It was the worst-case scenario in a web content management system (Web CMS) implementation: Project abandoned.

"No project goes without at least a few bumps in the road," said Cathy McKnight, co-founder and vice president of consulting and operations at New York City-based Digital Clarity Group. "It provides you an opportunity to adjust the plan if need be. Just because you cast something down on paper doesn't mean you can't change ... or stop and reassess."

It's one lesson learned for the Web CMS implementation consultants at Digital Clarity Group. They teamed with Copenhagen, Denmark-based Sitecore, a Web CMS and customer experience management company, and interviewed companies that have gone through a Web CMS implementation. You can watch the session by clicking here.

Common Pitfalls

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Why do some projects stall -- or fail? In a Sitecore-sponsored webinar with CMSWire yesterday, Digital Clarity Group's consultants broke down three common pitfalls.

Concentrating too narrowly on features and functions. Most successful companies caught this problem early on, said Connie Moore, senior vice president of research at Digital Clarity Group.

"They went back and expanded on focusing more than literally just how the software should behave," she said. Web CMS implementation teams should recognize where their business is going over the next five years, what new customers they're attracting and what adjacent technologies they'll have to bring into the new CMS and integrate.

Conflicts between business and IT. This surfaces, Moore said, because business folks don't understand technical issues, and technical people don't understand issues such as content authoring or brand. "If you have a culture that doesn't support business/IT collaboration, you'd better watch out," Moore said.

Failure to have a single project manager. The lack of a clear, decision-making executive running the ship is the "mother of all pitfalls." It's really important to know who the project manager is, who the project team reports to, who makes the final decisions and how everyone is represented, Moore said. "Look at your culture to see if it's conducive to a strong projects methodology and getting things done quickly."

Let's get into the five lessons learned from the Web CMS selection trenches based on the Digital Clarity Group/Sitecore research:

1. Include Key Stakeholders


McKnight said organizations must build a cross-functional team of key stakeholders. It may seem obvious, she said, but not so much when she's seen three to four people in a room ready to implement a CMS.

"It's really easy to forget that content management is a technology that impacts the entire organization," McKnight said. "It's critical to pull in folks beyond the typical people -- all the way to the C-Suite to the new hire out of school. You need to mitigate risks and surprises by including all different insights and perspectives." The goal is to produce content for your customers, and customers are "everyone's responsibility."

2. Communicate Strategically

Do not leave any team members in the dark. All team members have to know "what's in it for me?," McKnight said. And project leaders must know the biases each team member brings. 

"This will help them understand the impact of the initiative ... and provide them with a broad overall perspective and a deeper understanding," McKnight added. "It helps keep them engaged. You want to make sure the team is still keen and ready to go throughout the process."

3. Cast a Wide Net

Be sure you know all the business requirements when identifying your Web CMS needs. Know what technologies will be a part of your Web CMS, and how you will integrate existing technologies. "This helps surface a lot of issues," Moore said, "and helps surface technologies that are important in and in parallel with your CMS solution."

4. Get Help

McKnight and Moore said do not go into a Web CMS implementation project without hiring a consultant for the selection process and a service provider for the implementation.

"These are universal lessons," Moore said. "I don't think we had any company that didn't use a consultant for the selection process. We did talk to one company that didn't use a service provider for implementation, and the whole project stopped and everyone quit."

A service provider knows a particular CMS well, and this lowers risk. "You would be in good company to use a service provider," said Moore, who noted 60 percent had done so in another research project by Digital Clarity Group.

Moore suggests baking into service-provider contracts language focusing on expected outcomes by certain times. Further, get a consultant involved early in the process so the right questions get asked. "Finding a partner that fits your company and fills some gaps from a skills set perspective," McKnight said. 

5. Follow 'Well-Understood' Process


Have a process -- and follow it.

"The key," McKnight said, "is to have a well thought-out process and stick to it. Make sure those involved understand the execution plan and how decisions are made, key milestone dates, as well as how CMS implementation impacts other projects implementation." 

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by Golf Resort Achental.