The original content management system (CMS) was mainly used to support websites that functioned like digital brochures.

As digital technology became more interesting, the second generation CMS added functionality to keep pace with video, interactive multimedia, and eventually the social media revolution, along with the rise of mobile devices and tablets.

Digital technology is now just as much about business as it is about communications, social interaction, or technological innovation.

Even though websites still need to use content technologies, they need to be more agile because consumers expect to have relevant content experiences across multiple channels.

The importance of choosing the right web content management platform is more important than ever. A poorly chosen platform will create a lot of problems for you and your team.

The excitement you experience will be different than what you expected.

If you choose the wrong content management system for your organization, you won’t see the financial benefits that you were expecting from the project. Here’s how to choose the right WCM for your needs.

The following are some tips for choosing a web content management system:

Recognize these Four Key WCM Pillars

Seth Gottlieb, who has 20 years’ experience in the web content management industry and used to be the CTO for global offerings at Lionbridge, told us in 2018 that there are some things that Web CMS buyers need to remember.

It includes his four key pillars of a web content management selection process:

  • Support: This may be limited to basic product patches and may include services like hosting, user mentoring, strategic guidance, or even web development.
  • Vision: “The way the vendor sees the market and the role of the product will determine the product roadmap. If the customer and the vendor are aligned, then desirable features will continually be added and the product will grow with the customer. If they are not, then the new features will probably be unwanted and clutter the product,” says Gottlieb.
  • Community: Look at your existing customer community for vision and for references from people or organizations who have similar challenges and goals.
  • Stability and focus: If you have an “overly large emphasis on growth,” it may suggest an exit strategy that may leave you stranded. “In case of large enterprise software vendors, make sure that this product is core to their overall strategy,” Gottlieb says.

Key Factors to Consider

When choosing a new CMS for your organization, it is important to understand the factors that will contribute to a successful outcome. By taking these factors into account, you can help ensure that your CMS selection process is successful.

Some of the key factors to be weighed during the process include:

  • Will the CMS provide the development tools to allow you to set your own course for the future and enable your organization to constantly innovate and adapt to the rapidly changing digital environment?
  • Can the CMS handle a large spikes in traffic, so that your best day doesn’t become your worst day?
  • Every organization has its own requirements. What problems are you trying to solve? Articulate your specific requirements for a new CMS.
  • What are the licensing requirements for the software? Is it open source or proprietary? There are some significant differences in costs and resource allocation due to licensing factors.
  • Are you planning to host the CMS on premise or are you seeking a cloud-hosted solution? What are the cost, maintenance/updating, and staffing benefits to each approach?

1. Validate The Need for CMS in First Place

There is a proliferation of marketing technology (martech), and it has crossover capabilities. Many people don’t validate the need for a new content management system (CMS), but they should, according to Cathy McKnight, VP strategy and consulting for The Content Advisory.

The Content Advisory is the consulting & education group of the Content Marketing Institute.

Ask questions such as:

  • Do we have a technology problem or is there something else going on?
  • Could we solve our problem by fixing our content, assets, and/or adjusting our processes?
  • Could/should we update, rather than replace, our existing technology?

According to McKnight, it can take a company up to two years to select, implement, and migrate to a new platform. He also says that making sure a new technology is needed is a vital first hurdle to jump.

2. Build a Shortlist of Potential Winners

It can be tricky to decide on a content management system. You’ll want to choose one that first meets your needs and is also easy to use.

You don’t want to spend a lot of time getting to know a Web CMS software that you’ll end up not using.

Here’s how to get started:

  • Filter for relevant technologies.
  • Filter for your budget.
  • Filter for business functionality.
  • Consider the proximity of your partners.

3. Think Holistically About Content Operations

Jeff Cram, partner at PK Global, said that it was simpler when content managers thought about a CMS as a single technology purchase that would manage and publish all their website content.

Organizations should take a step back and assess their overall content operations process before rushing to evaluate new content platforms in 2020 and beyond.

Those issues are typically with things like authoring, management of workflow, review and approval, and other processes that happen before something is published.” There are often areas where CMS vendors don’t serve well before something is published, such as authoring, managing workflow, review and approval, according to Cram.

Digital asset management and content marketing platforms are starting to overlap with traditional CMS solutions.

Organizations will usually need more than one content solution to fit all their needs. The content strategy should be what guides which requirements are needed, instead of the features of a vendor. If the wrong technology is chosen for the content job, it could be a big disaster.

4. Lean Heavily on Usage Scenarios

To find the best product for your organization, you need to do a deep dive into your requirements, rather than just relying on spreadsheets.

Spreadsheets are a useful tool for naming features, but they will not help you understand how the products you are developing will work with specific users and content that your organization needs to manage. This is where usage scenarios can help by raising questions about how the product will be used.

Scenarios are short stories written in simple language that describe how a user interacts with a system to achieve a business goal. A scenario captures many specific requirements and gives them greater meaning and context.

These are the four attributes of an effective scenario:

  • It is written with specific users in mind.
  • It addresses an important and commonly executed task.
  • It references the content that you intend to manage.
  • It is open-ended enough to expose the difference in product design and approach.

5. Many Vendors to Consider

When considering which vendors to use for your project, narrow your list by evaluating the platforms and deployment models they offer.

Some factors to consider when choosing a platform for your project include the skills of your development team and how well the platform will fit with future development plans.

Others are offered as a Software as a Service (SaaS). There are three main ways to host a CMS: in the cloud, on-premise, or as a hybrid. Traditional CMS systems are installed on on-premise servers, while others are offered as a Software as a Service (SaaS).

Some companies offer options to have their servers hosted remotely through cloud-based computing or to manage the servers themselves on-premise.

6. Today’s CMS Must “Manage, Measure, and Engage”

A content management system needs to offer features that allow for easy creation and management of content, as well as tools to control site security and workflows.

The CMS must be able to provide metrics and analytics to show how successful it is digitally.

This text is saying that the CMS should have features that allow users to create digital experiences, manage marketing campaigns, and provide global experiences in multiple languages.

The CMS should provide the means to create great digital experiences, offer excellent content to attract customers, and have the tools to create and manage marketing campaigns. Additionally, it should be able to support a multilingual, global experience.

7. Selecting a CMS Vendor

There is no easy way to choose the right CMS vendor, but if you are thoughtful about your decision and ask the right questions, you will be able to find a vendor that is a good match for your business.

In this section, we’ll look at some of the key differences between vendors to help you decide which one would work best for you.

8. Choices: Monolithic vs. Integrated Experience

CMS’ come in a couple flavors:

Monolithic suites

CMS systems that have been around for a while and are proprietary tend to try and include all possible features that an organization might need in a single system.

In a world that is constantly innovating, it is less likely that one system can provide everything you need.

It typically takes months or even years to develop new functionality, and it requires a system upgrade to take advantage of that new functionality.

Change needs to happen faster to be successful.

Integrated digital experiences

A CMS with open architecture allows for the best solution to be rapidly integrated, including recently emerging solutions.

The architecture provides an environment that is good for innovation because it can be changed without needing to redo the whole system.

If you want to add new functionality to Drupal, you can either create a new module or revise an existing one. This process usually only takes a few days or weeks, instead of months or years.

New systems can be integrated easily because the open source platform has an open architecture.

A cloud-based CMS has many advantages over traditional CMSes. The main advantages are that it eliminates the need for your organization to maintain its own infrastructure, frees up your organization to focus on its core competencies, and provides a secure global reach for your brand.

9. Evaluate Usability, Not Curb Appeal

The selection process for a CMS should take 3 to 6 months, although this timeframe can vary. Key stakeholders should be involved in the process early on. Who in the organization will need to take part in assessing CMS systems?

Assemble people who can assess the CMS fairly, based on how useful it is, not on how attractive it is.

In addition to department heads and key project managers, consider including:

  • Developers, architects
  • Designers
  • Marketing team and other content creators
  • Analytics, metrics experts
  • Agency partners
  • Administrators
  • Trainers, documentation staff
  • Other key staff within your organization

If you’re struggling to choose the right software for your business, it might be helpful to consult with an analyst who specializes in this area. Organizations like Forrester, Gartner, Digital Clarity Group, and Real Story Group may be able to give you some useful insights.

It is recommended that you download trial installations of products and evaluate them using consistent criteria. Furthermore, it is advised that you engage your partners in the process as well, as their expertise and knowledge of your business will add further perspective.

Questions to See if Your CMS Can Handle Success

Before you choose a CMS for your business, you need to do your research. Asking and answering the following 10 questions will give you the information you need to decide if a vendor can truly meet your needs.

1. Is it user-friendly? Do you need it to do your job?

Choose a CMS for which content contributors can easily make changes to a page, add new functionality, assets, and forms, without needing to rely on IT.

Having a solution that can evolve and grow along with your organization, without needing to go through the IT department, is crucial.

IT is flooded with requests from marketing and other business departments for changes, so a CMS that eases the pressure on IT and instead focuses that energy on giving your organization the tools it needs to succeed will be the best option.

2. Is your CMS innovation-friendly?

Technology is always evolving and it is important to be able to keep up with the changes in order to best serve your customers.

Your content management system should be open and flexible, enabling your technical team to create new capabilities without waiting for the vendor. It’s impossible to predict what the next big thing will be.

Can your content management system (CMS) be integrated into other systems quickly? Often, open source CMS platforms innovate faster due to the large communities of developers who work on them.

3. Does your CMS play well with others?

The data from these disparate systems needs to be integrated Most marketing now takes place online, with the explosion of the Internet and digital.

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. The data from these disparate systems needs to be integrated.

Before signing a contract with any vendor, confirm that their software is compatible with the other technologies you are already using. Some vendors offer application programming interfaces (APIs) or modules that allow their products to interface with preexisting platforms.

It is also important to inquire about the speed at which they develop APIs and modules, as new and innovative systems and social media platforms appear on a daily basis.

About the Author Brian Richards

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