6 ways to low-risk CMS implementation

To pick the right content management system (CMS), you need

  • to balance competing priorities,
  • address current and future objectives,
  • justify the investment with a solid business case and a clear path to value. It comes with the territory that your decision will be closely watched and criticized on all sides.

However, it might turn out that there's an even bumpier section of the road that leads to your new solution – the process of implementation, writes Jason St-Cyr, Technical Evangelist at Sitecore in his blog post.

Keep in mind that a content management system is only a set of tools and functions, a mere platform until the implementation turns it into a fully operational system. Often it's best to find an implementation partner to help you guide this process.

Ongoing risk mitigation that actively seeks out issues as you progress should be an integral part of the implementation. Don’t wait for things to go wrong before you do something about them.

In practice, there are many ways for this kind of risk identification.

Here are six that likely to work for you:

1. Get hands-on early – Pilot different aspects of the CMS user experience for the editorial team by rolling out content authoring functions or testing approval workflows.

2. Seeing is believing – Migrate a selection of content assets to the new system to get a feel for how they are stored, accessed and interlinked. This is particularly useful early on, for both the authors and the implementation team. Nothing compares to having real content in the CMS as it’s being implemented.

3. Trial the governance – Set up a range of dummy accounts with different permissions to get comfortable with user administration and content security rules. Early trials will help discussions on who can edit what.

4. Ask probing questions – Conduct regular interviews with different, cross-functional stakeholders – for example, someone from customer experience management and someone from IT – to foresee integration challenges with other systems.

5. See the whole flow – Run end-to-end experiments for individual scenarios, like publishing a blog from the first draft through to multichannel distribution. It will allow you to see all parts of the system in play.

6. Leverage experience – If you’re working with an implementation partner, bring their technical team members together with your in-house team to understand how out-of-the-box connectors and APIs meet your needs or learn about best practices for avoiding common implementation issues.

These are just a few examples of effective risk mitigation practices. In general, it is always better to be proactive than to risk nasty surprises and costly reversals later on in the project. They should be an ongoing process throughout the implementation to help constant realigning and make sure you are on target.

Ignoring risks during the CMS implementation phase doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll run into immediate problems – unfortunately, it is often worse than that. Problems might arise much later that could’ve been dealt with easily early on, but at this point, they'll give you a serious headache. So de-risking your CMS implementation isn’t just about crossing the finish line – it’s about ensuring the ongoing health and value of your digital marketing foundation.

While choosing a new content management system can be a complicated and challenging task, it might be the easier half of the whole story. Actually, it's the implementation where things can really go rough.

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