When it comes to selecting a content management system, does a vendor's industry-specific experience matter? As readers of our Web CMS evaluations know, we have tended to see web publishing as a more "horizontal" concern, where the key variables revolve around the size and type of website(s) you manage.
But beyond technical differentiations, a vendor's ability to thrive within the environment of a particular industry vertical does sometimes matter. The higher education space is one such sector where the ability to navigate that particular environment can become as important as the technical solution.
Colleges and universities are generally characterized by:
- Many departments, operating independently, with mountains of unstructured content that they almost never need to share with other departments
- Some modest structured content that does span departments, like faculty bios, course descriptions, and campus events
- A central communications department tasked with maintaining school-wide brand consistency
- Processes, content types, and skill-sets that vary greatly from department to department
- High turnover among content contributors, as students often get tasked with updating content
- Smallish IT service departments tasked with maintaining many other critical systems including identity, security, course, admissions, as well as the other typical back-office functions like accounting
- A somewhat higher-than-average level of politicking, albeit with a cultural bias towards consensus-based decision-making (read: high ratio of discussion to action)
The good news for higher education buyers is that there are several companies in the Web CMS space who excel at working within this sort of environment. To be sure, this is partly due to those vendors developing sales and marketing acumen in higher education. But in some measure those vendors can also claim relevant implementation competency as well.
In each of our vendor and product evaluations we are careful to address the areas where we see the products fitting best, both technically and experientially. If you are in the higher education space, you should already know that it pays to do your homework...