How to choose the right CMS

There is a baffling array of content management system options available – from free open-source systems to sophisticated commercial platforms – and choosing the right one can be daunting process.

Is an open-source system with all the right plug-ins the best way to go or will it create a long-term admin overhead? Is it better to invest in PHP or .NET as a technology platform? Should you consider an integrated CMS marketing automation platform from a commercial CMS vendor? How easy is it to use and will it integrate?
When we work with clients we guide and “right-size” their CMS decision across 3 key considerations:

1. Ambition

Your board level objectives aligned to your marketing and online objectives – what do you want the website to do? Long-term ambition consideration is important because sometimes an open-source CMS might fit your immediate needs, but it is possible that your needs will out-grow the CMS and re-platforming can be expensive and time consuming. Investing a bit more up-front in a commercial platform to suit your long-term ambition might turn out to be a big cost saver down the line. Often commercial platforms have staggered licence options too, so you don’t have to go in at the top level from day one.

2. Readiness

This is your internal level of staff / skillsets, technology platform, and scale of change needed. It’s very important to do a reality check here. Are the marketing department salivating over a commercial platform with personalisation, but the business-as-usual stuff means that they will never use it? Does the CMS offer some clever integration options but your IT department lack the language skills to leverage them? Is your customer data and business processes structured enough to handle a commercial system?
When it comes to assessing your readiness look at the following:

  1. What time / cost savings can the new platform add to your current operations?
  2. What resource will you need to keep the lights on with the new platform and can you afford to do that right now? (e.g. train existing people, hire new people, hire an external agency)
  3. What extra features will the new platform bring that you can use immediately without any additional resource?
  4. What features will you need to grow into and what does this entail?

3. Budget

Always contentious, rarely enough… but needs balancing against your ambition and readiness. If the website is a fair chunk of your business’ bottom line, then it makes sense to invest a proportional amount. If it isn’t yet contributing much to the bottom line or ROI is hard to prove, then maybe a staged approach that starts on open-source and moves to commercial once milestones are achieved is a good idea.

These three pillars help analyse the need for a new CMS so that a platform can be decided on. We often advise that building out a scope for your website is the best place to start. Trying to mould a project around a platform can become messy and while scope compromises may have to be made, let them be made due to your readiness or budget, not because you are locked into a platform that doesn’t suit your needs.
If you are already on a CMS then maybe our 5 reasons to move to a new CMS might help you understand if you need a full re-platform or just a facelift.

Your website sits at the heart of your digital strategy – whether it’s a simple brochure site or a sophisticated interaction platform for visitors, members, or e-commerce buyers – getting the CMS choice right is critical. If you would like to learn more about our free CMS workshop session – contact us here.

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