As a marketer, you know your organization needs a great CMS. But with myriad providers, niche offerings, a growing number of internal stakeholders, and a rapidly changing digital environment, the process of choosing a CMS can seem like a daunting task.
That’s why it’s important to approach your decision-making in a deliberate and structured way. Here’s a sample approach. When you’re ready for a deep dive into the complete selection process, check out our full-length guide.
1. Get internal support and input
Any new CMS is a major investment that affects multiple parts of your organization, so you’ll need to make sure to get input and buy-in from key stakeholders. Assemble a diverse CMS selection committee and be prepared to hear different and often contrasting perspectives. Marketing will be eager to kick-start content production, while IT will want to conduct methodical risk mitigation.
Get the backing of as many senior leaders possible to push the project through. Make sure they understand why a new CMS is crucial to the company’s long-term success.
2. Evaluate your current and future business needs
As a group, establish how you will use your new CMS. Some useful questions:
- Will you be trying to drive significant growth in website traffic?
- Will your existing technology dependencies persist, or will they evolve with a new CMS?
- How many channels will you want your content on, and in how many languages?
- Will the CMS work with your company’s existing tech stack?
- What features might you need in the future?
- Will the CMS still be relevant for at least the next five years?
Your answers to these questions will help you draw up a list of requirements, which you can then use to compare specific solutions. See our full-length guide for an example of a requirements checklist.
3. Find an implementation partner
If your company doesn’t have a large in-house development team, you’ll want to hire an implementation partner or digital strategy agency. They’ll help you choose a CMS and make sure it fits within a larger digital strategy. Many partners continue to provide support after the initial implementation.
4. Put together a shortlist and do your homework
With your requirements list in hand, research potential solutions and ask your implementation partner for guidance. Analyst reports like Gartner’s Magic Quadrant or the Forrester Wave™ are a great place to start evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of leading CMS solutions.
But it’s also important to check in with actual users of each CMS you’re considering. Talking to a company that’s similar in size and needs about their experiences with their CMS will provide valuable insight into how the product might work for you.
5. Write a request for proposal
It’s not always easy to understand all the features of a CMS or how it will work in the context of your company. That’s where a request for proposal (RFP) comes in. A RFP is an opportunity for prospective vendors to demonstrate they understand your needs and objectives, and that they have the experience to deliver.
Frame your requirements in a way that encourages the vendor to explain why they’re right for you, and how they’ll help you meet your objectives. For instance, group a few related requirements into a use-case narrative that describes a particular challenge you need to address, and ask the vendor how they’d respond.
6. Evaluate vendor responses
Before you make your final decision, take a critical look at your top vendors and rate how they meet all the technical, functional, and business requirements for your CMS. Consider how much support and training each vendor offers, and whether there’s a vibrant developer community to ensure the solution will be practical and flexible for your needs.
Get demos from the vendors on your shortlist and be prepared to ask them tough questions to prove what each solution is capable of. Find out how the CMS integrates with other tools and systems and whether it’s scalable. Make sure the solution will grow with your organization and remain relevant.
A final word of advice
This piece of advice is simple, but worth stating at every opportunity — this process is going to take time. Think months, not weeks. Take your time and be careful about your decision. Getting the right CMS will pay off immensely in the end.