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How to Budget for an Enterprise CMS

A crucial part of any project is the money involved. This is certainly true for an enterprise Content Management System which can amount to quite a hefty sum. By understanding the total fees associated with such a project means fewer unsavory financial surprises will come your way. It also means, after having calculated your final cost, the project can be signed off by senior management and ready to be put into action.

This post addresses the costs of a CMS you may not necessarily expect, but definitely add up. With an accurate budgeting plan in place there’s no reason why this project will not be worth its upfront investment.

“The platform has literally paid for itself and then more. Since the initial platform upfront investment, the savings have been realized in less than a year.”


Calculate your ROI

A CMS is an investment and therefore should guarantee you returns. So it makes sense that  your first consideration should be to work out how much budget could be justified for this project, by calculating the return on investment.

If you plan to execute a project on a smaller scale, say a brochureware website, the total costs will also be smaller, but so will your returns.

In comparison, a full-on digital transformation that integrates various systems, stores data that can be accessed internally or externally through means of APIs, and geared towards omnichannel, requires a higher budget. In non-technical speak, this could mean streamlining and cutting costs on customer service, managing multiple websites on one platform with 1:1 personalized content for each visitor. However, through this optimization, the transformation also demonstrates a lot more potential to gain revenue.

To help get you on the right track for this step, we've created a guide on How to Calculate ROI for a CMS Project.

After estimating your returns, you can have a sense of how much budget would be justified, appropriate to the project's scale. Now we'll get into how this budget will need to be split up and some money-saving considerations.

You can skip to specific sections here:
License Cost
Annual Fees
Replatforming Cost
Developer and Editor Training
Infrastructure Costs
Professional Services
The Cost of Time

  license costs for a cms  License Cost

Probably the most obvious, as well as the most advertised cost by vendors, the CMS license contracts usually last around 3-4 years.

The way this cost is calculated depends on your CMS vendor. The price could be based on how many user accounts you require, the number of websites you want to manage, and whether you plan to incorporate any additional features.

To save costs, it may be worth considering, rather than running multiple websites, apps, and other content on various different CMSs, to combine them on one platform. This tactic saves money on license fees and infrastructure, while making your content significantly more manageable and retrievable.

cms annual fees  Annual Fees

In addition to license costs, it’s usual for a software vendor to charge an annual fee that will cover upgrades, troubleshooting, maintenance, bug fixes and a certain amount of new version releases. This fee might also fund access to documentation and the user communities available.

  Replatforming Cost

Nowadays, implementing a new CMS commonly includes taking existing content from an old CMS and migrating it to a more modern tech stack, otherwise known as a “lift and shift”. Content migration normally comes at an additional cost and is calculated using the number of developer hours needed to complete the task. 

The cheapest and easiest way would be to start from scratch. However, this method is generally unthinkable for many organizations who have spent years collecting valuable content and data and collating it in one system.

An alternative shortcut is to be very selective with the content that actually needs to be migrated, making replatforming quicker and more cost efficient, which makes it an optimal time to do some spring cleaning of your content.

For more on CMS implementation, check out our guide How to Implement a CMS - Fast.

cms user training  Developer and Editor Training

User training is, in general, strongly advised by CMS vendors to get your business and tech users up to speed fast and understand the most effective ways of using the software. 

This user training can range from a one-off afternoon on-site training session to a virtual training program carried out over multiple weeks. There is often a range of programs to consider from fundamentals training to more advanced sessions covering topics like REST APIs.

infrastructure costs for a cms  Infrastructure Costs

The process of implementing a new CMS includes finding a server to run it on and a team to manage this infrastructure. 

If the CMS you chose is Platform as a Service (PaaS), as in cloud-based, all infrastructure costs are taken care of by the vendor. 

Without PaaS, as part of your budgeting plan you should factor in the cost of the people required to administrate the platform, the server cost, as well as the energy needed to run it.

professional services from a cms vendor  Professional Services

These services will either come from the vendor or the vendor’s solution partner and are strongly advised.

As part of professional services, you might receive an on-site kick off session and a quality assurance such as design, implementation and infrastructure reviews. The services may also include performance tuning workshops, technical consulting and service delivery management.

After the initial phases of the project, the vendor or solution partner usually offers product modification and customization as part of professional services. These resources help to ensure the digital experience your CMS delivers is unique and fits into your vision.

the cost of time for a cms  The Cost of Time

The quicker a replatforming of the initial setup of a CMS is completed, the less time your team will have to spend away from their usual responsibilities (and the less their enthusiasm for the project with wane).

Further along the project, certain people will have to be responsible for maintaining and modifying the system.

To budget for this cost, work out how many hours or days your team will have to dedicate to this project in order to estimate how it will impact their everyday projects and tasks.

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