Choosing your second content management solution or third…

With the rapid growth of CMS spending, here's some advice to keep in mind when you're in the market for the next version says agencyq's Kurt Roberts.

Commentary -These days, more than a few businesses are considering their second or third CMS purchase, as the ones they bought five years ago no longer adequately support their online presence or organizational mission. With the rapid growth of CMS spending, we felt the need to provide advice to keep in mind when you're in the market for the next iteration of your content management solution:

1. The world has changed:
The CMS market is considerably more mature than it was five years ago, so it's unlikely that a major player has a "killer feature" these days. CMS vendors all tend to copy each other, and industry consolidation has led to many of the more “niche" CMS platforms getting gobbled up by larger entities. That means that while it doesn't hurt to ask questions like “Supports Personalization?" in your requirements matrix, you're going to have to dig much deeper to see if a particular CMS suits your needs.

2. Content has a different lifecycle than technology:
The point of installing a new CMS is to facilitate change for the next five to 10 years -- not to simply change once. Your first priority is to get all of your content into the CMS, organize it and set it up to work in a way that you can live with. As cool as those social networking features are now, they won't be the most essential part of your site in 18 months; however your organization's message will be just as important as ever.

3. Websites are an experience, not an event:
If you're going to use the CMS you're buying today for the next decade, it means you'll go through at least five redesign cycles between now and the year 2020. It's important to find a flexible solution and to plan for change over the long term. Choosing a technology to support the design is a dangerous route to take. Make sure that the system you’re buying has a proven implementation track record - and that the sites built on it are ones you can see the value in, and that offer a rich, dynamic user experience.

4. Past performance matters...:
...but not as much as future potential. You obviously want to buy from a reputable company that has been around for awhile (or has been buying up other systems for a while and supporting them successfully); however you don't want to go with a technology where "proven" really means "outdated." Look at that past performance with a few key questions in mind: How well did the system adapt to what was new at the time? How quickly does the software adopt new technologies? And what’s the balance of features (like a slick new WYSIWYG editor or AJAX-based commenting) versus infrastructure (like upgrading to the latest .NET framework?

5. It’s a buyer's market:
Because so many organizations already have a CMS and are considering replatforming rather than upgrading, the major players are fighting for your business. Be sure to take advantage of this, and get demonstrations of several systems before you decide on one. A CMS is a big purchase,one you're going to have to live with for some time. Make sure that you use the sales process to your advantage, and as an opportunity to get comfortable with it before you sign on the dotted line.

Kurt Roberts is vice president of Strategy for agencyQ.