Your content is king. Yet, many enterprises find they are still searching for the best way to manage and optimize their content.
Whether you already have a (content management system) CMS provider or are shopping around for a new one, take the strategic and smart move to evaluate your options. A CMS investment should be evaluated because it is exactly that, an investment. So it should be analyzed carefully, evaluated often, and questioned deliberately. For any platform handling your content, you guard, protect, and question it for the safety of your organization’s data.
Questions you should ask to evaluate an enterprise CMS vendor
Ask these ten questions to evaluate a CMS vendor and determine if it’s the right solution that’s ready for your organization’s present and future scope.
1. What enterprise expertise and experience exists at the company?
Look for experience working with (or at) large enterprises across all of the vendor’s business functions, including leadership, sales, product engineering, and support organizations. Take notice if the vendor speaks your language and understands your challenges. The more experience the vendor has working with companies just like yours (same industry, similar size), the more they can relate to, anticipate, and meet your requirements throughout your customer journey.
2. What processes exist in support of key enterprise concerns?
Verify that the vendor has and follows documented security and business continuity policies and procedures. Ask about relevant certifications, such as SOC 2 or GDPR compliance. Confirm that the vendor has adequate insurance and operates with agreements (NDAs, MSAs, and the others) conforming to industry standards.
The vendor should be financially viable. While this may seem obvious for some, it’s wise to peel back the layers. For a VC-funded startup without a long history, dig a little deeper into how sustainable their business model is. Hypergrowth often comes at the expense of a high burn rate, which could mean they have a limited run-rate. Conversely, legacy vendors that have shifted attention to other products may not be collecting significant enough revenue from their CMS anymore, so vendor size isn’t a guarantee for CMS longevity.
3. What capabilities and features do you have that specifically address enterprise needs?
There should be a long and thoughtful list of features that support enterprise requirements and concerns, including needs around service reliability, scalability, security, auditing availability, collaboration, workflows, and global deployments. A CMS should appeal to both business and IT users. Ask about features that address the needs of your marketers, content managers, developers, and IT staff. Many CMS solutions favor one audience’s needs at the expense of another.
4. What support and service-level agreements are offered?
How many of the vendor’s customers (actual number or percentage) operate at each level? You don’t want to be the only mission-critical customer relying on and financing the vendor’s support infrastructure.
Understand what support levels and response times are offered. There are many layers and levels of support, find out which one is right for your organization. Some implement 24×7 support, via a self-service online portal, or interacting with a chatbot or by live support via a qualified, human subject matter expert.
5. What is the concrete, ongoing commitment to innovation?
If the CMS is merely one of many different products, ask how resources are prioritized across the product portfolio. Look for the total number of CMS improvements in the previous 12 months and the general cadence of feature releases.
Ask how large the core engineering team is. If there are only a handful of developers working on the product (which can happen with both large or small vendors), this may be an indicator for lackluster future product enhancements. Be proactive and ask to see future development plans and feature roadmaps.
6. What are the historical performance and uptime service?
Look for publicly available service status information and historical outage data. Evaluate architecture, features, and procedures that mitigate or eliminate the impact of a service outage to your sites and apps. In the event of a service issue, find out how it would be communicated.
7. Why do developers like and choose your product?
Look for a rich library of tools, (software development kits) SDKs, and thorough (ideally public) documentation. Ask about features that differentiate the CMS for technical users.
8. Why do content managers and marketers like and choose your product?
Ask about features that differentiate the CMS for business users and evaluate the editor experience.
9. Can we run a POC (proof of concept)?
The vendor should not only encourage you to try out their product before signing contracts, but they should also have a formal program to guide you through a quick and effective POC that validates (or adjusts) your assumptions about the CMS.
If the POC doesn’t demonstrate value in a matter of days, or if it seems complicated and requires specialist expertise, you might want to reconsider your buying decision. Consider the POC a preview of your actual project experience. If the CMS doesn’t seem amazing at a reduced project scope, things will only get worse with a full-scale deployment.
10. What is your customer base and can we get any peer references from them?
Dig a little deeper than just the company logos on the website, determine if these are non-strategic projects (for instance, a microsite) or if the CMS is powering a mission-critical digital property. Ask to speak to customers and take the time to check at least one to two peer references.
Try and find out where your use case falls on the scale of all of the vendors’ customers. You don’t want to be the largest or most complex deployment or be the first company for a major new product option.
Got any questions or suggestions you would want to add to this list? Share them in the comments.
Matthew Baier is COO and CMO of Contentstack.
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