The CMS selection process in 7 steps
Learn the best practices for the demanding process of selecting a new content management system.
Selecting a new content management system for your organisation may be one of the largest digital project decisions you can make, in terms of cost, commitment, resources, and timeframe. Choosing a new CMS should therefore not be taken lightly, and there are many process alternatives.
Before going on the hunt for a new CMS, make sure you have a complete overview of your organisation’s requirements and internal stakeholders. A CMS is a tool for fulfilling your tasks, and it is optimal to know exactly what these tasks are in advance. Initiate a preparatory meeting with your stakeholders, and ask questions like:
- Who will do the implementation?
- Will we involve internal developers or do we need the vendor or partners?
- Who should be project manager?
- What roles should fill the team?
- PS: Don’t forget the content creators!
Ace that digital project business case:
At the end of the preparation, you should set a project timeline. Remember: If you don’t have the necessary experience or skills in-house, this might also be the right time to involve an advisor, like an analyst or a consultancy company.
Now that the preparation is done, it’s time to start the CMS selection process!
The first step in the quest for a new CMS is to assemble a longlist of interesting vendors. In this phase, you can go out widely and cast a broad net: Now is a perfect opportunity to check out very different vendors that seem to fulfil your minimum requirements.
The longlist step is a valuable way to receive useful market and industry information and input, which you can put to use by e.g. revisiting and refining your own requirements as you learn more.
Request for information (RFI)
After compiling a broad and varied longlist of potential vendors, it’s time to send out requests for information, or RFIs. In these inquiries, you should ask for vendor information and get a deeper understanding of what is actually in the market.
If the vendor is open source, you and your team can actually do a lot of investigation yourselves. You can try out the solution and really go hands-on—provided you have the necessary skills and resources.
While the longlist can have a broad scope of vendors, the shortlist must pinpoint the ones that seem to best fit the bill for your requirements. Here you have to be really fastidious in your pickings.
The exact number of potential vendors will vary depending on what you and your team can handle, but you shouldn’t bite over more than you can chew. The point is to find vendors that seem like a good fit to what you’re looking for, so make sure you have the resources available to make a thorough assessment.
Request for proposal (RFP)
When your shortlist is ready, it’s time to send out the request for proposal, or RFP. This is a more detailed requirement specification, where you probe for the right solution for your challenges.
The requirement list doesn’t have to be comprehensive and miles long, but it should allow you to see how the vendor solves and approaches a requirement. Does the vendor have reasonable processes and quality systems in order, or does it perhaps work on a more ad hoc basis?
Choosing the most interesting vendors, you can continue to the next phase. Here things get a little more personal, often with scheduled meetings and demos.
In this conversational phase, your goal is to assess the vendor’s company credibility and further consider the solution’s adequacy. This phase is also prime time to discuss the more soft stuff, like pricing model, community, training, and support.
And, speaking directly to the vendor, you can get a more informed view on the project scope and proposed timeline.
See also: What makes Enonic awesome »
Proof of concept (PoC)
The proof of concept, or PoC, is the grand finale before your concluding CMS decision. Here the battle usually stands between two vendors—who will demonstrate their solution’s ability to solve your requirements in a realistic, hands-on kind of way by building an actual, bespoke solution for the occasion.
A PoC can take various forms: It can be comprehensive and last a fortnight, or it can be only one day for you to get a feeling by testing out the solution. In any case, use the PoC as a golden opportunity to really get your hands dirty in the solution and stress testing it to make up your mind.
When you have finally decided upon the right CMS vendor for you, your team, and your organisation, it is time to settle for a formal agreement. Start this phase by doing a meticulous reference check with existing customers and partners of the vendor, and thus getting the final confirmations and confidence you need to move forward.
The next step is to decide on an agreement form. Here it is important to decide whether the agreement should stem from you or the vendor, and which eventual judicial region the agreement should belong under.
When all these steps are finished, you can pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for acquiring a new CMS that will hopefully bring you opportunities and prosperity in the future.