My scout troop was about to embark on a challenge – a 20-mile hike. Quite the challenge for a 6th grader like I was at that time. Those who finished the hike on their own two feet were to be rewarded with a steak dinner. Those who dropped out and had to be taken back by car would not get steaks. Although I had no intention of riding back in a car, I was a bit perplexed as to why anyone would be motivated by a steak dinner.

Up till that time, the only steaks I had ever eaten were prepared by my mother. She was a lot of wonderful things, but a good cook was not one of them. Every steak she prepared was cooked to death, dry as a bone, shoe leather. From my perspective, basically inedible. A steak dinner seemed more like a punishment than a reward.

That day, having successfully completed the hike, I ate steak prepared by someone who knew what he was doing – the meat was well seasoned, and slightly rarer than medium-rare. It was incredible to me how the exact same cut of meat could go from inedible to delightful, based only on how it was prepared.

Guess what? It’s kind of the same with web content management systems.

If you have a look at the current Gartner Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management Systems, there are a lot of great systems there leveraging a number of technologies and methodologies. They all have relative strengths and relative weaknesses, and you should certainly do your due diligence in making sure the weaknesses of a given CMS aren’t show-stoppers for you and your organization. That said, the success or failure of your CMS is going to depend much more on how that CMS is implemented than in the capabilities of the CMS itself.

In order to ensure that the implementation is right, you are going to need to do some real hard work in identifying what your true and real business process requirements are, so that your developers will know what they need to implement to satisfy them. What other systems will the CMS need to integrate with? What are your media management needs? What sort of analytics data on what events will you need to collect? And so on.

To go back to my food metaphor (fair warning, you’ll find that I love my food metaphors), if you don’t know how you like your steak cooked, you’re running a very good chance of getting a steak that you don’t like.

I have been called in at times to help with selecting a CMS platform, having been told that the client hates their current CMS, only to realize that the CMS is not the problem. Instead, the business rules that were put in place no longer fit the needs of the organization. In one memorable case, the content governance rules had changed, and the previous implementation had instituted a fairly rigid set of workflows that no longer were applicable. In other cases, page-based, structured-data models needed to give way to more component-based page building models. In others, we needed to apply a new responsive design to the front end.

While fixing these types of problems often means some degree of ground-up redevelopment, at least there are no added pain points that go along with a re-platforming project as well. No new technologies to learn. No new license negotiations. No new hosting requirements.

You may find you like steak after all… if it’s cooked right.

Post Script: I’m now wondering if I should find someone who knows how to cook liver and onions the right way. Maybe my dear sweet terrible cook of a mother ruined that for me too?