I don’t think I’ll get too many arguments if I make this statement:
Content Management Systems (CMS) are a vital tool for creating and maintaining a modern web site.
However, CMS’s vary in price from free to $100k+ and there are widely differing opinions about what a CMS should cost. Â I’m probably not going to change any minds on this and I’m not terribly interested in trying. Â However, I would like to better frame this conversation.
Why is your CMS so expensive?
I work for Telerik and we have a CMS called Sitefinity. Â This is a proprietary CMS that ranges in price from $499 – $7,999+. Â Keep reading though. Â I’m not here to sell you anything and if you think open-source is the way to go, have at it. Â In the past I’ve been on both sides of the open-source debate; today I’m simply busy and only want to get work done faster (best tool for the job).
Nevertheless, I’ve had the “your software is too expensive” conversation more times than I would like. Â I’ve also needed to answer people who ask “Why on earth would anyone buy a CMS?“. Â Here is my best attempt at an answer…
Should a plow horse expect to be fed?
I know, I know…we’re a few generations removed from people with direct experience working with plow horses. Â A plow horse is a beast of burden that helped farmers (prior to machines) till soil and generally be more productive. Â In return, the farmer invested aÂ small portion of their return back into the plow horse (via food).
Consider that the CMS is our modern day plow horse; it’s a tool that (hopefully) helps us produce more value from our websites. Â How much value? Â To answer that question you need to determine how muchÂ revenue you derive from your website. Â Do you sell products? Â Do you generate business leads? Â Do you take donations? Â Do you offer support? Â All of these activities have a measurable business value that can be associated with the website. Â For a given year, what is that value?
Let’s assume that number is as little as $100K. Â It doesn’t seem unreasonable to imagine many organizations could associate $100K+ of annual value with their websites. Â It’s also reasonable to expect that some percentage of that revenue should be re-invested to evolve and maintain the website. Â In other words, take a small fraction of your return and feed your plow horse.
If an organization realizes $100K of annual revenue from their website and re-invests only 6% back into their website, that becomes $6K. Â Â Does that feel unreasonable? Â We’re talking about a single-digit percentage investment to maintain a tool that Â helps us be more productive.
Penny-wise & pound-foolish
If you can accept the premise I’ve outlined above, then it simply becomes a process of discovering where you can get the most bang from your buck. Â The cost of a CMS becomes negligibleÂ (even unimportant)Â IFÂ it empowers you to be more productive. Â By contrast, pinching pennies during CMS selection could leave you perpetuallyÂ handicapped; Â ultimately causing you to sacrifice lots of revenue due to missed opportunities.
Against this backdrop, I could make a case for our own CMS. Â Hell, I might even be right if the use-cases we target align with your own needs. Â It’s also possible that an open-source solution might be a better fit. Â Either way, the price isn’t what’s important. Â What’s important is choosing a CMS that helps you be productive. Â In summary, choose wisely, and the CMS will pay for itself.
Update:Â After writing this I realized I failed to mention the full ecosystem of implementors and analysts that exist around CMS deployments. Â Everything I’ve written is equally applicable to them. Â These people, through their expertise, can provide equal amounts of value for organizations wishing to maximize the returns from their website.