Building a new website, Part 2: The Technology Selection

In our last post, we outlined why we believe you should approach building a new website differently – by designing and prototyping the site you want before you choose the technology. This prototype should involve input from all your key stakeholders, reflect your business requirements and be designed to capture the essence of your product or brand story. Once you have it, here are the steps you should take to make the right WCM selection.

1. Appoint a decision maker

Assuming you assembled the right team during the prototyping phase (Product Owner, CMO, Business Analyst, System Architect, UX Lead, Technical Lead, Content Lead, etc.), it’s a good idea to name one person who is ultimately responsible and accountable for leading the process and facilitating a final selection.

2. Conduct a thorough content inventory

Make sure you have a complete inventory of your existing site content and what sections (if any) you plan to migrate to the new WCM. Your legacy site content is a lot like your wardrobe from college, and it might not be worth inheriting the technical debt to preserve dated materials. Our team has developed a tool to automate this process, which we find invaluable to help avoid last-minute surprises later in the project.

3. Finalize detailed business requirements

To complete a quantitative scoring of the WCM platforms, you must develop detailed business requirements for your new site. These requirements will combine user stories and business rules, and will define the must-haves for the future system. For each requirement, rank it “Must Have” or “Nice to Have.” Your potential WCM platforms will be evaluated by their ability to meet these requirements. Also, now would be a good time to start thinking about governance and mapping technical solutions for hosting – as these may also impact your platform selection.

4. Do your research

Start by reviewing current 3rd party research materials from established authorities like Gartner, Real Story Group and CMS Wire to get an overview of the market. Visit vendors’ websites, download their materials, and learn about their products anonymously at first. Be aware that many vendors will want an email in exchange for white papers and research, so you may want to set up a generic address like cms-search@example.com so you don’t get swamped by sales calls.

5. Make a short list

Review the research and vendor materials you’ve assembled and start working toward a short list of WCM platforms. You should talk to a product’s current users, developers and system owners and learn how they feel about the platform. Start getting a feel for pricing models and potential implementation partners. You don’t want to go ahead with a project of this magnitude without the right professional services team. Make sure you’re buying what the vendors are selling, and sniff out the wrong ones to make it easier to find the right fit.

6. Evaluate your short list against the business requirements

Now that you have a short list, it’s time for the finals. This is when you will coordinate demos, hold review sessions with system architects, and evaluate the short list against the business requirements. Develop a quantitative method, then go through each requirement and score the software’s ability to meet it. If you can’t evaluate a particular requirement, ask your vendor’s sales engineer and development team. You can also inquire with current customers or rely on 3rd party evaluation.

7. Have a bake off

At this point you want to see the software in action with a customized demo that solves a particular requirement or user story in the context of your prototype. Invite the top two or three vendors in the running. This will give you hands-on experience with the platform and an opportunity to see exactly what you are buying. Make sure you give each team enough time to present and answer questions; you don’t want to have your session cut short. Also, this is a good time to get to know the team and check the chemistry.

Buying a WCM solution can be a painful process, like finding a new dental surgeon. You’ll only know if you made the right call after the impacted molar has been extracted. But if you approach the selection strategically rather than just technically, with utmost regard for your site’s end users, you’ll greatly increase your odds of success.

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Kurt Roberts is Chief Creative Technologist at RP3 Agency. He loves experimenting with new technologies and techniques and is always open to finding newer, better ways to engage people.

Jim Lansbury is Founder, Chief Creative Officer at RP3 Agency. He likes to think and write about ideas that harness new technology to forge deeper connections between brands and consumers.

The Building Opportunity blog showcases RP3 Agency's ongoing exploration of new ideas, new technologies, and new experiences that propel businesses forward. Don't miss it.