5 Critical Steps to Choosing the Right CMS or CXM Solution

If you’re like most organizations, you choose your CMS solution based on your expected needs over the next 5 years. You’re going to spend a significant amount of money on implementing it, integrating it with existing systems and training your staff to use it. You expect the CMS to help you successfully execute your marketing strategy and achieve measurable goals. The last thing you want to do is choose the wrong solution.
The good news is there’s a way to maximize your chances of making the right choice. Whether you’re choosing a CMS (Content Management System) or CXM (Customer Experience Management) solution, there are 5 steps to follow:

Step 1: Identify Your Goals and Scenarios

What do you want to achieve with your website—sell products, generate leads or convince people of your case? Identifying your goals is essential to the rest of the process. Your goals define your use cases and ROI calculation.
Some companies fall into the trap of choosing product based on a list of features, instead of how the product supports their required scenarios. These scenarios should be a base for your RFP. Here’s a correct and incorrect example of RFP questions:
  • Correct: Each of our 10 editors needs to be able to manage his or her blog using a browser-based interface. They need to be able to author blog posts, categorize them, manage comments and display the number of views for each blog post.
  • Incorrect: The CMS needs to have a blogs module.
Which scenarios do you need right now? Which scenarios do you anticipate in the future? Make sure you include all scenarios, but avoid scenarios that aren’t really important so that you do not end up with a bloated RFP. When handing over your to vendors, explain your overall strategy to them, the technologies you want to use and your time plan and budget. It will help them tie their answers to your needs or even withdraw from the tender if they realize they’re not a good fit.

Step 2: Consider ROI and TCO, not Just License Costs

Some companies fail to consider the bigger picture by choosing a CMS based purely on the initial license costs. The TCO (Total Cost of Ownership) for a CMS consists of many elements:
  • License costs – how much do you pay for the CMS and for any add-ons and third-party products that you need to purchase to support your use cases? Go beyond the starting price – in many cases, you need extra user licenses, server licenses for staging and development servers and features that may be only available in more expensive editions.
  • Support costs – how much do you pay for support from the vendor? Although some products rely on community support, it may not be enough when your site goes down and you need immediate help.
  • Upgrade costs – how much do you pay for licenses of new versions and how complex and costly is it to perform the upgrades?
  • Development costs – how much do you spend on developing your website? Some products require lots of complex coding or rely on integration of third-party components, while some others come with many ready-to-use components that speed up development.
  • On-going maintenance costs – how much does it cost to keep your website up and running, including things like management of web servers or application of security hotfixes?
  • Infrastructure costs – how much do you spend for the hosting, whether on-premise or in the cloud? Include all costs, including development or staging servers.
Now that you understand your TCO, how does that compare with what you expect to gain by using the new CMS? Does it outweigh all expenditures?

Step 3: Is the Vendor and Product Future-Proof?

Besides hard numbers, consider also intangible aspects:
  • Is there an active community around the product?
  • Can you get professional advice or training?
  • Is there a healthy number of implementation partners and experienced developers?
  • Is the company behind the product financially viable and does it have a clear roadmap that matches your future plans?
  • Can the vendor provide reference companies like yours that have successfully deployed the solution?
  • What do existing users of the product say about it in social media? 

Step 4: Try Before you Buy

When you shortlist CMS products, make sure your stakeholders, including end users, developers and IT administrators, can actually use the product. Let them evaluate the product and see if it meets their expectations. Ask the vendor for access to their support to see how they handle your questions.
If you already know you need to support a very specific scenario or integrate with external systems, it’s a good idea to do a proof of concept, even if it means extra costs during the selection process. It may help you not only validate your scenarios, but may also give you early indication of how flexible the product is and how the vendor can meet your special wishes.

Step 5: Create a Solid Plan

At this point, you should have a solid understanding of how the products fit your needs. Still, you shouldn’t rush the decision yet. Consider the whole journey ahead of you:
  • How do you plan to implement the CMS – in house with your own development team or with an agency? Are best practices or a methodology provided by the vendor? Even if you have a strong development team, consider the costs of training and the ramp-up time they will require versus using an experienced agency that has already completed numerous projects.
  • Where do you plan to host your site? If you plan to use cloud, make sure the CMS supports the cloud environment of your choice, including things like load balancing or CDN (Content Delivery Network).
  • Can you get consulting services? Consulting services at the beginning of the project may save you significant time during the implementation and help you avoid a failed implementation.
  • Can you get training from the vendor or agency? Even if the CMS is easy to use, your developers or content administrators may need initial training.
Answering these questions will help you make a better plan and choose the right solution.
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