CMS Redux

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BEST PRACTICES SERIES

A number of CMS vendors are currently finding that sales are difficult to come by. And—having seen how they go about presening the business case for investment in their products—I am not surprised!

Recently, I undertook an interesting assignment for a CMS vendor. They were concerned that they were not getting the message across about their product range, especially in presentations to prospects. Over the course of several days, I acted out the role of a prospective client, giving feedback to a very receptive group about how well, and how badly, their message was getting across. I also looked at the Web site and the marketing collateral.

We spent some time discussing the segmentation of the audiences they were addressing. I am beginning to see a pattern emerging. In some cases (but not many), the impetus for implementing a CMS is coming either from the CEO or the CIO who have read about the benefits of a CMS in either Business Week or Computerworld. They have some grasp of the basics, but not much more. At the other extreme, a Webmaster or an intranet manager is beginning to feel overwhelmed with maintaining content quality using a flat-file site and either Front Page or DreamWeaver. They know in some detail the functionality that a CMS can offer, but have no budget for purchase, and need to convince several layers of management hierarchy that this is the way the organization should go.

There is another segmentation. Some organizations are looking to implement an enterprise-wide solution that will include both the Web site(s) and the intranet(s) and perhaps document management and records management support. Others will just be looking for a single application, at least initially.

There are several other issues that need to be considered. The first is the extent to which the IT department is actually going to make the purchase decision without taking into account wider business requirements. The second is whether or not there is a budget for CMS purchase and, in addition, whether this budget is adequate both for the purchase of the software license and the implementation costs. Which leads me on to the final issue of the importance of meeting expectations for the implementation.

Don't Quote Me
In my experience, CMS purchase is rightly a collaborative issue, with IT more interested in the impact on their current IT platform and potential integration issues. However, if I see one more example of a Gartner Magic Quadrant, or a quote from Forrester, Meta, Giga, Ovum, IDC, or Jupiter, I shall probably scream. Before I get hate mail (or worse, email spam) from these analysts, I should explain that I have no quarrel with their methodologies, only with companies that insist on taking quotes out of context. The nearest equivalent I can think of is the way that theatre and film PR releases take very selective sentences from reviews in order to promote their films. In the end, it matters very little if the company is high on vision or high on execution, it comes down to whether the particular product makes business sense to the prospective customer.

A number of CMS vendors are currently finding that sales are difficult to come by. And—having seen how they go about presenting the business case for investment in their products—I am not surprised! The vendor that I was working for had about 50 slides in the basic presentation, most of which were either high-level philosophy about content management or so technical that even most IT managers would have difficulty understanding the presentations. The demonstrations that I have seen are also usually very poor, often being developed in the USA with no local customization for the UK or any other country for that matter.

My message to any vendor that has a half-way competent product and yet is still not achieving good sales is to sit back and take a really critical look at their marketing and sales strategy. Having sat through a considerable number of these presentations this year, I have seen most of the major CMS vendors in action, and have not been impressed. With the dramatic rise in both the volume and value of unstructured content, organizations are rapidly realizing the potential benefits of a CMS, but need far more assistance from vendors to make the business case and select the most appropriate solution.

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