Every CMS implementation is different, yet every one is prone to the most common mistakes. I scratch the surface with just 10 of them (my little Xmas present for you ;) plus tips on how to avoid simple failures as well as fiascoes of epic proportions.

Shoes, CMSs and Fiascoes

One of my favorite movie quotes is from Elizabethtown by Drew Baylor:

There's a difference between a failure and a fiasco. A failure is merely the absence of success. Any fool can achieve failure. But a fiasco, a fiasco is a disaster of epic proportions. A fiasco is a folk tale told to others to make other people feel more alive because it didn’t happen to them.

It's like Drew was in the middle of a CMS implementation. Truth be told, he was reflecting on a gone awry launch of a new shoe.

So, here's my list of top 10 thoughts that can lead you to a CMS implementation fiasco (in no specific order).

1. Let's Do a Big Bang Approach

Yes, as a project owner you need to prove ROI as quickly as possible and with as much bang for the buck as possible to woo your executive sponsors. I talked about the fact that there's no one nice, scientific formula to calculate ROI (despite much talk about it in the industry). Regardless, money was invested and we need to show the return. That's one of the reasons companies choose to do a "big bang bada boom" CMS implementation.

Do not buy or implement a CMS for ROI. Implement it for measurable goals. Buy a CMS for value.

An alternative to this would be to follow the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) methodology and carry out incremental, separate, departmental or LOB implementations instead. Smaller bites might be easier to swallow.

Don't underestimate the impact of (the usually messy) content migration. Ask the right questions.

Choosing the right tool is winning only half of the battle; preparation, process and expectation setting is another half of it. Really get to know your content, and do an inventory of what gets to be migrated and what should stay where it is. Have a plan for content to be retired. And again -- in smaller chunks.

Do not over-architect, yet design for scalable growth, approach the Web or Enterprise CMS beast one step at a time, unless you have millions and millions of [insert currency here] to throw at your CMS implementation. Then, we're all jealous.

2. Go Live by Date X, or Die

Unscoped projects, scope creep, wrong estimates, a rush to get to the market... We gotta go live by date x. Stop that nuisance and set realistic expectations. Start small. See #1 above.

If you're an integrator or a vendor consultant, you can feel pressure from clients to agree to shorter timelines. Don't budge for the sake of all parties. Set proper scopes, recheck them, stick to your timelines.

Managing change will always be part of this process, but skipping the code freeze period to launch on date x is rarely a good idea.

3. Let's Find a Cheaper Implementation Partner

Outsourcing a CMS implementation to India, Peru and Ukraine doesn’t surprise us anymore. The labor is cheaper, yes. The food served during site visits is more exotic. While offshoring has its benefits, think about expertise levels before making this decision.

If dealing with an open source CMS, look into various subscription packages that are often offered by a vendor. If working with a proprietary CMS, it might make sense to engage some of their own SMEs, or look into involving a partner/ Systems Integrator. Choose carefully. Check references. Consider firing your SI as soon as you see signs of trouble, before millions go down the drain.

Finally, check with independent analyst firms to get outside perspective and recommendations.

4. IT: "But It Was Me Who Used to Tinker with Pages."

When any change is introduced, including a piece of new software, people will resist it. Especially, when organizations moving from IT-centric to end-user-centric ways of content management. If it was developers who used to carry out the majority of website updates, they will be upset when this power is taken away from them. It is not unusual to see a change from feeling indispensable to workplace hostility.

Change management is one of your answers.

They will refuse, reject and put in roadblocks. Your job is to communicate well that the train is about to leave the station and they have tickets to join the ride. More communication will be needed when they find excuses of forgotten luggage and traffic delays on the way to the train station. Find an amicable yet effective way to deal with this.

Organizational evolution with the implementation of a new CMS should appeal to employees as something exciting that will grow them professionally. Easier said than done, I know.

Break down departmental silos to move the entire company forward. Involve all departments and functions, including IT and business. Users are more likely to embrace the organizational change of introducing a new CMS if they’re close to development cycles and have the ability to give input and get their hands dirty with the new system.

5. Business: "I Don't Understand How to Do My Job with a New CMS."

This is what happens when a new tool is introduced and the normal flows start to change and people start to get more and more confused about what their jobs used to be and what they’re now.

We are all humans. For some of us it is harder to accept change than for others. Not only IT, but business side as well can fall in this category. To avoid organizational resistance to change and to clarify expectations you need C-level buy-in and continued executive support.

If you used to do SEO in your pre-CMS life, you may or may not continue to do the same thing. If your developers were usually optimizing content for search engines, it may now be your turn to develop that knowledge.

Don’t be afraid of changing roles. If you are assigned to go to a training, just go. Face it, the worst that can happen is you learn something new.

The worst part is when there’s very little to absolutely no direction from the top as to how your job, your department and you organization will be changing due to the new software implementation.

If you’re in the C-suite, this step will be your most common faux pas area. Talk to you people and explain to them how the new Web CMS or Enterprise CMS will affect their 9-5 lives. Get an internal or external CMS evangelist, do lunch & learns, community preview demonstrations.

Don't take the organizational introduction to a new piece of software lightly. The majority of your users are not "technical" enough to grasp the ideas and concepts of a CMS. Even though, Web CMS and Enterprise CMS vendors are selling "easy to use" and "perfect for non-technical users."

Bob and Jane don't want to know all the ins and outs of content management. They just want to do their jobs and go home. Ease them in with a CMS 101 kind of session. Don't forget that organizational user adoption will depend on the initial design of the implementation.

CMS implementations usually involve heavy participation from business owners and content contributors. They help define requirements, test functionality and learn from developers and consultants as to how to use the system. Involve your users earlier rather than later.

Learning Opportunities

Executive buy-in and leadership should shine through not just on paper, not in one single .ppt preso, but continuously throughout the implementation and your CMS daily usage.

6. We Don't Have Enough People to Support the CMS

…But we'll figure it out. Even if it takes cutting around the corners, going against best practices, opening up the security model to everyone in the organization, having too many or too few workflows.

There are times when CMS implementations happen at organizations that are not used to having holistic content management practices. The web operations layer in those organizations, therefore, is probably a lot thinner than at more mature web organizations.

If you don't have enough (and right) people to fill in the web operations holes, hire them. Developers are likely not the best staff to do your SEO. Content strategists, information architects, the user experience team are all vital parts to a successful web content management exercise. They have to be present in the overall CM process either internally or externally.

If taxonomy or web analytics is a new field for your organization, hire a specialist. You don't go to a butcher to change tires, why would you put taxonomy design and management on your developers' plate?

A CMS tool is not a replacement for human value that different people in your organization bring.

Buying a CMS is a big investment, implementing it is even bigger. Not staffing up your organization to use the new CMS successfully is a route to the failure.

7. Let's Save Money on Training

So, after all the procurement and deployment costs, you go like "Whoa! That's a lot of money!" And 'tis the time to cut corners and not add to the already over-bloated budget. But do not skip training.

With many Web CMS and Enterprise CMS products, the learning curve can be quite steep. Unless you plan to rely on vendors and SIs for the entire life of your implementation, develop in-house knowledge through training.

CMSs are no longer about updating and publishing pages, the tools grew to be much more complex. Different sets of skills are required for different roles in the organization. Empower your employees with knowledge if you want to be successful.

Worst case - you learn something new.

Engage internal and/or external evangelists to communicate CMS benefits and can help grow software adoption in the company.

8. Not Celebrating Success

You move fast, you deliver, you drastically change people’s 9-5 lives, you hold people accountable. Most importantly, you should take time to celebrate your success (or failure) and learn from mistakes and accomplishments. Don't rush to the next phase or sprint when you should celebrate… Reward your people for the effort they've put in.

You’d want to give your core project team a sense of ownership by toasting to their success and rewarding them for a job well done. Involve larger parts of your org as you go through the implementation process and move onto the next phases. Engage larger groups through a celebration of shared success to promote user adoption. Nothing hinders success of a CMS implementation as slow user adoption rates.

9. Now That Iit's Live, We Can Forget About It

It’s the “deploy and forget it” syndrome we are talking about here. A CMS is often an evergreen project. By its nature, the tool should be used for updates and growth. Whatever you're practicing -- Customer Experience Management or Web Engagement Management -- implementing the CMS is only the beginning to get you to your ultimate goal.

With continuous use, frequent training, updated documentation,development of new features and enhancements, actively maintaining your website you get the most out of your investment.

10. This CMS Sucks, Let's Get a New One

So, you’re midst development and build cycles when you realize that the Web CMS or Enterprise CMS you chose cannot accomplish the half of what you were asking for. Or the implementation drags on for years, yet no accomplished goals are palatable. Or, after investing millions into an implementation and using it for several years, you realize it’s not gonna cut it.

The ecosystem is sometimes broken, and we may see some finger-pointing from customer to vendor to integrator to a consultant. The CMS products are not perfect, but they are what they are. Get the best out of that.

Typically, a CMS is built for a specific purpose, if it cannot handle transactional applications or ERP management, don't force that. Integrate instead.

Some CMS pundits assert that companies change the CMS every 2-3 years, but not to end up at a broken glass end, do your homework, research media and analyst coverage, check out social media and social networking chatter, do a pilot (or a POC), don't buy for WEM (Web Engagement Management) alone.

There is no best content management system. But there is probably a good CMS for what you’re trying to do. You need to do your homework and find the right fit. It's not something you put on a wishlist for Santa to take care of.