The 10 Commandments for Selecting Your Web CMS

We all know websites of today can no longer be the static pages with dated information that entities once used to merely announce their presence to the online world. Visitors to your site want more, or they will go elsewhere: they want to be engaged.

Digital marketers and communicators face increasingly complex issues when engaging with their website visitors. Consumers have limited time, the message needs to be split but consistent across multiple channels, and communications need to be sharper and more targeted and relevant than ever before.

To achieve this, an online strategy must be underpinned by a Web Content Management System. And great people, stakeholders and well-defined requirements – along with a flexible, easy to use technology platform – are common elements for the success for a Web CMS implementation.

The continued success of your CMS project will also be dependent not just on launching a shiny new website, but also on your website continuing to hold the interest of your audience with fresh, relevant and engaging content for the entire life of the CMS.

How can you ensure continued success? If followed, these ten commandments can significantly contribute to the successful procurement and implementation of your Web CMS.

1. Thou shalt be inclusive
The key to a successful CMS selection and ongoing  implementation is to define a high quality set of requirements that accurately communicate your business requirements internally, to your potential business partners as well as software vendors.

All too often a set of requirements is written from the perspective of one business unit, in the hope that the resulting solution will fit (or can be imposed upon) the rest of the  business.

When addressing this, assemble a broad set of stakeholders – a cross section – from all parts of the business that will be impacted by the project.

In addition, stakeholders should own their requirements throughout the process. This gives you a place to go when clarifying requirements, prioritizing, or when a business justification for an investment decision is needed.

Remember that success is not just about the technical capabilities of the platform, but of the adoption by the business at large.

2. Thou shalt be prepared to engage
Digital communications is changing. We are at a point where engaging with our audience is not just about publishing a website. It’s about delivering a relevant and personal experience across multiple channels and touch points, including email, social media channels, mobile and call centers.

These requirements for highly dynamic, reusable and personalized content put special technical demands on your CMS platform that differentiate first generation web publishing systems from true web content management and channel agnostic delivery.

Do your requirements reflect the needs of your organization to move forward? To integrate with other channels?

Do your requirements include the ability to gain insight about your visitor?

3. Thou shalt be easy – really, really easy
Ok – so who doesn’t have “easy to use” as a requirement for a CMS? User adoption is a critical aspect that cannot be underestimated. The success of CMS implementation will be wholly dependent on the people using it.

This is important now more than ever as visitors demand relevant, personalized engagement with your website. It requires a lot more content, specific to visitor segment and written by a broader set of people that understand the detail.

It’s important to choose easy-to-use CMS tools that fit your business users and to ensure you can leverage the existing tools that content contributors already use and are comfortable with.

4. Thou shalt not kill your business process
Do you fit the CMS, or does the CMS fit you? Implementing a CMS often requires some changes to business processes, roles and how you reach your audience.

Ideally you want to use this as an opportunity to make improvements to your existing processes, but this may not always be the case.

Organizations are often forced to implement changes in order to accommodate the CMS, and this area often gets overlooked when selecting a CMS.

It’s important to consider: Will the way the content is stored and accessed change the way people work with the system?

Does it have a workflow process? And do the notifications and alerts fit the way you operate as a business?

5. Thou shalt not be a slave to technology
The technical delivery behind a compelling web experience is no longer solely about the database of your choice, a web scripting language and a few templates. It’s now more about a deeper integration into your back office systems, leveraging content and services from outside the server room and in the
cloud, and providing feedback about visitor information into customer and marketing systems.

These integrations are often neglected in the rush to launch the visible return on the CMS investment – the website – but they can be a significant obstacle to providing a better visitor experience if the underlying CMS technology turns out to be restrictive.

Ensure that the technical requirements of integrating the CMS into both the legacy systems and any proposed new systems are taken into consideration. Also, ensure that you choose a CMS with a broad technical footprint with regard to industry standards and a proven integration track record.

6. Thou shalt not worship false technology gods
Some products in the market are great at what they do. But that does not necessarily mean that it is a fit for you. Many organizations are pushed into using products where ubiquity within IT departments and the buzz around a new release can appear very compelling, but that’s not always the best fit for your requirements or processes.

Remember that not all products will meet mandatory business requirements around accessibility, branding, multi-channel/multi-site publishing, analytics, social media and email integration.

7. Thou shalt treat all your visitors equally (including Google)
We have a legal obligation to make our websites accessible. This includes not only how the website will publish accessible content, but also compliance with legal and technical standards that include access to information for the disabled community.

Moreover, the structure of a web page, its adherence to web standards and how it is described by metadata should also take into account best practices for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

Thus, your CMS requirements must also cover how the website will publish accessible content. Which technical and legal standards will it support?

8. Thou shalt seek and meet your visitor
As we have already touched upon, a single website is no longer sufficient to satisfy digital marketing and communication objectives. These activities are now driven to create an Engagement Hub, fed by your content and publishing relevant content to multiple channels.

Digital marketers must be present where the consumer spends their online time, which means your CMS should make it simple to publish content to multiple channels—website, mobile, email, and social media channels.

A CMS that embodies this hub approach helps provide your audience with a consistent message and view of your brand across these channels, leverage the efficiencies of content reuse and coordinate communication campaigns.

This hub can also serve as a single conduit for visitor insight, where you collate and process feedback from email campaigns, social media, web analytics, comments and visitor behavior.

9. Thou shalt seek early reward
Although digital engagement is broader than just creating websites, CMS implementation is no doubt focused on that first website.

The maturity of the CMS industry would suggest that we’ve moved on from starting-from-scratch with each implementation, but that may not always be the case.

It’s important to understand what a vendor offers in terms of getting your website up and running quickly, including ‘out of the box’ example websites, deep third party integrations with commonly used products, and code examples – plus of course case studies, testimonials and real-life references where
they have gotten a website live in the timescales you require.

10. Thou shalt seek like-minded partners
There will be bumps in the road in any implementation of enterprise software, and the impact of these is greatly determined by the people with whom you have chosen to work.

It is imperative to get to know the people involved in providing the proposal: the implementation team, be it the vendor or a third party, and the vendor support team. It’s obviously difficult to do this in a sales process, so you might want to select someone to work on a proof of concept, a pilot or an extended
demonstration of your scenario.

By following these commandments you can help ensure that your implementation is based on sound footing, decreasing the possibility of project failure and increasing the likelihood of a successful CMS, which will evolve as your organization does.

About the Author
Jose Santa Ana is Product Marketing Director at Alterian, with focus on Web Content Management and Analytics and how these solutions enable increased engagement with customers. Jose has over 20 years of experience in online marketing, analytics, and enterprise software – with marketing roles at Omniture (now Adobe), IBM, 3Com, Amdocs, and Hyperion Solutions (now Oracle), as well as industry analyst roles at both IDC and Gartner.

Jose also has broad international exposure, having lived and worked in the Philippines, Australia, Hong Kong, and Singapore before moving to the US.