Enterprise CMS or Open Source? Simple enough question, but you might not be able to answer so easily. Many business owners and marketers must choose a content management system (CMS) to launch, or relaunch, their website. At first, you hope to do a little research, buy into a mature platform, and then move on with other projects. But there are a ton of great systems that can easily get your business online.
Often, you are trying to predict success between two levels of complexity: an open source CMS (like WordPress) or an enterprise level platform (like Sitecore or Sitefinity). Each system has a strong suit and a host of weak points. Without an exhaustive review of those features, some of your business needs could go unmet. Then so much for ROI.
The CMS you choose should be prescriptive based on your business needs – not necessarily the shiniest or the one with the most bells and whistles.
If you have pretty simple business needs and you don’t plan on growing much (or at all), then an enterprise level CMS may not yield the best return on your investment. You would likely succeed with an open source CMS that gives you basic functionality and a small learning curve. With the right-sized technology platform, you can invest your precious energy to differentiate your business with a marketing strategy – including search engine optimization, automation, demand generation and more.
If your business is growing, the rules for selecting a CMS get a bit trickier; integration with back office systems or highly custom functionality require a system with more flexibility and customization options.
Many corporations face this complexity and decide to pursue an enterprise CMS. At Springthrough, we help businesses looking for a partner to help find the right CMS and have identified a few similarities between their cases.
1. Your business needs integrations with existing applications or systems.
If you have a large and complex business, you most likely have multiple applications that handle operations. There is one system for HR, one for intranet, and one or more for accounting. These systems need to communicate with each other as your business expands. Any quality enterprise CMS has the ability to share data with other systems through an application programming interface (API). Some systems even have well-documented support built-in for integrations with things like Great Plains, Peoplesoft, Quickbooks, SharePoint or other business applications you may have or need. Some off-the-shelf or open source platforms may not only have deficiencies in these areas, but may prove unable to implement at all.
2. Your business operates in a government-regulated industry.
Government regulations on your business carry a lot of weight and can impact your bottom line, especially if you violate one of those regulations. The Feds don’t really care if your HIPAA violation was an accident. A good strategy around content governance -- what can be shared, archival guidelines, and what cannot be shown under any circumstances -- is key to making sure you don’t get dinged (because the ding could be millions of dollars).
If you are in a business like healthcare, insurance, finance, legal or any other regulated business, you need a CMS that provides the level of security, workflow, and granular governance for your business to avoid risk. Most open source platforms don't offer the security or features in those areas out-of-the-box, and it would be quite costly to develop them. It just doesn't make sense.
3. You want to sell stuff.
Ecommerce projects need extra scrutiny and effort in planning. Most of the mainstream open CMS platforms do well for a single or, at max, a handful of cases that mostly deal with displaying content and organizing it for better dissemination. If you're selling a large number of items on the web, you'll need a more robust platform. Take integrations, for example. Almost every complex Ecommerce project needs to work with other systems and communicate things like multiple SKU’s, color options, sales tax, international taxes, etc. Analytics are also more robust in Ecommerce situations to understand what your customers are buying and why.
There are more open source shopping platforms than you can poke with a stick, but not a single large retailer uses those for their business. If you are selling a couple hundred puka shell necklaces, then Etsy will work great. If you are a multi-million dollar retailer, then you need a different toolset altogether.
4. You need a higher level of security.
As the open source CMS movement grows, small businesses gain capabilities to publish on the web. The systems are nearly free, easy to use, and best of all open for customization for almost anyone. The benefits created by this inherent openness are also part of its weakness. Tons of people with access to the source code leaves most of these platforms open for exploitation. WordPress has an especially high level of spam and malicious attacks on plugins and themes that has been well documented. If your business houses content that needs a high level of security, then a proprietary, enterprise CMS is the direction you should go.
There are many other reasons that a business would need to choose an enterprise CMS for their needs, but these factors informed many of my experiences with businesses and their technology decisions. If you have a project that needs evaluation, finding an experienced technology partner also helps in making decisions sustainable for your business’ future.