Wednesday, April 15, 2009

How to procure a new CMS

In my previous post, I railed against the PQQ for upping the cost of software procurement and for favouring the larger suppliers/vendors. Well, how should a company or local govt buy their new CMS (content management system)? The following is based upon Kaushik's recommendations (p.104-7) in Web Analytics - an hour a day, & my own experience.
  1. Appoint a project manager (PM) and make them responsible for the purchasing decision. This PM should also be the person who is primarily responsible for managing the company/council website. They must have the support of the CIO, Council Leader, etc.
  2. The PM should appoint a small committee (2-3) of people who will use the CMS on a daily basis. One member should be technically competent if possible.
  3. Write an outline technical requirements document.
  4. Based on the expertise and experience of the committee members, select 3-4 systems that you believe will meet your outline requirements. At least one of these systems should be open source.
  5. Set up test environments and install each system - spend several months getting to know each system, testing them, extending them, implementing a test solution (a special form or content type, etc).
  6. When you have selected the tool that best fits the requirements, is easiest to use and has the potential to grow/keep pace with your organisation, then write a PQQ for a company to implement your chosen CMS. Don't write the PQQ in a way that favours the larger suppliers - a small/local company may provide a better, more tailored service.
  7. Inform the business that you have chosen a tool and supplier for the new CMS.
At each point in the above process you might say you don't have the expertise in-house - to setup test environments, for example. Well, appoint a company that can do that for you - setting up a server to host a CMS should only take a day. If this is the situation, you should probably go for a hosted solution. If you don't have in-house expertise, buy it in. Money spent up front now will save even more money down stream later.

The benefits of the above approach are:
  1. That you get to play with software before purchasing. Too often you only learn of the problems after you've spent loads of money & its then too late to change supplier or system.
  2. By making a named individual (the PM) responsible for the purchasing decision, you encourage a sense of ownership and responsibility for the outcome. There is less room for back covering and a greater focus on delivering benefit for the business.
  3. You limit the potential for scope creep. The inclusive approach only leads to occasional (or never) users asking for complex tweaks that dramatically increase costs for limited business benefit. You also prevent your project from being hijacked by another department working to another agenda - by keeping control your destiny remains in your own hands.
  4. Finally, the process is quicker and cheaper and the outcome should be more certain.
  5. You might also learn something about the qualities that your staff have or lack.
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