Simple solutions to common mistakes made when choosing a CMS

The CMS selection process can often be a frustrating and overwhelming one to those with little to no experience in the field. For this reason, it should come as no surprise that there are often mistakes made during the process that lead to either incorrect selection or overspending for your organization.  By outlining the most common mistakes, our hope is that you will be able to use these as guidelines to reference if tasked with choosing a CMS.

Lack of Clear Objectives

The biggest mistake made during the CMS selection process is a lack of clear objectives. The objective on any system should be decided upon by all areas of your organization and outlined in detail.

Take for example the following scenario:

Company ‘A' decides that they need a CMS so they task their IT department with finding one that fits their needs. The IT department, that already manages the existing CMS, sets out to do so with their objectives in mind. They begin by choosing a CMS that fits their needs, presenting it and the company begins the process of migrating to the new CMS.

The Problem:

The IT department has their own objectives in mind. For example, they may be looking to reduce the amount of time it takes them to maintain the system or perhaps they want to incorporate a new technology. They set about finding a CMS based on these needs and ignore those of the other departments. The result is a system that fits only the needs of one group of people and has not been vetted out to ensure that it provides the maximum value to the entire organization.

The Solution:

It's important to meet with all areas of your organization when selecting a CMS. Together, the organization should develop a list of features and functionality that is agreed upon. We recommend breaking this list down into two areas: Wants and Needs.

Wants should be features or functionality that would be great to have but that are not necessarily deal breakers. For instance, perhaps your organization currently uses a separate e-commerce platform and would like to see one that is built directly into the CMS instead. If, however, a CMS is found that meets all of your requirements but this one, you may choose to go with it if the alternative is a lesser functional system.

Needs are what they sound like. Items that absolutely must be incorporated into the CMS in order for it to serve its purpose and justify the costs / efforts involved. An example of a need may be the ability to work with your existing data stores.

I often suggest asking the various functional areas the following questions as a starting point:

  • What does we want from the new system?
  • What does the existing system (if there is one) not do (or do poorly) that we'd like to see corrected?
  • Fill in the blank: We would make more use of the CMS if __________.

With these simple questions, you will have spurred internal discussions and hopefully, this will lead a laundry list of items which can then be pared down to a Needs / Wants list and from there, a full-fledged list of agreed upon goals.

In a nutshell, having a clear set of objectives will make the entire process much smoother and will leave all areas of your organization feeling excited, involved and satisfied with the chosen system.

Pack Mentality

Second on the list of mistakes is what I like to refer to as ‘Pack Mentality'. Explained simply, it's the desire to move to a new platform simply because it seems like everyone else is talking about it lately and using it.

This type of thinking is surprisingly common and leads to unfulfilled expectations and more often than not, wasteful spending.  Before considering a replacement for your existing CMS or the purchase of a new one, it's always important to fully explore what the CMS you are considering offers that differs from your existing system. Once you have a list of these offerings, you will want to develop an ROI statement to reflect what exactly you are going to gain and how you intend to recoup the cost of the upgrade with said gains.

Don't fall into the trap of looking at just one CMS based on popularity, however. It's important to work with professionals who have experience in the industry to ensure you have fully vetted out a number of systems and have a short list developed. You wouldn't want to move to a new CMS without research only to find out you could have saved thousands and gained even more functionality, would you?

Not exploring both Commercial and Open Source Products

I often speak to users who fall on either side of the bench with open source or commercial CMS. The first set are die hard open source advocates who believe all commercial CMS platforms are unworthy and the second are die hard commercial fans who hate open source because it eats into their profit margins.

One thing I would stress to you is to ensure that you include both camps when evaluating the market. Don't let misconceptions and preconceived notions prevent you from properly assessing all available options.

There are plenty of commercial platforms that grew from or incorporate open source offerings and without them, would not be here today. Conversely, there are commercial platforms available that offer incredible versatility, great value and excellent support that are well worth the money.

When you begin evaluating the systems that exist, be sure to remain open minded. This is the only way you will be able to make the RIGHT choice when the time comes.

These are just a couple of common mistakes I've seen during my time consulting. I intend to write posts of this nature more in the future as well so stay tuned.

Do you have any suggestions or common mistakes you'd like to share with our readers? We'd love to hear them. Please add them in the comments below or drop us a line and we'll expand this article with due credit. Thanks!