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Seven Lessons Learned for Successful Content Management System Implementations

Selecting the right CMS by using known best practices is a great way to start your organization’s journey on the road to success. But it’s only half the battle; next comes the hard part, which is to complete a successful CMS implementation using the lessons learned from organizations that have already gone through the process.  Companies can easily spend upwards of $1 million to buy and implement a new CMS, so getting it right is paramount. Plus, the purchase starts a commitment to live with the new solution for five to seven years, based on the average CMS life span. With this much at stake, it’s imperative for organizations to make the right choices throughout the project, including by leveraging the experiences of those who have successfully completed their projects.

To surface the key best practices for successful CMS implementations, we interviewed CMOs, COOs, CIOs, marketing executives, brand managers, IT managers, CMS managers, and other business and IT professionals at more than a dozen organizations across a range of sizes, industry sectors and geographic regions. These firms represent an array of government agencies and industries, from global hospitality and consumer packaged goods companies, to medical research and a medical device manufacturer, to insurance and banking, as well as state/provincial government agencies in the US and Canada. We also interviewed large non-profits, large universities, a high-tech startup and a large consulting firm in Europe. We asked the participants these questions:

• Which groups were involved in your CMS implementation team?
• Was a consultant or integrator (or both) also involved?
• How did you get user and management buy-in as you rolled out the solution?
• How long did the implementation process take?
• How did you create content for the new site(s)?
• Did you use a centralized, decentralized or distributed model for the implementation?
• Who manages the website branding and look and feel?
• How did you handle globalization and localization?
• Did you involve organizational change management practitioners?
• Do you consider the project a success? If not, why not?
• Does the entire organization see it as an overall success? If not, why not?
• What would you do differently if you could do it over again?
• What would you recommend to others starting down this path?

Our primary research surfaced seven crucial lessons for successful CMS implementations, gleaned from organizations that have completed their journey. Not all the projects went according to plan, and several organizations had to re-start certain aspects of their efforts after stumbling down a few blind alleys. In other words, these lessons learned have been burnished by hard work and insights gained through good and bad experiences. The seven CMS implementation best practices are:

• Lesson 1: Create a collaborative, motivated, multi-disciplinary team
• Lesson 2: Develop an implementation plan up front and follow it
• Lesson 3: Use a distributed approach for large-scale deployments
• Lesson 4: Use digital agencies; creating content is difficult
• Lesson 5: Know that regulatory environments are twice as complex
• Lesson 6: Leverage organizational change management practices
• Lesson 7: Use a service provider, but don’t expect a guarantee based solely on that

For more details and insights into each of these best practices, see our thought leadership report on Seven Crucial Lessons Learned in Content Management System Implementations.

(If you are still in the process of selecting a CMS vendor, see our report on Five Crucial Lessons Learned in Content Management System Selections, drawn from the same case studies as the implementation report.)

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