Enterprise CMS: Best Approach

Originally posted by Troy Allen on CMSWire on Feb 3, 2011. 

Abstract: This article provides tips on how to decide which Enterprise CMS system is right for you. In addition, we will talk about how to make a decision that not only is tailored to the organizations needs but also cost effective.

Over the years, I’ve been involved in a large number of product analysis and vendor competitions with companies looking to purchase enterprise content management.  As a result, I’ve noticed a few trends in the decision process that companies undergo and have come to some realizations.  The processes are inefficient, time consuming, costly and don’t always produce a solution which addresses the actual needs of the companies’ objectives.

Costly Short-Cuts

Most organizations, for whatever reason, decide that they need an enterprise content management solution and put together a team to find one.  Their approach is usually broken down into the following steps:

  1. Investigate the market
  2. Create a list of functional requirements
  3. Participate in Product demonstrations
  4. Issue a Request For Information (RFI) or even a Request For Proposal (RFP)
  5. Create a short list of vendors and products for deeper review
  6. Award a solution
  • Investigate the market
    • Companies either do not put the effort into narrowing down all the potential vendors before moving on to the next steps, or they don’t have a clear understanding of what they problems they are trying to solve.
    • Companies don’t take into account all the criteria needed to define a list of potential vendors and products.
  • Create a list of functional requirements
    • Functional requirements are usually very basic and do not reflect current content practices within the organization.  For example:
      • Must provide Check-in/Check-out capabilities
      • Must provide a content viewer
      • Must provide search
      • Must provide workflow
    • Functional requirements generated by organizations looking for content management applications tend to leave out integration and infrastructure requirements as well.
  • Participant in Product demonstrations
    • Organizations often invite a large number of vendors to demo their products.  Unfortunately, little guidance is given to the vendors, so a “Show up and Throw up” demonstration takes place which does not address the real needs of the customer.
    • Initial demonstrations are typically “Canned” demonstrations.  They all look pretty and easy to use; some more so than others.  I once told a customer that I would not do a generic demonstration.  Doing so would be similar to doing a test drive in a car on a closed track.  You never get to see what the car would really do when it gets on the highway.
  • Issue a Request For Information or even a Request For Proposal
    • I haven’t met anyone in the past 15 years who actually likes to create a RFI or RFP and haven’t even met anyone who actually likes to fill one out.  Even though these are necessary evils, they are not always designed to reflect the business problems that companies are trying to address.
    • RFPs and RFIs are all too often distributed to too many vendors, usually the same vendors that the organization invited in for generic demonstrations.
  • Create a short list of vendors and products for deeper review
    • The criteria for selecting the vendors tends to be based off of the initial demonstrations and RFI/RFP responses.  While these should be the factors, incorrectly performing initial analysis and demonstrations can lead to organizations down-selecting to the wrong products and vendors for their specific business needs.
    • In most cases, a deeper review consists of a more in-depth demonstration of the product.  Most companies address specific use case requirements at this point, but even then, the vendors are given time to create a “canned” demo which doesn’t reflect the true level of effort required to meet certain criteria.
  • Award a solution — an unfortunate event happens at this point, a product is selected and a vendor is awarded a contract.  I say unfortunate because a broken process up to this point has led to a decision which will produce a broken solution or a working solution that far exceeds anyone’s budgets.

—-End of Part 1, please continue to Next Enterprise CMS: Best Approach Part 2