Sex, Lies, and CMS Vendors
By Tony Byrne at 2006-03-20 19:51:00 |
Despite an 11+ year history in the marketplace, CMS technology remains poorly understood by many prospective buyers. In the meantime, the field of available suppliers has never been broader or noisier. Most CMS salespeople I know are good educators, but they also have quotas to meet. Under these circumstances, vendors will sometimes short-cut important discussions about functionality and pricing with simple -- but not always completely truthful -- answers.
So here's a list of 10 common myths you might hear during the sales process. As my grandmother used to say, forewarned is forearmed.
"Our interface will sell itself" (This is the sex part)
CMS salespeople often overestimate the usability of their product interfaces. You too might get excited by snazzy contribution wizards and sexy Word conversion screens -- only to have your editors exclaim, "what the hell is that?" What's easy for one contributor can be difficult for the next. Experienced CMS salespeople explain how easily their interfaces can be modified, because typically their customers have to do just that.
"You only need XY thousand to get started"
Salespeople everywhere try to lure prospects with low entry-level pricetags, and CMS salespeople are no different. If a product costs $25k per CPU, the salesperson might quote a single CPU server that will only limp along in production. I've seen major vendors like Interwoven claim that a major enterprise can get started with Web content management for as little as $125k. Technically that may be true, but to finish the job properly, you always have to pay the piper. Set realistic 2-year budgets commensurate with the size of your project.
"You can recoup your software expenses by re-assigning the web team"
Sorry, but you'll still need the web team to run the CMS itself. To be sure, they should be able to work more efficiently, and if you previously outsourced HTML conversion you could save some hard costs here. There's a business case for Web content management, but it rarely falls on the cost side of the ledger.
"Our open-source solution means you'll get off cheap" &
commercial solution is better supported than open-source alternatives"
Two sides of the same fib. Over time, licensing fees will constitute an increasingly smaller fraction of your total cost of ownership. The really big expenses lie in customization and integration, and here, some open-source tools will cost you more than their commercial equivalents.
At the same time, you'll find that support for a typical commercial CMS compares poorly against the kind of community help you can receive from from a large, global, open-source project. Key word there is "large."
"Access to the source code protects you in an uncertain marketplace"
Source-code escrow or open-source licensing is nice, but having to muck with source code is faint solace if your vendor expires. The CMS marketplace has been remarkably stable, but in uncertain times, the best thing to count on is a large, vibrant user community -- something only a minority of commercial products and open-soruce projects can boast.
"No requirements? No problem! Our business analysts can get you started"
If you haven't thought through your requirements you have no business expecting a successful CMS implementation. Sure, CMS vendors often carry good (sometimes very good) analysts on staff, but they tend to be oriented towards getting the solution "stood up" quickly, rather than making sure you're managing content optimally. Also, a vendor's analyst will never tell you what could be an unpleasant but important truth: that a CMS won't solve your real problems.
"Most enterprises deploy our solution within 4-6 weeks"
Most enterprises deploy a full-blown CMS over the course of a year. Sure, you can implement smaller projects and departmental pilots over the course of say, 3-4 months. In fact, extreme programming teaches us the value of breaking up large IT projects into bite-sized pieces, so do set milestones every 4-6 weeks. Just count on a lot of them.
"Our migration scripts will take care of your existing content"
Garbage in, garbage out. The best way to ease the pain of migration is to start cleaning up your content now.
"Our product is better than Vignette, for a fraction of the cost"
Why does every small CMS vendor compare themselves to Vignette? Fact is, there are tiers in the marketplace. Some products -- like Vignette -- are geared to tackle big, complex problems. It's true that buyers frequently overspend on CMS products, including Vignette, when they could have gotten away with something simpler and cheaper. But small CMS vendors sometimes underestimate how hard it is to automate web publishing across a large enterprise; you become their tutor at your own risk.
"We're the only product with..."
The CMS marketplace worldwide holds more than 2000 vendors. Innovations are quickly copied. As CMS Report readers know, Web content management solutions distinguish themselves less on what they offer, and more on how they work and the specific use-cases they target.
Of course, the core problem with the CMS selections is not fast-talking salespeople, but naive buyers. Get smart about your particular needs and the marketplace. Then you'll be ready for whatever whoppers come your way during the sales process.