on the scale and availability requirements of your site. Make sure you understand the total CMS project cost over a 3 to 4 year window. Make sure you understand the total CMS project cost over a 3 to 4 year window.
9. Will you have a strong community to lean on? If you have problems, concerns, or want to know if there are resources available, a strong community base will help reassure and reinforce that. Too many times, customers feel lost and frustrated because there is no reference to educate and support day-to-day operations. Having a strong community to address these needs is crucial when deciding which CMS vendor to select. Support can be provided by the internal support team of the vendor. The quality of the vendor support team is crucial to your future success. How broad is their knowledge and support? What experience have they had with sites like the one you are planning? Can they handle the toughest challenge you are likely to face to grow your business? If the CMS is built on open source technology, the vendor support team can be supplemented by the a global group of technology contributors. Although they cannot replace the vendor’s internal team of experts, they can help deliver rapid and robust functional advancements through crowdsourced development. This type of open contribution has helped advance many open source technologies rapidly, and so create great advances in technology that would not be possible otherwise.
10. Who will be there for you after you go live? Because your web presence is your storefront and window to the world, your site(s) always needs to be available. Hosting is usually an afterthought and is often take for granted, but it is a key component that needs to be addressed up front. You need to find a high-performance platform that will grow with your business and is reliable and secure. Security is a challenge that never stops. New regulations and requirements, and new challenges are cropping up. Also, as you build your online audience, both locally and globally, you need the support of a vendor who can ensure that your web presence can grow safely in a controlled fashion. Does your vendor have the experience and expertise of large deployments, significant traffic spikes, and managing hosting among multiple geographic locations. Include business continuity among your questions for prospective vendors.