Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The CMS Debate - How to Counsel Your Clients - Part 1

At one point or another, every interactive Project Manager will be asked if implementing a Content Management System (CMS) is a good idea. For those who aren't familiar with the terminology, a CMS is just what the name suggests - an application that allows the content of a website (including images and sometimes even navigation) to be added, updated or removed using an interface which doesn't usually require any HTML or technical knowledge. The common objective of implementing a CMS is generally self-sufficiency on the client's end, as well as decreased external maintenance costs. The response to the question regarding a CMS has to carefully weigh many factors. Two primary considerations are broken out below. This entry will be continued with more considerations tomorrow.

Budget: A simple approach to determining whether a CMS is a viable solution is cost. Typically, a CMS implementation will represent a greater up-front cost, which should be off-set by reduced external maintenance costs long-term. It's important to note that although the client may save on vendor fees, the internal time which will now be allocated to website updates still represents an investment, and potentially a drain on resources as well.

Speed to launch: The CMS market is saturated with product options. Each product will vary, and an exhaustive (and often daunting) audit will be required to identify the appropriate solution. Factors such as up-front and ongoing costs, technology constraints, usability, product support and even language capabilities all need to be considered. Narrowing your search to meet the criteria can take many weeks, and securing stakeholder approval on a final decision before purchase needs to be factored into your timeline as well. In addition to the CMS selection process, there may also be a learning curve for the implementation team. Your technical resources, and perhaps even your designers, will need to learn how to develop within the CMS prior to commencing production. When all is said and done, a client's expected timeline may not allow for such a lengthy process leading up to development.

That's enough for now - more on the CMS debate tomorrow...

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