Content management systems were initially developed to help companies manage their digital presence. Early systems were hailed as another tool for empowering marketing efforts. Although it is true that a CMS provided a number of benefits that marketers would have lacked without the system, ECMS has evolved far beyond a mere repository for online content.
The ECMS evolution has been driven by a combination of factors.
- Changes in how content is being accessed: Almost one-third of all website traffic comes from mobile devices. Many older CMS solutions are incapable of supporting content that must be optimized for viewing on a wide variety of devices and multiple platforms.
- Changes in consumer expectations: Today's consumers expect -- and sometimes demand -- access to fully integrated content. They have begun seeking true omni-channel experiences, and they want to be engaged in a meaningful manner.
- Changes in the business environment: Business has become increasingly competitive in recent years. Employees need to be more productive, and one way of accomplishing this is with an ECMS. Collaborations can be facilitated, access to necessary data can be offered and, with the right system, employees can use their own devices so that tasks can be completed on the devices they are most familiar with using.
- Changes in the use of analytics: The collection and analysis of data was once rather limited in scope. However, this is the era of "big data." Collecting it is one thing -- using it in anything approaching a meaningful manner is another issue altogether. ECMS has evolved to allow users to view data in ways that provide meaningful analytics.
What this means is that upgrading older content management systems has become a necessity for companies that want to gain or maintain a competitive edge. Unfortunately, many businesses are not sure what to include in their request for proposal for a new ECMS. The best results are obtained by providing potential vendors with detailed requirements upfront. The following tips may prove helpful in creating an RFP for an ECMS.
Define the Pain Points
Examine all aspects of the enterprise to determine what is and is not working, where workflow is being delayed, what complaints users have made and what analytics are readily accessible. This section does not need to be excessively long, but it will help both you and your potential vendors identify specific aspects that need to be addressed with a new ECMS.
Identify Specific Features Needed
One mistake businesses often make is to think of ECMS as just a tool to manage content. A modern ECMS can do much more. For example:
- Do you want to provide customers with an engaging, personalized experience? A new ECMS can give you a great deal of data that you can use, such as which ads the customer did not click on, the frequency with which he visits your site and how long he stays, the most recently purchased items and the number of times he has contacted your customer service. Based on this info, you can use ECMS to customize your site specifically for each visitor. For example, suppose your system recognizes that five months ago, Jane bought a bassinette, infant car seat and crib. On this visit, perhaps you might like to offer a discount on disposable diapers, baby clothes or strollers. In another 12 or 18 months, the site can change to recommend age-appropriate toys.
- Do you need to integrate existing data or programs? Modern ECMS solutions can make many stand-alone applications obsolete. However, there may be circumstances that do not allow you to "pull the plug" on legacy applications. If the new ECMS must work with legacy apps, potential vendors need to know this. On the other hand, if you want to convert everything to a new ECMS, the vendor will need information on the type and amount of data that must be converted.
- How many users do you expect, and what types of users are anticipated? In other words, you need to know whether you are building an ECMS for internal use by 100 employees, a customer-facing app for potentially millions of customers or a combination of both.
- Do you need the vendor to train employees on-site? Before you make this decision, there are two things you should consider. First, adequate training can help increase acceptance of any new software. Second, when employees do not embrace a new technology, they will find ways to work around it. Employees can be very creative in finding ways to avoid using a new program -- and such workarounds usually defeat the purpose of a quality ECMS.
- What is your budget? There are many ECMS solutions available and many features that can be included. If your budget does not permit having every feature you would like included, prioritize the most important features. Make sure your RFP states that you might want to add more features in the future so that vendors can ensure additional features will be compatible.
The most important thing you should consider when creating a new ECMS RFP is to think of ECMS as an integrated solution for many different challenges. It might be helpful to review the key differences between CMS and ECMS. Do not allow yourself to think of ECMS as nothing more than a library of online content. Think about what you really need to empower employees and give customers a consistent, engaging experience. It is perfectly fine to "dream big" -- vendors will tell you if you are asking for features beyond the scope of ECMS. In most cases, however, the tendency is to not "dream big enough."