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5 Questions to Consider Before Starting Your CMS & Web Design RFP

The mere thought of an RFP for a content management system (CMS) and web design is overwhelming. Before you hit pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, you have to do your homework.  Start by asking the following questions:

Why are you doing this?

Why do you need a new CMS? Is it because your boss said so? Is it because you want to offer a better experience for your constituents, such as personalization and search features? Closeup portrait  of a young executive man, arm out asking why.Is it because the marketing team is tired of creating IT tickets to make web updates and because quite frankly the IT team is tired of the additional tickets?

Consider all the reasons and then think about your current and future organizational goals and strategic objectives, and how this project fits into the bigger picture. If everything goes smoothly, what can you achieve? What problems will assistance from a new system solve? What will success look like? More memberships? Happier constituents? Increased engagement? Streamlined operations? Know your why.

Who is your dream team?

A new CMS is not a marketing project.  It’s not an IT project.  And if you have a separate web team, it’s not their project either. It’s a company project.  Almost every department in your organization has a connection to your website.  Invite cross-divisional employees to be representatives on the project team.  Listen to what they have to say.  Understand their goals before writing the RFP. It’s also important to have executive leadership at the table.  Support starts at the top. PS, once launched, you’ll need another team to ensure that all of your hard work continues to pay off. Discover How to Create a Governance Plan for Your Website.  

 What do you need?

In order to get the most out of your RFP, you need to know, and share, the specifics. Do you want to incorporate constituent feedback and user research? Need a more intuitive information architecture? Web strategy? End user testing? Talk to your dream team about your CMS and website requirements. Consider requirements for workflow, personalization, search, editing, etc. What integrations are important and why? What technology stack do you prefer? Are you looking for a cloud-based solution?

Once you’ve discussed it all, take another look at the list and ensure you need everything in order to meet your goals. Break them up into Need to Have and Nice to Have and don’t be afraid to cross some items off the list. Requirement overload in an RFP could cause your vendor to suggest a CMS that more advanced, and more expensive, than you really need. If finding a CMS that makes your coffee reflects a business need, keep it on this list. If not, maybe take it off for now. And later, when someone asks why a certain requirement is not on the list, you can preface the answer with “The team discussed it and decided…”

Do you have the time? 

Before issuing your RFP, figure out your timeline.  A reasonable one.  Everyone wants the project completed yesterday.  Vendors understand that and are anxious to get you up and running.  However, it’s not always that easy.  Before deciding on due dates, look at the calendars of all key stakeholders in the project.  Will Janice be out of the office and unavailable for a week?  Will everyone be focusing on your annual conference the entire month October?  Is there a major holiday on the horizon?  Remember work emergencies may hit your plate, people may be out of the office unexpectedly, and life will happen.  Give yourself, and vendors, some wiggle room.

What’s your budget?

Q. How much will it cost?
A. How much you got?

Budget conversations seem tricky, but they don’t have to be. Brightfind often receives the question, how much does a new website cost? And the answer is always the same. It depends. Do you simply want some tweaks to your homepage or do you want to understand what your visitors want and need from your site and design accordingly? Is it a minor upgrade to your current CMS or are you switching to a new system completely? Providing vendors with an understanding of services needed along with a budget range enables them to quickly tell you if it’s worth pursuing the project together or to let you know what they can and can’t do in that price range. Being upfront early saves everyone time, energy, and resources.

Additional Resources

Do your research before writing your RFP and you’ll be much better equipped to explain your needs to prospective vendors and much more likely to find a great fit.  But enough about you, what should you know about your vendors?  Stay tuned for next week’s 5 Questions to ask a CMS and Web Design Vendor. If you are worried you will miss it, subscribe to our blog and we will keep you in the know.

Lauren Janik

Written by Lauren Janik