Most common errors to avoid when choosing a CMS

I spend a lot of time with clients discussing their Content Management System (CMS) requirements and needs. Regularly clients find CMS selection extremely daunting and find it hard to navigate through lists of possible functionality, features and workflows. Regularly I read through RFTs and RFPs where the brief allows only a paragraph each on business and user requirements and devotes 5 pages to CMS requirements complete with checklists and diagrams outlining CMS functionality must haves. Below I have listed some common mistakes that I see.

Choosing the CMS before website and user requirements are understood
Of all of the mistakes I see this is the most important one. The best websites are always built with the business’s requirements and the users requirements as central design criteria. When a business states that they require “multi-stage workflow rules” before they even understand what the website will achieve alarm bells start ringing.

To understand why dictating CMS requirements before business/user requirements are defined is a very bad idea you really need to understand website design best practice. Top tier web design and development companies undergo a rigorous process to uncover, capture, analyse and document business and user requirements. The subsequent solution will ultimately need to satisfy these requirements. This process ensures we build the “right website”. Common deliverables throughout this process can include requirements analysis documents, strategic recommendations, user journeys, user personas, wireframe prototypes, functional specifications, technical specifications etc. This holistic approach defines what the business wants, what your audience wants and what technology requirements will make this happen including CMS requirements. And here lies the crux of the issue, the CMS is a part of the solution it is not the solution. By dictating CMS requirements upfront businesses can cripple a project with unnecessary irrelevant requirements which provide no extra value to the final solution.

Focus on business & requirements needs not CMS needs, the business does not need a CMS it needs a website. Be solution focused not CMS focused

Burnt by past experiences
When organisations have been constrained by a previous CMS often the first reaction is to create a brief that ensures the next CMS does not suffer from the same problems as their previous one. Unfortunately this approach does not recognise that there a huge quantity of potential issues caused by implementing a CMS that does not meet an organisations requirements, simply ensuring the old mistakes are avoided does not mean a whole new set of mistakes are made. Companies should instead understand the importance of understanding CMS requirements BEFORE a CMS is chosen.

Driven by a powerful IT department
IT requirements are regularly only a subset of the businesses requirements, further more IT’s requirements are very rarely in line with sales or marketing’s requirements. Common demands include dictating hosting platforms and other technology based criteria. These criteria are very important but if you are going to rule out a solution that might be absolutely perfect for your situation simply because you would need to host the solution on a different server? It is best to provide your vendors with preferences but allow them to make the case for alternative hosting environments, at the end of the day it is the total solution that needs to be evaluated.

Bigger is not always better
A CMS solution that does everything you need and a whole lot more you don’t need might sound like a great position to be in, and sometimes it is! However as with any technology platform bells and whistles don’t necessarily result in a better outcome. Once your core business requirements and user’s requirements are understood the CMS should uncompromisingly deliver on these requirements. Do not be distracted by bells and whistles. It is important to avoid the psychology of fear which can lead buyers to create a must-have list incorporating everything any CMS has ever included driven by the fear of missing something.

So when considering your organisations next CMS solution remember to focus on why you need a CMS in the first place! The best CMS solutions are those that meet the business and users requirements rather than defining and constraining these requirements. The best providers will spend the time analysing and understanding your requirements rather than simply providing lists of bells and whistles.