Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Demonstrating CMS Value

I have a reputation in the content management industry for being an open source advocate. Commercial CMS vendors that do not know me well sometimes balk when they hear that I am involved in a product selection. They are afraid that I am going to steer my client toward an open source solution. It is true that I know a lot about the open source options. I have written reports on open source content management systems and directed a content management practice at a consulting company specializing in open source software. However, people that know me well know that I don't favor software based on licensing model. I focus on the appropriateness and quality of the technology as well as the viability and compatibility of the supplier. I have worked for systems integration partners of CMS vendors and I even did a tour of duty in the professional services organization of CMS Vendor. In fact, 8 of my last 10 product selections resulted in commercial CMS purchases — and I think that these clients all made good choices based on their particular requirements and infrastructure.

Perhaps a greater fear from some vendors is that my client is going to be price sensitive. I think this is a valid point but not because there may be an open source solution on the short list. The short lists that I provide my clients typically contain products from different price points. I can do this because I take the time to learn about the products and what they are good at. I see roughly 50 product demos a year and I regularly talk to people who implement the technology. CMS selection consultants that build short-lists from third party analyst research tend to pick from a single pricing tier based on the client's budget. When this happens, value is factored out of the decision-making equation and I think that is a problem.

When competing against lower price products, the onus is on the vendor to justify the additional cost of its solution by demonstrating additional value. I think that is a fair request and the better upper tier vendors succeed in answering that request. To prove value, a vendor needs to have great software that efficiently solves hard problems. The best product for the a particular set of requirements is not always the most expensive one. When it is, the vendor of that product needs to invest time to understand and translate features into the valuable solution. It is not enough to point to an analyst chart to justify a price position. A vendor needs to show why the product is a better choice than potentially less expensive alternatives.