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A Fair Review of the Top Web CMS Platforms - 2018 Edition

Last year we published an article reviewing the top .NET Web CMS platforms, which seemed to resonate well with our readers so we decided to relaunch the article in 2018, but with some significant enhancements. The most noteworthy change is the inclusion of all platform technologies, not just the .NET crowd. Also, we have added a stronger partner implementation presence in the report, because let’s be honest… no one has a deeper knowledge base than those put in charge of deploying these complex IT software solutions.

What makes this web content management platform report a 'Fair Review'? Aside from being very streamlined and simple to digest in terms of how the information is conveyed, I believe we made the information understandable to readers whether they are novices or seasoned professionals. But most importantly, we compare systems that are in the same market space. What that means is this review focuses on mid-market WCM platforms, which can be an underserved space when mainstream content is normally geared towards small businesses offerings such as WordPress and Joomla! or enterprise offerings such as IBM, Oracle, Adobe, etc. Readers should not be comparing WordPress and Oracle against each other. It simply makes no sense on a budgetary or feature set scale.

“…this review focuses on mid-market WCM platforms, which can be an underserved market….”

As a launching off point, we begin by first discussing how to select a WCM solution before we dive into the vendor platform reviews. The content and videos below are more of a guide on what the evaluation points should be for consumers just entering into the sometimes daunting and confusing landscape of choosing a web content management system for their organization. There’s an overabundance of “how to select” articles, whitepapers and blog posts to choose from online, but we wanted to highlight a few things that may not be widely discussed or focused on enough in the process. After all, content management systems truly are the core of your eBusiness strategy so choosing the 'best-fit' solution for your organization, and more importantly, what will give you the best return on your IT software investment is key.

Click Here to Jump Directly to the Mid-Market WCM Platform Reviews

Determine Your Business Objectives

Don’t waste time watching too many software demos or researching all the vendor content available if you don’t first have the needs of your organization identified. A great way to do this is to be inclusive and open to the needs of all your stakeholders, however this can potentially lead to requirements overload, causing an organization to be paralyzed in moving forward. To avoid this, have the stakeholders, or teams within your organization document their workflow. Through this you could identify needs that are mirrored in each workflow, minimizing the final list of requirements and making it easier to prioritize.

Also, when evaluating the business needs, focus on what is needed now as well as in the future. The goal of every business is growth, so you have to decide, is the WCM system scalable, or would you prefer to graduate to a different, more advanced WCM system when you hit that next tipping point within your organization? Along those same lines, having a system with features you ‘can grow into’ can be a great motivator for overall business growth.

Consult with Your Stakeholders

Stakeholders should be defined by their roles and responsibilities versus just naming common departments like sales, marketing, human resources, etc. With that logic in mind, you’ll likely have a list of the roles for those who spend the most time living within the system day in and day out. For example; content creators, content publishers, content consumers, administrators and developers. They all have varying skillsets and needs, so all should be considered.

Also, it can be both a pro and a con to speak to all the stakeholders in one collective group, some may overshadow others and very important needs may not be heard. It’s best to consult with the groups individually but evaluate needs as a whole to weed out any overlap, conflicts or wrinkles between departments. Also, consider the digital appetite of each team, how much can be done without the assistance of IT at every stage. It’s important to factor that into the time cost of changes, updates or even the completion of daily, weekly or monthly tasks. 

What you have on hand in terms of resources is also important to determine which type of WCM system is best for your team, such as headless, open source, cloud, SaaS or an on-premise solution.

Narrowing Down Your List

A great place to begin with narrowing down your list of WCM vendors is of course budget, but it isn’t as easy as simply removing the higher priced software solutions from the table, as some of the lower priced systems may have hidden expenses not fully understood until the implementation stage. Understanding the cost of each system once you have factored in development and deployment as well as ongoing maintenance for the lifespan of your system is critical at this stage. The best piece of advice we can give on managing the post launch costs of a WCM system is to create a software maintenance savings account, where funds are allocated on a monthly or even weekly basis for when it’s time for annual software upgrades and quarterly system maintenance, so it’s not such a monetary shock to the CFO.

Another way you can filter down your list is evaluating which solution best supports your digital infrastructure, especially given the significant investment you most likely have already made. If your current infrastructure is primarily .NET and your IT staff are trained and proficient in .NET technology, then it’s logical to have .NET WCM solutions at the top of your list.

Geographical scope is another important criteria to consider and this is also where evaluation of the platform vendor as a brand and organization can also help narrow down your list. Even if the system hits all the right features and budgetary buttons, if you can’t receive proper support due to international time zone differences or language barriers, you might regret your decision in the end. Research the vendor’s office locations and make sure they can support your needs geographically, or at the very least, they have a certified and experienced integration partner in your region.

In addition, checkout their thought leadership, values and corporate culture. Also, carefully examine their product roadmap, making sure it aligns with your future needs. At this stage it’s also key to know how to leverage the varying types of research. What’s mentioned above is viewed as secondary research which ironically is what should be done first. Then, utilize the primary research in reaching out to speak with individuals from the organization, partner agencies, customers, etc.

Choosing the Right Integration Partner

Choosing an integration partner is one of the most important decisions you will make when selecting a new WCM system. Having the proper support of the right partner can make or break a WCM deployment project. A few of the criteria you need to consider from an integration partner aside from the obvious certifications and project deployment experience are as follows:

  • Does their workflow and methodologies align with your organization?
  • What is their communication and project management process?
  • Do they have other attributes that could compliment your business needs?

This is also a good time to consult with the agencies’ customers who have implemented a project similar to yours. Their insights are monumental in providing you with the keys to their successes and failures with that particular agency or WCM platform.

What’s Included in this Review

For the 2018 edition, the following points are still covered:

  • Company information
  • Market position
  • CEO and tenure
  • Latest software version, licensing types & base price
  • Features list
  • Pros and cons of platform
  • Differentiators

The new additions will be:

  • Integration partner information & commentary
  • Exclusive customer feedback & comments
  • Video interviews with a members of the leadership team
  • Outlook for the future of the organization and platform

Review of the Top Web CMS Platforms

Click on the logos below to link to the top Mid-Market platforms reviewed. 

Agility CMS
Progress Sitefinity
Kentico
Sitecore
Acquia
Episerver
Bloomreach
Crownpeak
e-Spirit
Dot Net Nuke

My Final Thoughts

All the vendors in this review are viable WCM options and the similarities between them are far greater than their differences. Regardless, the only sure-fire way to select a best-fit solution for your organization once you’ve narrowed down the platforms that match your technology needs, feature requirements, and budgetary concerns, is to request a personalized demo or even better, download a trial version and start exploring. I also recommend that you request a proof-of-concept (POC) from your shortlisted vendors, making sure your unique needs and concerns are fully met. It’s also important that you make sure you put as much debate and planning into selecting a best-fit implementation partner as you would in selecting the WCM system. A good integration team can work with sub-standard software, but hire an ineffective integrator and the software quickly becomes a non-factor in your ill-fated project.

I would also like to mention a few WCM platforms that did not make the review but are worth a look, such as Umbraco, CoreMedia and eZ Systems. Hopefully we can get them and a few other warranted platforms added in for the 2019 edition. For those that are looking for a review of eCommerce solutions, we will be launching A Fair Review of the Top eCommerce Platforms later this Fall.

The Next Step

If this whole process seems a little overwhelming, it’s because it certainly can be without a well thought-out strategic evaluation plan. The reason the process of evaluating and selecting the best-fit WCM solution is so important is because there is no switchover button at the mid-way point of an implementation. The results can be significant in lost time and money, so making sure you’re selecting the right solution is imperative.  

This is where we bring expert advice and total clarity into the picture. CMS-Connected’s WCM Analysis and Consulting Services is a 5-phased approach that consists of our dedicated advisors helping you identify, strategize and deploy a successful WCM integration project with deep thought leadership and a clear focus on not only the present, but future phases as well.

  1. Assessing your current website architecture and environment 
  2. Strategize and assisting with the requirements and planning 
  3. Provide expert advice and evaluation on a shortlist of best-fit platforms 
  4. Help prepare, write and submit a request for proposal to the vendors and implementation partners
  5. Review the feasibility of each vendors response, assuring they can deliver on the requirements, timeline and budget. 

For more information on maximizing your existing WCM system, or for assistance in selecting a new WCM solution, fill out the form below to have someone from CMSC connect with you to discuss your needs and requirements.  Let us help you prevent problems and maximize a return on investment by guiding you through all the project phases, from analysis and requirements, through to implementation, deployment, and support.

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CMS-Connected Media Corp Disclaimer
CMSC does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in this review, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors within this article. The CMSC review consists of the opinions of CMSC's analysts and consultants and should not be construed as statements of fact. CMSC disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this review, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.

About the Author

Gary Eisenstein

Gary Eisenstein

Gary has been working in the IT industry for over 24-years and is a Principle Analyst at CMS-Connected. If you would like to receive additional advice or consultation on selecting a “best-fit” Web Content Management solution, Gary can be reached at gary.eisenstein@cms-connected.com.