global cms
POSTED : July 9, 2015
BY : Brian Payne

Does your CMS fit your global aspirations? Searching for the perfect web content management system to power an individual website can be a time-consuming and arduous task that requires weeding through hundreds of vendors, navigating confusing terminology, and evaluating a laundry list of features, many of which you may never use. Toss a multitude of websites and languages into the mix and the effort can quickly become overwhelming.

A traditional CMS selection process includes putting together a list of typical features, watching generic demos, and evaluating vendors based on who “checks the most boxes.” This process is fundamentally flawed and all too often results in poor platform selections and lackluster implementations. There’s a better approach—one that takes a holistic look at how content management fits into your organization and aligns technology to key business, marketing, and content strategies.

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize

The key to choosing the right CMS for your organization’s global websites is to identify and prioritize requirements that are unique to your needs and serve to differentiate the platforms being evaluated. Every CMS has a WYSIWYG editor. Publishing workflows, multilingual content, and multisite management are common features. It’s the details that distinguish one system from the next. Focused evaluation is possible only if you prioritize.

Don’t lead with technology

Your business goals and global content strategy should inform your CMS selection process—not the other way around. Get a game plan in place for how you’ll balance local relevance with global consistency, prioritize markets and countries into tiers, and manage content production and translation workflow. Use this to help you evaluate platforms, get to a shortlist, and make a final selection.

Get to a shortlist

Start with a broad view that spans a range of fit factors from technical considerations to vendor intangibles such as partner ecosystem and product roadmap. Narrow in on your shortlist by prioritizing selection criteria. Key considerations for rolling a out a large-scale, global content platform include:

  • Multilingual support – Support for multiple languages, including right-to-left languages, is a given. Look deeper and discern how streamlined language management really is for your specific usage scenarios. This guide to website translation from Lionbridge can help you plan for content across multiple languages and locales.
  • Multisite management – While many CMS platforms support managing multiple sites on a single, centrally managed instance, the ability to establish relationships between websites and various versions of content can vary greatly.
  • Translation workflow – A CMS’s ability to integrate with your translation management system (TMS) is often overlooked. The ability to effectively automate content export and import is the single biggest driver in reducing cycle times.
  • Mobile devices – Focus on a CMS’s ability to effectively manage structured content separate from how it’s presented. This is a foundational requirement for responsive websites. Mobile device detection can be helpful but often isn’t necessary.
  • Personalization – Localization and personalization strategies are increasingly intertwined. The ability to effectively drive personalized content at scale is likely the area where the vendors on your shortlist will vary the most.

Technology vs. implementation

Clearly selecting the right technology matters, especially for deployments with complex requirements and diverse stakeholder considerations. Many CMS platforms simply will not support your global publishing needs. However, keep in mind that success with content management will ultimately depend on the upfront planning and implementation of the CMS product selected—not the product itself.

Technology vs. process

Organizations’ operational models and processes for content management and translation typically impact budget and cycle times more than the CMS itself—positively and negatively. An investment in implementing a new CMS will be a unique opportunity to retool operational models and processes that would otherwise be difficult or impervious to change. Recognizing this opportunity can be just as important as choosing the right CMS.

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