About 4 years ago I was working as a business analyst at a large financial company. They were planning to build a monster. The monster would consist of a top market CMS buried beneath a pile of customization. Because surely a large organisation has its very own incredibly specific needs when it comes to managing content.
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At the time I fought this plan with every piece of ammunition I could find. It was the time I started using sketches to explain technical stuff to non-technical people. I explained the business what path they were starting to walk and where it would lead. How expensive content management systems evolve. And how, as a customer, the only way you can get something out of this massive investment is to keep the pace of product updates. Unfortunately most product customizations make updates difficult. In this case the customizations would make updating impossible. And your investment would be dead and useless in about a year.
I lost my battle. The decision was made higher up in the organisation. They bought the product and started the customization. (I left and created Foursevens.) We are now 4 years (!) later. The first website (!) on the new CMS is about to go live. The CMS product has recently been acquired by a company known to kill most products as soon as support contracts end. The financial company has decided to abandon the CMS. I can only begin to imagine the scale of the investment they have done in the last 4 years. Leading nowhere.
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So let’s face it;
  • most companies have content needs that are VERY SIMILAR to most other companies, however unique your company might be. That is why off-the-shelf CMS systems exist.
  • the commercial stories around CMS systems are notoriously optimistic and couldn’t be further from reality, you can’t base a purchase on them
  • the decision to create customizations needs to be evaluated, reevaluated and reevaluated
  • customizations that block a product from updating are a place you don’t want to go
In every technology choice you ever make, the first question really needs to be: does it already exist and can I buy it. If you consider a CMS but your adaptation is going to cost more than the CMS itself, ask yourself whether you have fully understood your business needs. Cause at the end of the day you buy a system that needs to help your content people to get websites published, updated and serving customers needs. Involve those content people as much as possible as soon as possible before making a choice. And don’t let anyone ever tell you tailor made software is always the best choice.