Bluetext clients are often asking for our recommendations on the best content management system for their website, whether as a redesign or a re-platform for their business. We are a forward-thinking digital marketing agency that provides game-changing digital experiences for brands looking to make a difference in the market, and as such, we have always been a technology-agnostic company and supporters of the open-source community.

Over the years, we have helped countless clients identify the appropriate CMS to meet their specific use cases. We work with organizations of all sizes: from startups looking to launch their first website, to large, established organizations with complex business workflows and integrations and distributed teams. No matter where your company falls on this spectrum, we have proven guidelines for deciding on which CMS will be the most appropriate for your organization. Here are three key considerations to guide you through your CMS selection process to ensure you are set up for success for the next 3-5 years.

1. Determine Your Stakeholders and Their Needs

The first step in selecting the best content management system is to identify those individuals who have a stake in the redesign/re-platform and analyze their needs. To begin this process, take stock of who is involved with the current website (typically Operations (IT), Marketing and Executive Management). Depending on the size of your organization, there could be many additional stakeholder groups.

For each stakeholder group, take time to understand their specific needs for the new CMS and use these insights to develop KPIs for the platform:

  • Operations (IT) – Your IT team is likely concerned about the technology stack (what can they support), where it lives (cloud, on-prem) and what their role will be in terms of ongoing maintenance.
  • Marketing – The marketing team typically drives the website. They are likely concerned with the feature set: content management features, workflows, learning curve, marketing integrations, social sharing, etc.
  • Executive Management – Most often, the executive team is focused on two things: cost and timeline. How much is this going to cost, and how long is it going to take to build?

It is important to conduct this step every time your organization goes through a redesign or re-platform, as structure, needs, and concerns evolve over time. For example, in recent years, day-to-day website ownership has generally shifted away from traditional operations/IT teams into the hands of marketing teams.

2. Outline Requirements

The next step in the process is to translate stakeholder needs into requirements. We recommend building a requirements matrix that outlines the full set of necessary features for the new CMS platform. Much of the matrix will consist of functional requirements, but it should also include cost, technology, and timeline constraints. A forward-thinking mindset must be applied when developing requirements. Consider feature sets that are planned for the next 2-5 years to ensure the selected CMS has the flexibility to accommodate business changes. To build an effective matrix, leverage the following strategy:

  1. Gather Requirements.  Supplement and expand upon the needs of the stakeholders by gathering wholistic requirements from actual users. We recommend conducting workshops with each user group. In some organizations, the user groups may include the marketing, operations and sales teams. In other organizations, distinct business units or regional teams may make up other user groups. The workshops will result in pages and pages of notes, which should be consolidated into a set of functional requirements.
  2. Consolidate & Group into Usage Scenarios. Consolidating your requirements into high-level usage scenarios will help you, and your team, come to a consensus on critical functionality. During the CMS product demos, you will be armed with your list of usage scenarios and can ask specific questions regarding how the platform in question would handle such scenarios. Some possible usage scenarios could be:
  • As a content editor, I want to be able to manage and reuse digital assets from within the CMS so that I do not need to re-upload items.
  • As a content editor, I want to be able to manage content from my mobile device so that I can provide real-time updates from remote locations.
  • As a content approver, I want the ability to review content before it is able to be published on the website.
  • As a site administrator, I want the ability to update the menu links on the website when the organization decides to change the navigation of the website.
  • As an IT Stakeholder, I want the CMS application to be built in PHP so that my existing team of developers can manage and support the website.  

Creating a Prioritized Feature Matrix

Leverage the usage scenarios to develop your feature matrix and prioritize each requirement. What are the must-haves, nice-to-haves, and stretch features that you could live without? Prioritization is very important and should not be taken lightly. Be sure not to let your feature matrix get out of control. This should be a list of no more than 50 “features” that you need the new platform to provide.

The matrix will allow you to score the products against each other in a logical way and get a good idea of the product’s compatibility for your organization.

Feature Prioritization Product 1 Product 2 Product 3
Easily manage content

5

3 4

3

Easily manage content on mobile devices

3

4 4

4

Integrate with Product X

4

3 3

3

Integrate with Product Y

2

1 1

5

Strong Multilingual Support

5

2 1

3

Personalization Capabilities

4

3 0

1

….

Easy, right? Of course, gathering large groups of people for workshops is easier said than done! No matter the size of the organization, the scheduling for these types of workshops is a challenge, but ultimately, the work pays off. Skipping this step will, more often than not, result in the selection of a sub-optimal product and the need to rebuild the CMS again next year.

3. Market Research & Validation

Market research will help down the list of products available on the market to arrive at a “short-list” of candidates for consideration. There are several resources available to inform your research. Two of our primary sources of information come from top analyst companies Gartner and Forrester. Dries Buytaert put it beautifully in his blog post:”If you want to find a good coffee place, you use Yelp. If you want to find a nice hotel in New York, you use TripAdvisor. Similarly, if a CIO or CMO wants to spend $250,000 or more on enterprise software, they often consult an analyst firm like Gartner.”

To give a brief recap in case you are unfamiliar with how Gartner rates vendors, they look at two key, top-level criteria: Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision. They rate vendors on their ability to deliver what they promise and their ability to stay ahead of market trends to provide a quality product to their customers.

While this is not a complete step-by-step guide to performing a CMS comparison audit, it should give you the tools you need to get it started. While every organization is different – wether it be organization structure, specific requirements or current marketing goals –  utilizing these activities while performing your CMS selection will help ensure that you are setting your organization up for success.

Looking for help in determining what CMS is right for you? Let us help!