Replatforming? Here’s how to get agencies involved.

Replatforming isn't something you want to do every year, so here are two approaches on how to choose the right CMS platform for your business.
We recently responded to a RFP for a very exciting brand we’re really keen to work with. The RFP provided a rich and textured picture of what challenges they were currently facing whilst keeping some aspects of their requirements deliberately vague. One of these was: which CMS should they choose to help them meet their ambitions?
After nearly two weeks of work, we pitched our approach alongside 4 other agencies. Being the last to present, we were told that all agencies had proposed a different CMS. The pitch process was meant to help the brand find clarity and choose a direction with a selected partner, but the process seemed to provide the opposite: platform confusion. From open-source to enterprise, how can a brand choose a platform fit for purpose and get the best from a partner agency? Here’s one of 2 ways we would go about it if we were sitting on the other side of the pitch table.

1- Speak to the platforms directly

You’ve spoken to colleagues to get recommendations, you looked up Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management, and you’ve checked a couple of blogs that compare different competing solutions, but still don’t know whether to go with Drupal, Sitecore, Umbraco or Episerver? Get them in!
All of these platforms offer demos, webinars and some even allow free trials. Explore what features they have to offer, how you could make the best use of them and how they could either replace or integrate with your other existing systems. If you like what you see, you can ask tech vendors to introduce you to some of their existing customers to get an idea of how the platform works for them in everyday life.
Once you’ve narrowed down your research to two (or ideally just one platform!), invite agencies that have experience with delivering applications on your selected platform. Then you’ll truly be comparing apples with apples in the pitch process.

2- Run a discovery

From past experience, we think it would be fair to say that brands often need to compromise between the vision they have and what they actually need or can afford. As the client put it: “what’s the point of having a Ferrari if it ends up being parked in the garage most of the time?”
So whilst you might have serious ambitions around automation, personalisation or even AI, an exercise in prioritisation could help you with your CMS decision-making process. So how can an agency help you?
Consider engaging an agency to run the full discovery phase of your project. At the end of this phase, you should have a full understanding of:
  • current business pain points & requirements
  • your customer needs
  • opportunities on how to enhance the customer journey
  • the competitor landscape
  • your goals and KPIs
This will allow you to prioritise the requirements that need to be fulfilled as a ‘MUST’ and those that may need to be phased in at a later stage. You’ll be in a better position to choose a future-proof CMS that ticks all (or most) of your boxes.
Take a look at some of the discovery work we did for Portsmouth University and UK Power Networks.
We know that redesigning and replatforming websites are large-scale projects in most organisations. There are a number of big and small decisions that need to be taken which can have a significant impact in the way the site is managed on a day-to-day basis but could also have implications on the wider business.
Choosing the right platform is also about setting yourself up to be future-proof. Even if it's not a requirement today, it might be in 12 to 18 months time, so don't think about where you are now but where you'd like to be in the future.
Depending on the size of the organisation, it’s not something most businesses will be able to navigate on their own. So if (or when) you bring in an agency to help, consider what approach works for you but also how you can get best value from the agency you’re planning to be working with. Lastly, there is no one perfect solution for any client - ultimately, it's the right approach with the right team that results in success.