Agile Content Management Selection

Joe Hilger, Principal, Enterprise Knowledge, LLC
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Joe Hilger, Principal, Enterprise Knowledge, LLC

Joe Hilger, Principal, Enterprise Knowledge, LLC

In my years of consulting for large government organizations and global companies, I’ve seen many struggle to select a Content Management System (CMS) that truly works for them. There are a number of reasons behind these struggles, including:

• A crowded market of over 1000 content management products with similar features;
• The uniqueness with which individuals manage content and information;
• A lack of expertise in content management at most organizations; and
• The challenges in getting content management adoption.

Agile concepts help address many of these issues. Enterprise Knowledge (EK) has developed an agile approach to content management selection. This approach can be implemented in a series of sprints or in a serial process for non-agile organizations. For the purpose of this article, I’ve divided the work into sprints so that Agile organizations can quickly adopt this process when they are selecting their next CMS.

Sprint 0: Discovery

We use Facilitated workshops and interviews to gather information about the current system and needs for a new CMS. A typical CMS covers a wide range of capabilities, so we typically divide the workshops into 4-5 sessions. The image below shows a common CMS capability map that we use to organize our workshop sessions.

  ‚ÄčAgile approach can be implemented in a series of sprints or in a serial process for non-agile organizations  

During these workshops and interviews we gather user stories and scenarios (a series of steps required to accomplish a common or important task). These stories and scenarios are important building blocks that drive the rest of the process.

Sprint 1: Vendor Preparation

Once the stories and scenarios are collected, you can begin the process of preparing for vendor selection. Stories should be categorized into differentiating vs. non-differentiating stories. Differentiating stories are stories that require features not found in every CMS. These differentiating stories are critical to creating a short list of vendors. Use the differentiating stories to select 3-4 vendors that best meet your needs. This can be done by looking at vendor product descriptions, interviewing vendors, working with integrators, and reviewing industry publications.

The CMS scenarios are used to differentiate between your 3-4 short listed vendors. CMS tools have matured to the point where they can “check the box” for most requirements. Scenarios allow vendors to see how easy it is to handle critical multi-step tasks. Identify 3-5 scenarios from your workshops that you will ask the vendors to build prototypes on. Send these scenarios to your preferred vendors and ask them to work with your IT department to develop prototypes that respond to your CMS scenarios.

Sprint 2-5: Vendor Prototypes

Sprints 2-5 are designated to working with each of the short listed vendors on your CMS scenarios. Working prototypes are the best way to truly evaluate a CMS. The IT team gets to see how easy it is to customize and maintain the tool; while the business users see how easy it is to accomplish common multi-step tasks in the tool. The vendors should have demo servers so there is no reason the development cannot begin right away. Make sure that the project team includes a business user and an IT person so that they can provide feedback on the experience.

Sprint 6: Product Selection

At the end of this process you should be able to confidently select the CMS that best meets your needs. Your business users will have hands on experience with the product and IT will have an understanding of how difficult it is to maintain/customize. Depending on the speed of your organization and the number of vendors you choose to evaluate, this process can be completed in as few as 3-4 weeks. Larger organizations can complete this process in 8-10 weeks.

My experience shows that organizations following this process not only move through the CMS selection and evaluation process faster, they also end up selecting a tool that more closely meets their process, design, and technical needs. In turn, this “fit” results in greater overall adoption, content contribution, and overall return on investment (ROI).

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