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Content Management Systems: You Definitely Don’t Want to be in This 40%

Frustrated WomanThis year I’ve interviewed more than forty companies about their customer experience management (CEM) strategies and how content management systems (CMS) fit into the CEM technology mix. A truism has surfaced that remains constant no matter how many organizations I interview—roughly 35-40% of the CMS selection projects fail. That is an astounding number and it would give me pause (or heartburn) if I were leading a newly launched CMS selection project.

Why do these projects fail?  And what defines failure?

Projects that fail sometimes completely stop before completion or go through one or more restarts before everyone starts working together effectively.  Another failure is if a large minority of stakeholders disagree with the team’s selection so that the organization eventually revisits the decision within several months to a couple of years later. The worst failure I’ve heard of was when the marketing and IT organizations in a state government agency were at war with one another to the point that everyone on both “sides” of the project team quit and went to other employers.  The organization then hobbled on with contractors.

After so many interviews, I’ve heard it all.  But if I had to summarize why selection projects fail, here are some of the biggest themes:

  • Unresolved organizational conflict – it is amazing how dysfunctional some groups become when doing battle against each other.  Conflict is rarely over technical issues, but rather political influence, budgets, power and a history of built up animosity.  Often the groups facing off are business teams versus IT over the vendor or requirements gathering. IT often advocates a favored vendor or product—say Microsoft Sharepoint—while the business may want a small, but risky vendor that it believes has all the right features. Additionally, IT often pushes a list of technical feature/functions while the business pushes for more strategic needs.
  • Failure to involve all the stakeholders – if the CMS system is to support a large part of the organization (and not just marketing, for example) it is hard to solicit inputs from all the stakeholders.  But whether intentionally or through oversight, not involving everyone means the selection team misses the benefit of their insights and these stakeholders may withhold crucial buy-in.  The biggest risk is that omitting a group of stakeholders can create organizational conflict (see the first bullet again.)
  • Tactical instead of strategic thinking – inexperienced selection teams can easily fall into a pattern of looking at the minutiae of feature/functions rather than the much more important big picture.  By telescoping back, teams can look at strategic options and directions impacting the project.  These options could range from planned mergers and acquisitions, or relocations, to new products being launched over the next couple of years, or new international markets.  These types of strategic issues should set the direction for the CMS selection project.

We’ve surfaced many more reasons why CMS selection projects fail, so I recommend reading “Five Crucial Lessons Learned in Content Management System Selections,” for more information.

In it you’ll learn how to stay out of the dreaded 40%.  Specifically, you’ll find a more in-depth analysis of these lessons learned (so that you can avoid selection failures):

Lesson 1: Build a cross-functional CMS team of key stakeholders.
Lesson 2: Communicate strategically when making the business case.
Lesson 3: Cast a wide net when identifying CMS and business requirements.
Lesson 4: Use a consultant for the selection process, and a service provider for the implementation.
Lesson 5: Follow a well-understood, widely communicated, agreed upon process for selecting vendors.

Learn more

Download report: Five Crucial Lessons Learned in Content Management System Selections


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