Choosing the right content management system


I see around the web, guides on how to select an open source Content Management System, though important they usually miss the mark for companies looking to evaluate the CMS vendors from both ends of the trench.
So what happens when you want to do a comparison between ANY content management systems?
Here is my take, based on my experience, on how to evaluate a CMS regardless of its vendoré─˘s nature.
I will start with the commons i find on the web, most of the recommendations i have seen tend to split the evaluation into these topics when it comes to open source

  • Web application platform
  • Software license
  • Stability and development activity
  • User community
  • Documentation and source code
  • Web standards, accessibility
  • Suitability and usability

These topics are great! What they are missing is fully disclosing the hidden costs for both the open source and the commercial implementation, but do a decent job.
So what is missing from the list? Allot, Platform is nice but is not specific enough, licences are nice but again doné─˘t cover some of the hidden costs like annual support, stability is a vague factor and developer community is usually tightly bound to the next item Community, and both doné─˘t represent the parallel commercial vendors Professional Services.
Bashing this list brings us no where. Calm down yuval! ahhh thaté─˘s better.
Leté─˘s start from the most important factor in an organization, the Human.
Humans make the decision of which CMS answer their needs, wants and aspirations.
I see the process divided into realms representing the people involved in the choice.
There are 4 “teams” involved in the Content Management system, some directly and some indirectly, all influence the decision over which CMS will be chosen

  • Direct
    • Development Team
    • Business Users Team
  • Indirect
    • Financial Team
    • Management Team

Requirements for a Content Management System don’t match these teams precisely and are in 5 dimensions

  • Technical Dimension
  • Support Dimension
  • Features Dimension
  • Implementation Dimension
  • Cost Dimension

These dimensions are not separate and all represent the same product thus you get some overlap between them.
Each team is more dominate in one of the Dimension and has more say over it, so natureé─˘s laws direct us in giving them the rule over the dimension they are dominant in.
This is not true to every company and usually the division over the decision criteriaé─˘s and dimensions is left to the project sponsor due to cost.
So what is the more optimal way of going through the process of analysis of a content management system?
The steps i see are

  • Listing Requirements by each team
  • Sorting the requirements to each Dimension
  • Assessing the proposed products – There are many options to tackle this, let each team do a Dimension or create a team for all dimensions or let an individual do the job
  • Meet with teams to finalize the decision

My thoughts about assessing the products is to take each team and assign them the dimension they are good at, this will enable them to be more thorough, the team can be a single representative.
After the teams asses the Dimensions for each product the time comes to collect the assessments and get a score for each product.
Here is a sample of the decision supporting parameters separated to each dimension.
In each of these Dimensions there are decision support factors that need to be rated/graded with a mark in a predefined scale i.e. 1-10 or similar.

  • Technical dimension
    • Core language
    • implementation languages
    • Application servers
    • Operating systems
    • Supported databases
    • Rendering of content
    • Interfaces to external systems like LDAP/SOA bus
    • SLA levels per CPU
      • Peak Users
      • Peak Page Views
  • Support Dimension
    • Community/Activity rate in the product
    • Clients
      • World Spread
      • Size
      • Since when
      • Versions
    • Documentation Availability and Quality
    • Community Collaboration tools (is it forums/wikis or more)
    • Support product team and availability
  • Features Dimension
    • Content Modelling
    • Workflow
    • Users And Groups
      • Ability to subdivide content between groups
      • Groups based capabilities
    • Media Handling capabilities
    • DRM
    • Publishing
    • Versioning
    • Personalization
      • Of content (group based, same page displays different content)
      • Of presentation (iGoogle)
    • Reporting and statistics
    • Search
      • In the CMS
      • In the delivery stages
    • Content Staging
    • Scalability
    • Caching and tuning features
    • Perceived External Attacks Security of the product
  • Implementation Dimension
    • Initial Estimation of effort (in man days)
    • Implementation Planning
    • How many features need customization
    • Availability of the Skilled Crew in the market
      • Hiring/Converting existing crew
      • Service Providers/Agencies
    • Availability of integration system internally
  • Cost Dimension
    • Licensing
    • Support
    • Implementation
    • Future Development
    • Training
    • Infrastructure
    • Contracts
    • Trial Periods

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