Back with more advice from Gilbane SF! In case Seth Gottlieb’s talk on how to select a CMS yesterday didn’t leave you feeling brave enough to take on the sea of solutions, we have another option: Let someone else pick it for you.

Today’s onstage tag team for the timid consisted of Tony White, Lead Analyst, Web Content Management, Gilbane Group, and Scott Liewehr, Strategy Practice Lead, Onesta. White began the presentation by explaining in detail his own personal process for matching vendors with clients, and Liewehr held up the end with a discussion about defining needs before solutions, rather than vice versa -- something many of us are guilty of.

From Needs to RFP

According to White, the springboard into a perfect vendor-customer match is defining a customer’s needs and turning them into an RFP. But not before defining what is incomplete, or factually wrong about the options.

“I find the misunderstandings (euphemistically) between what the vendor says they have to offer, and what is actually available. Then I recommend the best products for the client, which usually consists of 3 or 4 options,” says White. “After narrowing down the options I create scenarios in which each vendor I suggest would be best. This way, customers don’t feel like they’re being backed into a corner.”

What You’re Forgetting

“There’s a lot of talk about how it’s not good to submit an RFP to a vendor with the feature functionalities listed line by line. I disagree. It’s more informative to have detailed scorings,” explained White.

A detail fiend and RFP expert, White knows exactly what people most often overlook when thinking of CMS solutions. A few examples:

  • Usability: Without hesitating, White labeled usability as the number one overlooked aspect. “A lot of times clients have the tendency not to do a POC [Proof of Concept] when they should,” he says. “Vendors are very willing to give clients a trial. Usability is essential because if you have an application that business users don’t want to use, they will resist it. You get too much resistance, and the implementation is going to fail.”
  • Staff: White explains that companies also tend not to think of the staff they already have on board as part of the system.
  • Underestimation: Specifically, the amount of time it’s going to take to implement a system. White says that though most vendors advertise six months tops, it often takes much longer than that.

A  related note that may or may not bake your noodle was brought up by an audience member who asked, "Are these clients even ready for CMS?” Here is where moderator Andrew Wilcox, CM Pros & Founder, EverAge Consulting, dove in and announced how this particular question served as an excellent segue into Liewehr's presentation.

A Path from Solutions to Needs

Liewehr began his presentation by stating: “Often, the reality of the situation is that we identify the solutions before the problem.” He went on to say that this is understandable, and we agree. When solutions are coming at us as fast and as furious as they have been, it's pretty easy to get caught up in the excitement of it all.

Of course, a technologist's technique, which Liewehr candidly described as "throwing a bunch of crap up against a wall and seeing what sticks" is fine and dandy for a technologist. But for users who aren't as keen on embracing the flavor of the month, every month? Different story.

To illustrate, Liewehr tossed up a slide that stated 80% of wikis fail (according to CIO Magazine). “I think what we’re finding is that what works out on the Web does not necessarily translate into our organization or customer base, which is a significantly smaller sample base," he explained. "It's a classic case of ready, fire, aim."

We Are What We Are--And That's OK

At the end of the day, Leiwehr claims Popeye said it best: "I yam what I yam." Basically, this means that technology isn't going to change human nature because people are what they are. But Liewehr says it will definitely amplify it. His three suggestions for ways to act under these circumstances:

  1. Plow ahead: Don’t listen to what anyone is saying about anything and do what you want to do.
  2. Stop: Quit because everything you thought you knew is wrong. 
  3. Pause: Take a look around! Take the time to learn about your audience and understand their degree of tech savvy. Learn about which tools serve what, and pin point certain problems, solutions, scenarios to help the process along. Nobody ever said being prepared was a bad thing. 

Though Liewehr didn't say so, we're going to go out on a limb and assume he's hoping you'll all go with option 3. His closing note: "Web 2.0 is fantastic, but let’s walk before we run."