Do Not Forget to Cover These Topics When Selecting Your ECM Vendor

So you’ve gone out to tender, you have some impressive RFP responses and you’re now looking to whittle the larger list down to a select few. What should you be considering that might not have been asked or mentioned previously?

I’ve written many RFP responses over the years. I’ve also spend some considerable time involved in the planning and delivery of projects. I’ve been on the winning and losing ends of deals and I’ve seen successful projects and some not so. There are some general topics that stand true after a decade in this business. I’d like to some of those out so that you are better prepared to make the correct decision when it comes to deciding on your new ECM/CMS vendor.

Consider Developer and Partner Community Strength

You might be favoring one vendor because of an impressive demonstration and/or RFP response.

In my opinion going with any new vendor means a lot of work ahead – training, planning, migrations, development, testing, delivery and maintenance. It’s almost always good advice to involve the vendor themselves in the development of your sites. They know their software better than anyone and it gives your team time to shadow them during the implementation.

Don’t get false hope that you can roll out the infrastructure and site development all by yourself. The bigger ECM platforms are complex and you’ll get the best bang for your buck going with the CMS vendor themselves or with one of their partners.

Don’t expect to hit the ground running, it’s takes considerable time to be developer proficient with a new CMS. Heck, it takes years for new starters at the vendor to get fully up to speed.

After the site has been developed it will probably make sense to have your internal team manage it going forward. That’s perfectly understandable but consider that every company has staff turnover. You might unexpectedly‎ find yourself having to reach out to the vendor or a partner for help. Let’s hope they have a big enough professional services team and/or partner base.

A strong partner and developer community is key to your ongoing success. Get a feel for how many partners each vendor has in your country. Partners like employees come and go and it’s important to find a vendor that has numerous active and vested partners in your region.

Sometimes going with the younger vendor is not the right decision. Consider if they already have some big wins in your region. If they are willing to put you in contact with existing clients then take the opportunity and give them a call. Some vendors might be established in one region but not in another. Try to ascertain if they’re dipping their feet into the water or if they’ve already established in your region.

Be cautious if you can’t find much community generated, developer specific material that pertains to the vendor.

Don’t Base Your Decision Purely on the Demonstration

You might have gone to the extent of giving your short list of vendors a number of demonstrable scenarios. Be open-minded about what you’re see.

Pre-Sales Consultants are generally capable of cobbling something together that broadly meets your scenarios. It’s just that – it’s cobbled together hastily. That Consultant has to interpret your scenarios as best as they can and as a result they might miss the mark. That’s not to say that vendor can’t deliver exactly what you need. Remember it’s a CMS, it should allow the flexibility for anything to be integrated or built.

Instead of paying too much attention to the craftiness of the demonstration be sure to get a feel for the following:

  • Make sure the Content Management UI is extensible. Also make a point of understanding to what extent it is extensible. I’ve seen some vendors who can just add a custom page to the UI. You should be able to introduce new buttons, drop downs, context menus options, pull in information from external systems,  etc.
  • Make sure the Content Management UI is web-based. Content Editor satisfaction during the running operation of your site. You’ll want the UI to be snappy if your editors are global.
  • Ask about the development language skills needed to extend the Content Management UI vs. the delivery of the front end website. You’ll find some vendors are more flexible than others. For example they might offer both C# and Java development API’s.
  • Scalability – Front end delivery performance should be of paramount importance. Make sure the vendor has thought hard about scalability.
  • Cloud capabilities – You might find that hosting this software becomes a burden for you in the long run. Vendors release bugs fixes and hotfix rollups in addition to the occasional major version release. Managing the deployment of these hotfixes and releases can be cumbersome especially if you have multiple servers. If your vendor is worth their salt they should have some cloud offerings for either PAAS or SAAS. Knowing that you don’t have to think about installation, updates and upgrades can be a big win. Also with the popularity of services such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) your vendor might already be able to automate your installation, saving you a lot of time and headache.
  • Ask about the vendor’s other symbiotic products and modules – You might find the vendor just does CMS in which case you might have to find separate vendors to handle content translation, social media monitoring and analysis, mobile delivery, campaign management or DAM requirements. Yes there might be better point solutions out there for each but knowing that the vendor has these products and has good integrations between its products often trumps the lost time, effort and expense to go elsewhere.

Peter Joles

With 14 years of experience in the IT Sector, Peter Joles is an expert in Enterprise Content Management. He has and continues to work with numerous large international clients. Peter has been involved in numerous IT projects that have taken him to the shores of Europe, Australia, South Africa and the United States. Born in South Africa, Peter moved and lived in the UK for 11 years where he worked supporting, delivering and selling Content Management to a variety of large enterprise customers. In 2010 Peter and his family moved to the US where he is currently a Technical Account Manager for SDL.

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