With an explosion of online content there is consequently an explosion of content management systems (CMS) available to help you manage that content, with literally thousands of vendors to sift through. But most CMS’ still end up being too expensive, too difficult to maintain, and eventually inadequate. This is often the result of purchase decisions based on technology, and not business requirements.
So then, how are CMS solutions chosen? You will usually compare product features, ask friends and colleagues, and look to different analyst ratings. In theory, this should be an excellent way to pick the right solution and sometimes it is. But content management systems have been around for over two decades and the features and functionality for the most part are starting to become commoditized. The ‘bells and whistles’ that these solutions try to distinguish themselves with, ultimately have no bearing on your content-specific needs. And this is why most solutions you purchase will end up being junked after they fail to do what is asked of them.
To ensure successful implementation and adoption, the CMS solution must be implemented like any other large enterprise application, with clear objectives and systematic planning mechanisms. So let’s look at some best practices that should be on everyone’s checklist before deploying any CMS within your organization.
#1 Define CMS Goals
Before installing a CMS, it is extremely important to identify key business goals that must be achieved. Business goals can be defined around parameters like productivity, efficiency, quality, ROI, or branding. Without this clear vision of the business goals, CMS implementations are very likely to fail. It is not surprising to find that most CMS implementations often overshoot budgets and in the long run, consume far more time, energy and resources than ever expected–just to stay functional.
Think of this step like vacationing in an exotic locale. You can go two ways: hope that when you get there, everything you need and want to do will be waiting for you. Or like most of us you plan accordingly: where you’re going to stay, what sites you will visit, and find all the best deals in the process. Which makes more sense to you?
#2 Evaluate the Content Information Landscape
The next step is to start gathering details of your content information landscape. Rather than looking only at technology, you should look at how processes, business rules, and the content are defined.
With these details on the content information landscape, parameters can be defined for CMS selection. The CMS purchased should also easily integrate with multiple systems that affect this landscape as well as are necessary to help meet your defined business goals – such as campaign management systems or CRM applications. The sequitur here is: don’t purchase CMS before clearly defining your requirements. You will save yourself time and resources with a clearly envisioned road map to guide you.
#3 Select the Right CMS Solution for Your Organization
Selecting the right CMS involves consideration of a host of factors, including:
1. Ease of use for users and IT administrators Like any other business application, the success of a CMS depends on adoption by the end user community. Subject matter experts (SMEs) with no technical knowledge must be absolutely comfortable using the system to achieve the exact look and feel they want for content presentation. Similarly, IT administrators must be able to easily enforce policies across multiple Websites using a single console, and integrate the CMS effortlessly into the organization’s IT landscape. Consider everyone’s roles and responsibilities and make sure the CMS can meet those demands.
o Speed of deployment There is a direct correlation between CMS implementation/configuration time and costs incurred. A CMS that requires extensive coding will definitely increase implementation costs. Hence, a CMS will only be effective if it can be rapidly configured and deployed, and as such, requires minimal training for use by non-technical professionals.
o Total-cost-of-ownership (TCO) Most organizations make the classic mistake of buying a CMS based on license price. The real work of owning a CMS begins after the site is live and as such CMS maintenance/support expenses far exceed purchase costs. Be sure to factor this into your overall costs and consider the TCO of an application to arrive at an informed decision.
#4 Involve All Critical Stakeholders
Just as it is important to have top management support for CMS implementations, it is equally crucial to encourage the participation of internal stakeholders. These content owners should be identified and their feedback on usability leveraged to build and customize the system. Involving non-technical SMEs in the design of the new CMS will also help minimize reluctance to use the system. The success of the CMS rests on this acceptance of the CMS by the shareholders .
#5 Don’t Forget the Services Aspect
As we said in step 3 the real work in any CMS implementation begins post-launch. There is a spike in effort levels at the beginning of any implementation – but for a relatively short period of time compared to the average CMS lifetime.
Change is a constant with most Web sites and your CMS needs to be as flexible as your organization, whether this is a simple template change or an entire site redesign. You need to factor in and expect that you will need to have some level of service be it from your internal IT department, your Web agency or your software vendor
On top of ongoing support and management, you also need basic application and infrastructure support of the installed software. This requires the efforts of a dedicated team, responsible for managing hardware, software, and the network.
For some organizations this is not a problem: with dedicated in-house teams for HTML template creation and modification, workflow revisions, architecture changes, site redesign support, and training, they can prepare for the worst. But for the vast majority, this is often overlooked as a part of an ongoing CMS implementation. Without this dedicated team small businesses often outsource these ‘services’ to a third party vendor, adding to the implementation costs. To avoid the distress of exceeding budget, these costs must be factored into the total implementation costs.
# 6 Plan for the Future
How scalable and flexible is the CMS when it comes to incorporating new features or managing an explosion of content? You must make sure that the chosen CMS partner/vendor has the technological bandwidth and capability to quickly capitalize on emerging communication media.
CMS implementation processes can be a lengthy and energy-consuming. But following the guidelines illustrated here: clearly defined goals, processes mapped to the application, gaps identified, and looking for a customized application with dependable scalability and flexibility, you can help yourself avoid some common potholes and choose the right CMS for you.