When people think of CMS (content management system) implementation, three words typically come to mind: web development tool. And while this definition, strictly speaking, isn’t entirely out of bounds, Himanshu Sareen, CEO at Icreon Tech, suggests thinking of CMS platforms as tools that help businesses develop their overall digital experiences. Whether you’re a customer-facing entity in the retail industry, a blogger with a million monthly readers, or are operating an e-learning company that’s focused on educating the employees of enterprise-level companies — you need a CMS that’s not only capable of handling every aspect of your business, but that’s capable of creating a great experience for your end users, whoever they are.
In today’s business world, it goes without saying that you need a website, but it’s the sheer abundance of .com entities that often causes entrepreneurs and businesses to overlook the importance of choosing and implementing a CMS correctly. In a world where almost everyone has a website, one CMS should be as good as the next, right? Wrong. And it’s in that spirit that Sareen would like to discuss the three things that any entrepreneur or decision maker should know when selecting and implementing a CMS.
Selecting and Implementing a CMS
Click through for three things that any entrepreneur or decision maker should know when selecting and implementing a CMS, as identified by Himanshu Sareen, CEO at Icreon Tech.
Knowing Where to Start: Your Business
Before even considering which CMS platform your company can benefit from the most, you should analyze the core of your business. By that Sareen doesn’t mean making an index of what matters most to your company (but of course, this is important to do for any number of reasons), he means analyzing what you can reasonably afford right now, how you plan to scale, and the type of user experience you want to create. For example, if you’re a startup retailer with a limited number of product variations and inventory, then you may consider building your online presence with WordPress, which can give you cheap access to e-commerce and blogging platforms, as well as a relatively low barrier to entry when it comes to dealing with technical backend issues. In fact, WP Radius released a great article in June about some of the top startups that are using WordPress to build their web presences right now. Alternatively, if you’re a startup that’s putting more emphasis on IT, then Drupal is a CMS that can help you create stunning web pages in a PHP format while having the option open for unlimited scalability as your company grows.
Knowing Where to Start: Form and Functionality
The two main issues to keep in mind when choosing a CMS are form and functionality. While a CMS such as WordPress will grant you access to a lot of functionality relatively easily, it’s not a platform known for creating excellent end-user experiences. On the other end of this argument, Drupal is capable of creating a tremendous user experience (at scale) but requires quite a bit more technical knowhow in order to operate successfully. In the end, choosing the right CMS comes down to the types of capabilities you require your website to meet. Are you selling one product to a consumer market that relies on buying niche quality items for a great price? If so, just like Casper, you might find that WordPress is a good place to start in terms of building a digital experience. Meanwhile if you operate a B2B e-learning business that relies on backend integration with a CRM platform such as Salesforce as well as a robust LMS (learning management system) to store and categorize your training videos, then Drupal is probably more of a sound move from a structural standpoint.
Closed Source vs. Open Source
It’s the age old question of whether to go the proprietary route, or to go the open road of open source. Let’s get a few key difference out of the way first. Platforms such as Kentico and Ektron are considered closed source because their platforms are like walled gardens: They have x amount of developers and architects on their payroll that work to build websites for clients and they don’t let outside developers use their code or integrate their plug-ins with other CMS’s.
Platforms such as Drupal, DNN, and WordPress are considered open source because there’s a vast community of developers that support each (Drupal alone has over 30,000 developers in its community.) Open source also relates to open source code, which means that these platforms make their code and extensions available to anyone who wants to use them. So if you’re a Drupal developer, you can integrate any number of Drupal’s plug-ins (such as their e-commerce platform) free of charge, or, you can easily integrate paid third-party platforms (such as Salesforce CRM) into your overall digital ecosystem.
Closed Source vs. Open Source
Closed source digital solutions, to an extent, are limited in their scalability (due to their inability to integrate with many third-party extensions), though they are typically ready to go out of the box — however, this perk is often offset by high licensing fees. On the other hand, open source digital solutions can be more easily tailored to fit your business’ needs as it grows, and carry with them no licensing fees — though the start-up time before your website goes live can sometimes take longer than a closed source solution.
What’s Scalable for You?
So how do you choose which is right for your company? While Sareen personally believes that open source solutions are more agile, and thus, better suited to keeping speed with your business’ future goals, a number of closed source solutions come with high remarks from their clients. It all comes down to what you want your web capabilities to be from the get-go, how much of a technical staff you plan to have on your payroll (if you want to develop your own site with an open source platform, for instance), and whether you’re willing to pay the licensing fees that come with a closed source solution.
Implementing the CMS: Planning
Whether you’re migrating from one CMS to another or implementing one for the first time, plenty of mistakes will be made. This is because part of implementing any new piece of software or technology into your workflow is a matter of testing, correcting and testing again before implementation. Still, here are a few things to think about to set your organization up for success:
Planning for Implementation: So you’ve chosen to either (a) go with a closed source CMS solution, (b) picked a third-party agency to develop your web presence via an open source solution, or (c) are deciding to build your own website using an open source CMS. Before you start, you need to begin planning for implementation by taking a “before and after approach.” This means that you’ve already asked yourself “What problem am I trying to solve?” “How much more agile is my business going to be once that problem is solved?” and “What is the projected timeline for implementing a new CMS?” In order to successfully plan for CMS implementation, you’ll also need to identify members of your team who will be in charge of implementing information structure (i.e., how the information within your website is organized) and who will be in charge of making sure that your CMS, once implemented, lives up to the goals you set out for it.
Implementing the CMS: Integration and Testing
Integration and Testing: Once the planning process is done, you’re not nearly out of the woods in terms of getting your CMS up and running. Once you and your team (or third-party provider/developer) have planned the implementation process, you’ll still need to actually bring your project into the CMS of your choosing. To do this, you’ll have to set up navigation menus for different web pages, create workflows for different processes (such as creating thank you pages that can be triggered when people sign up to be on your mailing list) and, perhaps most importantly, you’ll need to test everything. If you’re working with a closed source provider, this testing will be done by the third party of your choosing. If you choose an open source solution, however, the testing process will be much more transparent. Just make sure that every aspect of your new website is tested thoroughly before it goes live.
Implementing the CMS: Training
Training: One of the most important train wrecks to avoid in CMS implementation is making sure that your business’ end users — whoever they are — are fully versed in the backend capabilities that are mission critical to your website’s success. This could be as simple as training content writers on how to properly format blog posts or it could be as complicated as making sure your team is equipped to deal with data caching issues. If you’re working with a third-party vendor, they should have a training process in place to educate your team on the myriad functionalities that they’ll need to be up to snuff on. If your vendor doesn’t have a training plan in place, you’re probably choosing the wrong vendor.
Implementing the CMS: Migration
Migration: Finally, if you’re not creating a CMS from scratch, but are instead changing CMS providers, you’ll have other issues to contend with. The first will be to decide how you’ll migrate your data from one CMS to another. There are two theories of strategy here: the “big bang” approach and the “trickle” approach. The big bang approach requires that you shut down your systems all at once and focus all of your attention on data migration. However, most companies can’t afford to shut down operations completely for any amount of time. The other approach is to “trickle” your current site’s mission-critical data into the CMS of your choosing. Essentially, this means that you’ll be moving all of your relevant site data over piecemeal so that you can continue operations while migrating.
At the end of the day, implementing a new CMS into your business’ workflow is all about setting yourself up for success before you get carried away with choosing a provider/developer. There are plenty of great options to choose from in this regard, so make sure you do your research in terms of budget, ROI and vetting vendors you can trust.