How to Avoid Common Pitfalls in Web Content Management Projects

There is no shortage of IT projects that ran over time, over budget or under-delivered on value. Managing web CMS projects is hard because it relies on using new unproven technologies, ambiguous terminology, and requires agility in order to accommodate changing requirements. 

Here are some tips that will help you to avoid common mistakes.

Engage with stakeholders and users early and often

In the rush to deliver the project on time, it can be tempting to jump straight into implementation. Whilst this can give a false sense of security early in the project, the risk of not involving the right people from the start can backfire further down the line. User research and stakeholder interviews are essential steps of the discovery phase and can reduce the overall time to reach a viable solution.

Ironically, too many consultations before any action is taken can stall progress. In large, complex organisations the key is to engage with different groups of stakeholders in a way that’s manageable. It may not be possible to meet with every user and every stakeholder face-to-face and satisfy everyone’s needs but it is possible to reach out to everyone who will be impacted by the project in some way – for example through blog, email newsletters and feedback forms.

Say no to poor requirements

There are three major types of bad requirements to watch out for:

  1. Ambiguous, poorly defined requirements;
  2. Over-ambitious requirements;
  3. Unnecessary requirements.

An easy-to-use web content management system is an example of a poorly defined requirement. What kind of audience should find this system easy-to-use? What user scenarios should the system be tested against to ensure it is easy-to-use? Without this context the requirement is open to interpretation and can lead to costly misunderstandings.

Bug-free code and 100% availability are examples of over-ambitious requirements – challenge these unrealistic expectations and substitute them with achievable alternatives.

Have you ever come across a requirement for the new website to look and function exactly like the old website but running on a new CMS platform? This is a classic example of an unnecessary requirement, which is rooted in the organisation’s reluctance to change, rather than business goals. This ‘requirement’ solves a problem that doesn’t exist. Check rigorously that all requirements are linked to business objectives and allow as much flexibility as is necessary to achieve them.

If not addressed, poor requirements can lead to scope creep and ultimately project failure.

Address skills and competencies gaps

All digital projects rely on multidisciplinary teams. Core skills needed for a successful delivery of a Web CMS project span across multiple areas and include:

  • user research, user experience;
  • business strategy;
  • business change;
  • content strategy, content writing, content editing;
  • analytics;
  • technical skills (web development, servers, enterprise architecture);
  • design.

Lack of competence or lack of resources in one or more of these areas can severely impact the overall success of the project. Consider hiring contractors or partnering with an agency, if some of these skills are not available in-house.

Do not underestimate technical complexity 

One of the reasons organisations invest in Web CMS projects is to make their operations more efficient. Standardised processes for web content production and consistency introduced through the use of templates result in reduced cost of running the company’s web presence. The more websites follow the same set of principles, the cheaper it is to run each website.

What organisations sometimes fail to acknowledge is that custom web development does not produce similar economies of scale. Introducing more and more custom features does not make them cheaper to develop or maintain – in fact, the opposite is true. A project 10 times as large in terms of features will take significantly more than 10 times effort to build.

Underestimating complexity introduced by customisations is a common issue in web content management. Be ruthless in critically evaluating the value of custom development required for your project.

Transition into business-as-usual gracefully

Web content management projects never deliver full value on the day the website goes live. Consider closing the project 3 to 6 months after the website is launched, to allow for bug fixes and smooth transition to business as usual. Make sure that the new processes are documented and appropriate training is in place for developers and content editors. In a way the day the new website goes live is just the beginning.