Key criteria for selecting a Web Content Management system

Author: Rahul Khosla | Categories: CMS

This blog provides insight into selecting a Content Management System. This is focused towards marketers in the mid-market space. I’ve tried to keep the content as non-technical as possible.

Content Management products (CMS/WCM) have started to become commoditized. All of them seem to offer similar features, which makes the selection process increasingly difficult and frustrating.

So what do you need to think about when you are selecting a WCM system?

1. Product Strategy and Roadmap

Look at the strategy and roadmap of a product to understand the short-term and medium-term goals of the product. Understand how often the product has been updated in the past few years – history is the best indicator of the future. Understand what medium- to long-term technology decisions have been made. For example, one of our partners, Sitecore’s, strategy has been to stay close to .NET technologies, so this makes Sitecore an ideal product for mid-market organizations focused on .NET.

Similarly,Open Text Web Solutions (formerly RedDot) seems to be going through a re-architecture exercise moving them towards the .NET framework as well.

2. Technology

Your choices typically include .NET, Java or Open Source. Given .NET’s popularity with the mid-market segment, a lot of the popular products are aligned with .NET. Some products that have their own underlying languages. Getting your users ramped up and keeping them updated on these these technologies can be a challenge. Integration and development is key with products. The more ‘open’ the products are (ie. how extensively they expose their APIs), the more flexibility you have. Products that expose their API completely will allow you to integrate easily.
A question that comes up quite often with clients is whether to consider Open Source products in the enterprise. Quite often,the main consideration is cost, but you have to remember that Open Source does not mean “free”! In making cost decisions, consider the Total Cost of Ownership instead of just the license costs. Development and maintenance costs can be higher with Open Source platforms, and support has also been an issue in organizations.
The key issue with Open Source product is that you need to know the underlying technologies very well, since support is not always easily accessible. Some very mature Open Source platforms do exist though, so stick to technologies that have a strong development community behind them. Drupal is one product with a very strong community and support model. In the last few years, we’ve seen Drupal make an impact in the Enterprise. This trend will continue.

3. Content Production

When we talk about ‘content’ on a WCM, it doesn’t just mean ‘text’; it also means audio, video, and images. One of the core elements of a web content management system is producing that content. Content production consists of content creation and development, management, and publication.The blog that you are reading right now went through a simple content production process: it involved me typing in the content, my colleague reviewing and providing feedback, and then me publishing the final content out to the site.When assessing how content is created and developed in the WCM, check that the sytem supports the type of content you need, and provides an easy-to-use editor to create it. Most content editors these days are similar in what they offer. Also, check to see if authoring and transformation features are available. Worklow is a critical capability of a CMS. Some organizations have complex workflows, in which case a flexible worklfow is needed. For example, certain features – like the ability to enter workflow tasks into email applications or integration into existing intranets – will get people using the WCM quickly.
Once you’ve created the content, you’ll have to utilize the product’s deployment capabilities to put the content on the website.
Make sure the the product can provide support and central management for multistage deployment and publishing.

4. Marketing Automation

What if you could get the right content in front of the right person at the right time – how would it impact your customer acquisition process? This is what’s making this space exciting. The ability to serve up dynamic content based on user paths and profiles allows marketers to truly control the web environment.
Marketing automation in a CMS includes web analytics, personalization, lead management, and automation capabilities. Some of mid-market products have started rolling out marketing automation and analytics capabilities – these have been available in Enterprise CMSs like Interwoven.

5. Migrating Content

Most CMS implementations are typically migrations, since you are usually moving content over from existing sites or resources. This can be both tricky and annoying. There are two ways to migrate content: manual or automated. You probably want to avoid having to do this manually if you can, and just go with automated migration techniques and tools. However the structue of your content does not allow for automated migration, you may have to go with the old-fashioned manual copy-and-paste approach. It’s about as much fun as cleaning a house after a frat party, but sometimes you may not have an option.

6. Costs

Your budget for the CMS implementation should factor in several things, including:

  • Licensing costs for the WCM system
  • Development
  • Training
  • Content Migration
  • Content Creation
  • Hosting
  • Other related software

Quite often, decision-makers only see licensing costs, which can be deceiving. Development costs, for example, may vary depending on the CMS. If a product is less common, or more complex, finding resources to support training and development for your project can become expensive.

7. Get an expert opinion

There is a lot of material out there on selecting content management sytems. Listening to what experts say will help you get down to a shortlist quickly. Forrester, Gartner, CMS Wire, CMS Matrix and Aberdeen are some sources you can rely on.

edynamic has a process in place to select a WCM product that we can share with you. We work with several CMSs like Sitecore, Ekton, Drupal, MOSS and Kentico, among others, and this insight is based on our knowledge derived since 2001. Email me and I’ll send the process document across to you.

Also, we recently released a short video to guide marketers on how to WCM solution. You can find it on our website www.edynamic.net

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you may have, I’d love to help