5 steps to choosing a flexible CMS that will grow with your business and encourage productivity
Are you in the market for a content management system (CMS)? Maybe you’ve got your eyes on a product that seems to meet all your needs – but there could be other things to consider.
According to Squiz Matrix product manager Bart Banda, there’s more to finding the right CMS for your business than just ticking off a list of features. “There’s no single way to do something that will fit every project or client,” he says. “You need flexibility.”
If your CMS isn’t flexible, it won’t be able to shift with your changing needs, and you’ll be at risk for stifling the internal productivity of those using the product. Your content authors won’t be able to produce the web presence expected of them because they don’t have the right tools. This can lead to a number of future internal issues.
It pays to be sure you make the right choice. Purchasing the wrong tool often means you’re locked into long contracts with a vendor that you have to either wait out or pay hefty exit fees.
So, what do you need to look at to ensure that you make the best choice for your business? Here are five steps to selecting the perfect CMS for you.
1. Develop a digital strategy
It’s not enough just to have an independent website strategy. Businesses need to think about the bigger picture. “You need to consider your whole digital presence. Choosing a CMS is just one part of that overarching strategy,” Bart says.
Think about your users’ journeys within their digital life cycle. When a user hits your site and begins interacting with your website, they’ll likely already have interacted with your other products, such as your marketing automation and customer relationship management (CRM) tools.
“One single piece of software isn’t supposed to encapsulate all you need within a web space,” says Bart. “You’re always going to need to use multiple tools.”
Identify the role of your CMS within your digital strategy and establish the high-level requirements that you’ll need to ensure it can adapt to the changing digital landscape.
2. Explore multiple research avenues
Often, CMS vendors advertise an array of impressive features, but it pays to do further research. If the CMS provides a certain module – a calendar, for example – how customisable is it, and can you use it in the way your business requires?
Again, it’s not just about ticking the boxes. It comes down to doing your own investigating to determine the flexibility of the functions within the CMSs you’re considering.
Use multiple avenues when doing this research. “Many vendors have product managers and development teams with an active presence in their online user communities and discussion forums,” Bart says. “Reach out to these people directly with your questions.”
3. Get input from stakeholders
One of the vital but often overlooked steps in acquiring a CMS is making sure you’ve talked to the right stakeholders within your organisation – all the way down to your content editors.
“Usually, the person researching and purchasing your CMS isn’t the same person who’ll be using the tool on a regular basis,” Bart says. “You need to make sure you’re getting input from those end users.”
Make certain that these staff can put forward their requirements and voice any concerns they have regarding current or proposed offerings. If you make the wrong assumptions on their behalf, that’s when you may see a decrease in the adoption of your software. “By including these people in the process, you’ll be better able to select a CMS that works with your business,” says Bart.
4. Do a run-through with the product
It’s easy to pounce on a solution that seems to fulfil all of your business requirements. However, before settling on a CMS, it’s vital to get some hands-on time with it. “Try to get a run-through of the CMS, even if it’s just a screen-sharing session with the product manager,” Bart says. Going through the product and its features can provide greater insight and gives you the opportunity to ask questions.
Some vendors also supply demo systems, allowing you to try the product and get hands-on experience with it before making your decision. “You’ll have more of an understanding of what day-to-day life will be like for those who will use the software,” says Bart.
5. Establish open communication with your CMS vendor
Once you’ve chosen your CMS and you’re up and running, it’s important to maintain an open line of communication with your software’s developers.
“You’ll need to stay updated on what’s new within the software and how to use it,” Bart explains. “Making sure you can get that information accurately and directly is vital for the support and maintainability of your CMS.”
This open dialogue can also ensure that your software has the continued flexibility to meet any future requirements. “Work together with your CMS vendor to improve the product’s modules to meet your demands,” Bart says. “You’ll be able to get to that stage in a supported and streamlined way so that your software will grow with you and your business.”
A CMS should be a long-term investment
Too often, businesses look for a quick fix without making sure that their software can support their needs down the track. “Your CMS needs to have the flexibility to be able to rapidly grow and adapt to the ever-changing digital landscape,” Bart says. “Being able to quickly respond to your customers’ changing needs will ensure a long lifespan for your CMS.”
Your CMS is a long-term investment. Put in the effort now, and your staff will be happier and more productive later.