It is easy to see why most companies struggle with the CMS selection process. The market is flooded with hundreds of products and there does not appear to be a "safe", market-leading choice.

Ultimately, you want to select a content management system that supports your requirements and that your users will find usable.  But evaluating CMS software for functionality and usability takes time.  You don't want to waste your time getting intimate with the wrong products, yet battling your way to a reasonable short list is easier said than done. There are some shortcuts, here's how to get started.

Don't Let the High Stakes Paralyze You

The large amount of time and money involved in implementing a CMS and high visibility of most content management initiatives makes the risk of selecting the wrong one downright intimidating.

The result is that companies often find themselves stagnating in an analysis-paralysis cycle -- frustrated by their lack of progress but afraid to move forward. Stakeholders start to lose patience re-hashing requirements and wasting their time sitting through demos without knowing what they are looking at.

In my consulting work, it is not uncommon for a new client engage me after more than two failed selection attempts. This article will help you get your CMS selection project off to a good start by focusing on how to build a short list of products that you can then actively evaluate.

Prioritize Vision before Detail

In the absence of any real strategy for selecting a CMS, the tendency is to stick with safe activities like collecting requirements. It feels inclusive to ask people what they want and it doesn't cost anything. And if collecting requirements is a good thing. Collecting more requirements must be an even better thing right? Wrong.

There are diminishing returns in collecting requirements. After a certain point requirements start to get esoteric or minuscule and cost of managing and prioritizing them outweighs their value. Eventually, you will have a specification for a system that is impossible to build because some of the requirements contradict each other. Furthermore, a CMS is usually part of a larger initiative that will alter how you work and invalidate many of your requirements.

Stop collecting requirements after you have enough information to rule out a significant segment of the marketplace. The most powerful filters will address the architecture of the system and characteristics of the product ecosystem. I call these Leading Requirements.

Use the following steps to construct your list of leading requirements: