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Published on October 25th, 2006 | by Rahel Bailie


The best CMS: a consultant’s perspective

The question gets asked in many ways, but is often distilled down to: What is the best CMS? This can a dangerous question, particularly if
someone were to try to answer it.

That particular initial question is a bit like asking, “Which vehicle should I buy: a dump truck or a mini-van?” If someone were to ask you that question, you would undoubtedly answer, “Well, what are you going to use the vehicle for, and then I’ll give you my opinion.” Likewise, A CMS is merely a vehicle for transporting content in very specific, and sometimes complex ways. And each CMS has functionality that is suitable for some tasks, but not for others. The initial question, then, should be answered with another question: “What do you need the system to do?”

You’ll know the answer to that question if you’ve used any standard project methodology, because your quest will have started with a
requirements analysis. Choosing a CMS without first employing the right methodology is like creating user support material without
doing audience analysis, or like shopping for shoes without knowing the wearer’s foot size.

If, after you’ve analyzed the business requirements, the processes, and the content you need to manage, then you’re ready to start looking at technologies. At that point, you’ll be able to short list which systems might be the best match for your organization, because you’ll have a comprehensive set of requirements that you’ve circulated to the vendors most likely to fit the bill.

Even then, it’s really hard just to compare features. When you go down the features list with a handful of vendors, you’ll find that the systems all have the same core functions. At that point, the choice becomes less about what the systems do and more about how they do it. CMS Watch’s Tony Byrne
makes the case
quite eloquently. The system that suits your organization’s particular business needs that will matter most in the end.

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About the Author

Rahel Anne Bailie is a synthesizer of content strategy, requirements analysis, information architecture, and content management to increase the ROI of content. She has consulted for clients in a range of industries, and on several continents, whose aim is to better leverage their content as business assets. Founder of Intentional Design, she is now the Chief Knowledge Officer of London-based Scroll. She is a Fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, she has worked in the content business for over two decades. She is co-author of Content Strategy: Connecting the dots between business, brand, and benefits, and co-editor of The Language of Content Strategy, and is working on her third content strategy book,

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