There was a time, in the not-so-distant past, when the average company’s website consisted of the same information someone could find in any business directory. Who would have thought that the company website would turn out to be one of the most important tools for improving business knowledge and efficiencies?
For many years, organizations relied heavily on digital agencies to build their web products and make ongoing changes to the website as needed. For even the smallest edits or updates, a business would need to contact its service provider to make the adjustments. Now, users have more flexibility to maintain their infrastructure internally, coupled with the ability to integrate multiple business units.
But even though it’s a central component to any business, a website can only be as effective as its foundation allows it to be. That foundation is the content management system (CMS).
What is a content management system?
The CMS is a technology that has seen rapid evolution in the past few years. A CMS is essentially a framework that allows users who are not technical experts to edit a website without knowing how to use HyperText Markup Language (HTML) or cascading style sheets (CSS). Over the years, CMS became a catch-all term for any structure that runs browser-based websites and apps. The CMS you choose for your business will dictate just how far your website can go. Despite their value, many CMS frameworks come with challenges, including a lack of functionality allowing them to communicate with other systems. For example, if a company wants to integrate customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP), and invoicing into an inflexible CMS, significant custom development costs will be incurred but with no guarantee that the product will function as desired. So before you decide on a CMS, you need to have a good idea of what you want your website to do.
Here are some of the most popular applications built into websites:
CRM integration. Funnel your leads into a customer management tool straight from your web contact form.
User surveys. Onsite action triggers specific user surveys that give you real feedback.
Inventory tracking. Connect your online store to offline inventory management and point-of-sale systems.
Enterprise resource planning. Track data on resource allocation and run real-time reports from anywhere.
Intranet. Take advantage of private, secure access for employee information, time tracking, and internal messaging.
Human resources. Centralize employee onboarding and milestone tracking and get browser access anywhere for a geographically diverse workforce.
Multi-domain/multiple website structure. Run multiple websites and applications from a single CMS framework for easy management.
Help desk automation. Use online chat, support tickets, and integrated support desk tools for a superior client experience.
Cyber security. Cyber threats are the top risk facing many businesses. Data security should be top of mind for anyone with any browser-based software.
As the internet has evolved, so has the potential of browser-based technologies that make our lives easier. The best CMS platforms consider business needs for software, data tracking, secure online shopping, and process automation. You might think that you just need a website, but what if your online storefront could do more? Using a CMS that can shape itself to the needs of your company – both now and in the future – means the capabilities of your website are nearly limitless.
To allow for various integrations, more CMS frameworks are moving to an open application programming interface (API) system. This system allows programmers to link the CMS and the specific third-party software needing to be integrated. As data is updated in the host environment the CMS will push the data through the API to the CMS.
Important considerations for choosing a content management system
01 What is the function of the CMS for the organization? For the user (customer, visitor, etc.)?
02 What internal resources are available to maintain the system, or will this be outsourced?
03 What level of integration do you require? For example, with CRM, ERP, e-commerce, HR, etc.
04 What is your timeframe for building in the above integrations?
05 What warranty and update protocol do you need? Will the framework require updates? If so, how often? And what effects will updates have on the live system?
Choosing the right CMS
It all starts with choosing the appropriate system for your needs. The right system will help you leverage business data and efficiently use this data to make better decisions. Investing wisely starts with understanding how your business operates today, and its potential to operate in the future as technologies evolve.
There is no “one size fits all” answer. Analyze your situation to determine what kind of CMS infrastructure your business needs: What are your current business processes? Are there areas that could be automated or streamlined? Who do you need to communicate with and how can you improve their experience?
The question of whether to implement a proprietary CMS framework or to use an open-source out-of-the-box product has been a topic of much debate. Many organizations are beginning
to transition to proprietary frameworks because they are more agile and complement third-party software. Many organizations take advantage of proprietary frameworks built on open-source stacks such as Linux, Apache, PHP, and MySQL.
This change in adoption is causing organizations to provide more simple object access protocol (SOAP) documents and online resources and to educate in-house marketing and programming departments on how to maintain the infrastructure and further develop it within their own environment. This provides flexibility and ensures the organization has in-house ability to support the system.
It’s about your business
The ultimate reality is that no two organizations will have the same requirements for a CMS. It’s important to have a good understanding of the strategic direction of your business and to use this knowledge as the foundation for selecting a CMS. Implementing a CMS that matches your organization’s needs will enable you to improve business efficiencies and mitigate risk.
First published in the December 2018 edition of The Business Advisor.