Podcast Episodes

Episode 16: Select a Content Management System (w/ Cathy McKnight)

February 21, 2023 | 37:21 | Cathy McKnight

Corey and Deane talk about a Donald Rumsfeld quote, and about the concept of “unknown unknowns.”

Then, Cathy McKnight, Chief Problem Solver and lead analyst for The Content Advisory, joins us to talk about selecting a content management system — the process for choosing a system, how a CMS selection analyst can help keep vendors honest, and what to do if you’re selecting on your own.

The Web Project Guide podcast is sponsored by Blend Interactive, a web strategy, design, and development firm dedicated to guiding teams through complicated web and content problems, from content strategy and design to CMS implementation and support.

Show Notes and Further Discussion:


Corey (00:11):

Hello, this is The Web Project Guide Podcast, and this is episode 16: Choose a content management system. I'm Corey Vilhauer, Director of Strategy at Blend Interactive and Co-Author of The Web Project Guide. Later, we'll be joined by Cathy McKnight, Chief Problem Solver for The Content Advisory. But first, I'm joined by the person who literally taught me nearly everything I know about content management systems, Deane Barker. Hi Deane.

Deane (00:32):

Hi, Corey. That's a scary thing that I taught you everything you know.

Corey (00:36):

Well, this is the thing before The Web Project Guide and before the two books you wrote while writing The Web Project Guide, your first book was specifically about content management. This is like you literally are the person who wrote the book on this.

Deane (00:51):

I have done a lot of CMS selection consulting, and I've been selling CMS for a long time, and I've written about it quite a bit. I'm really excited to talk to Cathy. Cathy and I go way, way back and she has done more CMS selection consulting than I have. But Corey, we're going to start out with a quote from one of your favorite people in the world, Donald Rumsfeld. During the Iraq war, Donald Rumsfeld made a quote, which sounded ridiculous, but has actually persisted over the years. I actually quoted it in my first book, but he was up giving a news briefing in February, 2002, and somebody was asking him about how do you know this and how do you know that? Or something like that. And he responded.

He said, "Reports that say something hasn't happened are always interesting to me because as we know, there are known knowns. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say, we know there are some things we do not know, but there are also unknown unknowns. The ones we don't know we don't know. And if one looks through the history of our country and other free countries, it's the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones." And what Rumsfeld was saying there is that there are things that you know, there are things that you know you don't know, and there are things that you don't know you don't know. The example I use is that if you are a scientist of some kind, you know that there is a chemical symbol for boron, and you know what that is. It's a known known. Me as a 51 year old adult who has some experience in science, I know that there is a chemical symbol for boron, but I don't know what it is. I couldn't tell you what it is, and that's a known unknown.

But if you're an eight year old child, you don't know what the chemical symbol for boron is, and you also don't even know that that symbol exists. That is an unknown unknown to you. And when you look at CMS selection, I always feel like, just like Don Rumsfeld said, it's the unknown unknowns that bite you. You can go into these process and know that there are things you don't know, but it may have been 5-10 years since you last looked at a content management system. And things have changed in the industry, and you don't even know what questions to ask. And so this is what we're going to talk to Cathy about. Now, did the philosophy of Donald Rumsfeld make sense to you?

Corey (02:59):

Yeah, I remember when this became public because I feel like he got a little bit of ... Like people made fun of him for it because I think it was because it sounded very ... It felt very convoluted the way he said it. But when you spell it out, it is really every part of a web project has these elements depending on what part of the audience you are, depending on if you are somebody who's coming to the web process for the very first time, somebody who's been working in it for years and years and years, there are all these different levels of unknowns and known knowns and known unknowns and et cetera, et cetera. But I think it's probably one of the few things that Donald Rumsfeld is ... You look back on fondly with because it ended up being an incredibly useful quote.

Deane (03:46):

It sounded like he was trying to evade the question, but no, it's absolutely true. It's the unknown unknowns that get you. And when you're looking at a content management system, the systems can be so complex and the industry can change so fast. One of the things that we have to realize is that people don't select content management systems all the time. I mean, if you're swapping out a CMS, there is a good chance you haven't even looked at the market for five or 10 years, and so many things have changed since then and you don't know what to ask.

I mean, pricing models have changed, and functionality has changed, integration models have changed, and you don't even know what's important. And so these are situations where you either have to do a lot of research or you need to get help. And at Blend, when I was working at Blend, I actually did quite a bit of CMS selection consulting, where I would come in and help people kind of work through those questions. And we are going to talk to a good friend, Cathy McKnight. And Cathy is, I would call her the queen of CMS selection consulting. She has done that for a lot of years and knows all the questions to ask, and she's going to explain to us how this process works.

Corey (04:51):

It's true. We're going to do that. Cathy McKnight is Chief Problem Solver and Lead Analyst for The Content Advisory where she helps organizations realize their content and marketing communication objectives. And she also has over two decades of experience doing this, helping organizations find the right technology to fit their content needs. She's also host of a podcast called Uncharted Journey that we'll ask ... Sorry, it's Uncharted Journeys. We'll ask her about that. Before we get there though, I have to tell you that this episode of The Web Project Guide Podcast is as always brought to you by Blend Interactive, a web strategy design and development shop dedicated to guiding teams through complicated web and content projects. Sometimes that even includes helping select technology. Blend's been building great websites for almost 18 years. We're always looking for our next partnership, so visit us at BlendInteractive.com.

All right, we are here with Cathy. Hi, Cathy.

Cathy (05:46):

Hey, Corey. How are ya?

Corey (05:47):

I am great. We've got everybody in different places now because Deane's in ... Where are you at-

Cathy (05:53):


Corey (05:54):

Sweden? And Cathy, are you-

Cathy (05:58):


Corey (05:59):

You're in Toronto. Okay, so you're an actual Canadian. And I'm actually just here in South Dakota. I'm kind of like the most boring spot, I guess. Well, we want to talk about content management systems though, and about specifically about selecting content management systems. And Cathy, I want to frame this question from the start for people who don't really understand or know what this means when we talk about selecting a content management system. For the people who might hear this and think, "Cool, I've got Squarespace" or, "Cool, I've got Wix." For those who have really only handled this at that small level, explain what we mean when we are talking about selecting a content management system.

Cathy (06:35):

I mean, content management and content management systems have gotten so complex. They've been around forever. I have spent a big chunk of my career in them, both coding them, being a part of the team that helps select them, counseling people on what to look for. But content management really, or content management solution really is about a place where you can create your content, store your content, serve your content, and then access your content. For digital purposes mostly, I mean, that is now starting to get super klugy.

The acronyms keep changing. Now, people aren't calling them CMS' anymore, they're calling them DXPs, which let's take that offline because I will go down a rabbit hole and we'll talk about nothing else on this conversation if we go down that space. But it's so much more than a Wix or a Squarespace where you're basically putting in words or putting in images. It's about how you pull all of those pieces together to deliver the experiences that as a brand you want to deliver.

Deane (07:37):

Now, Cathy, you and I go way, way back.

Cathy (07:40):

Way back.

Deane (07:41):

Back to I believe when you were at Digital Clarity Group and you are what is commonly known as an analyst. Can you frame for our listeners, what is an analyst? Why does someone come to an analyst and what kind of service do you deliver?

Cathy (07:58):

Certainly. An industry analyst in this space, in this case MarTech, kind of marketing and communications technology, I meet regularly with a bunch of different vendors in the space. Some people focus on a single type of technology. I happen to cover a whole bunch of them. We learn what those vendors or builders of the content have to offer. We provide them with feedback. Often they are so far ahead of where any of their customers could possibly meet them. We give them that feedback. I am as an analyst, I also work on the consulting side, so I actually work with companies that implement, select and implement these solutions. I'm able to give that feedback to a vendor and say, "Hey, listen, this is what people are actually looking for." Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don't, but we influence their roadmap. We also work with those buying the technology.

If you go online and compare and insert three brand names here, I'm not going to put any brands so that I'm not giving anybody undue fair coverage, and you'll come up with a really pretty list that has a whole bunch of attributes and functions along the left side. You've got the name of the vendor across the top and then dots. And sometimes they're like, it's the whole half dot, full dot, empty dot kind of. And you look at them and go, "Oh, there's a comparison." And it's so not the same thing. Comparing something that you can buy and spend 10 grand a month on, or five grand a month on a subscription versus something that's going to cost you millions of dollars from a licensing and implementation, they may look like they do the same thing, but they don't. My job as an analyst is to help organizations choose the right fit technology that will meet their needs today, but also enable them to grow with it.

Deane (09:52):

If I'm looking to purchase a content management system or engage with a content management system vendor, I mean, one of the problems that you see in the marketplace is that customers don't even know what they don't know. They don't know the specifics, but they don't even know what they should be looking for. If they're out to buy a new car, they don't even know that adaptor cruise control is even a thing, so they even know to ask about it. Are you that glue between where the customer gaps are and helping them match their understanding of the market?

Cathy (10:23):

Yes, that's a great way of putting it. I had a boss who used to say that I spoke dolphin because I was able to translate business needs to the technology being offered. What often happens within an organization is the business user will say, "I need to do this." The technology team assumes and says, "Okay." Then they go and think they've found it. And what happens is that the business user doesn't actually articulate what it is exactly that they're trying to achieve. They talk about the actual task, not the function or the goal of the task. I help connect the dots, making sure that any selection that's being done is based on user requirements and not the table stakes, not the stuff that regardless of the size of the solution pretty much can do, but about really those core functions and capabilities that they need the system to do to deliver and for it to be a good fit.

Deane (11:22):

I feel like there's a spectrum here. It sounds like what you do is very, very consultative where you work with the customer and figure out their needs. But then on the other end you see that there are analysts who publish reports, and again, they have names, I don't want to say gimmicky names, but they have kind of branded names and everybody knows who the reports are, that really drill the entire market down to a visualization. Now, opinions vary, but tell me where you stand on that. Is this the market you can drill down to a visualization or does it need to be more than that?

Cathy (11:56):

I think I know exactly what you're talking about, and I think we do serve a function within our industry because there isn't a selection that I go into where I don't see those two big ones there. Sometimes there's a third or a fourth, but what they are is a starting port. Unfortunately, what most people don't realize is their analysis is done on a very specific small subset of businesses for which it fits. They look at very large organizations, they look at them with very complex needs and also really, really deep pockets. I mean, one of them, you actually, and I ask this question because whenever I see somebody with the report to see if they actually have the license or if they've just downloaded it, and there's a lot of them who don't even realize one of them actually comes with an Excel spreadsheet where you can shift and change the percentages.

Actually, I don't know if it still does, but it used to, to make it more appropriate for you in their spreadsheet. "You mean we can actually make this more appropriate for us?" It's a good starting point to see what's out there. But it's not the be all end all, and nobody should be making a decision strictly based on those bigger analysis. If you're not talking to your stakeholders and if you're not gathering and really understanding their needs and the problem you're trying to solve, it's not going to work.

Deane (13:16):

What we find in a lot of situations is that companies will make a top level, they'll make a short list of vendors just based on those visualizations. They'll just look on one of them and say, "Okay, well we'll just take this chunk of vendors," and that's how they make their short list, and then they dive in deeper with individual vendors. But let's kind of outline you do a type of project that I guess we would call a CMS selection project. Does that sound about right?

Cathy (13:41):


Deane (13:43):

Now I am going to, just to frame this for readers, I'm specifically going to mention some numbers instead of you, because if you mention numbers then it kind of comes down to you, and I don't want to put you through that.

Cathy (13:53):

Thank you.

Deane (13:54):

In kind of our experience, these were $25,000 to $50,000 consulting projects where you'd work with a customer. But just tell us from your end, what does that process look like? Your first meeting with the customer, what are you trying to figure out? Then what is the results or the output of that process?

Cathy (14:12):

We always start with validating the need. We have actually had engagements, and this again, we're a bit unique this way, is we've actually had engagements where we've gone in, they've got a CMS or DXP or whatever in place, and somebody has decided that it's not working, whether it's qualified, whether it's quantified, whether it's because there's a new CMO and they prefer another solution. But we always go in and validate the need. And we have had more than one occasion where we've gone in done an analysis and said, "Okay, you guys, your solution actually works. Now if you want to change it, great, but just know what you're looking to achieve can be done with what you have. You either haven't done the latest upgrade or you're not using this to a full extent, or you haven't connected it to this system and integrated it with other parts of your stack."

And we've actually worked ourselves out of business on at least two occasions because they've gone, "Oh, we didn't know. Somebody has said we need something new" or they heard, "Oh, well, everybody's about this." Oops, sorry, "Complaining about this. I guess we need something new." And we've gone in and said no. Now we've had other cases where they're like, "Yeah, we're aware it can do it, but we want to see and make sure that we're planning for growth, that we've got it for the future." We do that, we do the discovery of need, we then do absolutely unequivocally it is part of our engagement. If they don't want to do it, then we basically find another way of working, but we don't go down the path of selection is stakeholders.

We interview stakeholders from across the organization, not only those who are using the technology or maintaining it, so comms, marketing, that kind of thing, and IT, but also the stakeholders. The groups that they're serving. What is it that you need? What's missing? What's your vision? What's your goal? Where are you heading? What does omnichannel look for you? What does personalization look for you? Do you need localization? All of those things. We then pull all of that together and come up with basically a set of core needs. We look at what I mentioned earlier, table stakes or certain things that just all pretty much all CMS' do, whether it's headless, whether it's not, it's core functionality. So we don't worry about that so much, but what are those things that are different or idiosyncratic or just really, really important? Maybe they have multiple languages that they need to do simultaneous publication of all at once. They've got 10 languages that when they post something, it's all got to go at the same time. Well, that's unique, right?

We look at those core focal needs anywhere between usually five or 10 of them, and that's where we start our analysis for what we call then the long shortlist. We'll provide an analysis. We dig into 20 or so, maybe different CMS'. We get that list down to somewhere under 10. Give the client a review of, "Here's where things fit, here's where they're strong, here's maybe where you're giving and taking." We then get that down to a short list of three. We will not do a selection with more than three because if they can't get down to three, they're not ready to make a decision. We don't want to waste anybody's time.

We get them down to three. We run through the selection process. Onsite visits, RFP, the rest of it. They generally go faster when we do it because we've done the pre-vetting and we're able to answer a bunch of questions and then we get them down to choosing one. And some choose to do a proof of concept. Others don't. Again, we don't like a bake off because if you're not ready to make a decision, then what are we missing? And we go back to fill the gap to make that decision, and then we move forward into a selection of trial and they're off to the races.

Deane (18:03):

As somebody who works for CMS vendor, I'm terrified to ask this, but I'm going to ask and let you be super cynical for a second.

Cathy (18:10):

Okay, I'm Canadian. I'm not sure I could be that way.

Deane (18:13):

I have a list of requirements. I sort of have a vague idea of what I need. Why do I need a Cathy McKnight? Why can't I just go trust the vendors to help me?

Cathy (18:21):

It's a really good question, and again, I don't want to make it sound like vendors are out to get you, but I have sat in many, many, many onsite selection reviews where the vendor, a lot of times the sales team, and by the time you're doing onsite and we call information exchange, you've got a team that knows obviously the product. It's not just the salespeople, but they're prone to say, "Yes, we can do that." They're not lying when they say it can do that, but it's not the right way of doing it. I mean, I had one vendor say that they could use their digital asset management system for a PIM, for a large CPG. It's like, no, you can't. You're not going to get PIM functionality out of a DAM. DAMs are great.

Deane (19:12):

I think what you're trying to say is not, "No, you can't." You're trying to say, "No, you shouldn't" because they could.

Cathy (19:18):

They could. But you shouldn't

Deane (19:21):

You make a CMS be a cruise missile if you felt like it, but.

Cathy (19:23):

Precisely. Our function is very much to protect the interest of the buyer, to ask the difficult questions because we know what they don't know. To your point-

Deane (19:35):

You're an advocate is what you are.

Cathy (19:36):

Absolutely an advocate. Yes. And I mean, you've probably seen me do it, I have stopped meetings with vendors and taken a break and excused the client team and actually said to the vendor, "If you don't start being forthright and put my client's interest first and foremost instead of the sale, then we'll just take you off the list." And I get it. They're trying to do a job, but I know what my job is, and that's to make sure that my client gets the best solution to fit their needs.

Deane (20:08):

I am proud to say that I have never seen you do that. If I had seen you do that, that would be problematic.

Cathy (20:13):

I was going to say, you've probably heard from somebody.

Deane (20:17):

You're a legend, you're well known. We've talked about the concept of an analyst and kind of the process of using an analyst. But let's talk about actually CMS selection. If I've got to take, let's drill this down to one, what is the single one most important thing to consider when trying to match up my needs with a CMS? If I can only take one thing into account, what's the biggest thing,

Cathy (20:41):

I can go back to stakeholder needs, find out the one thing, what is the one thing the solution needs to do for your organization? And when I say organization, that's like your users, your internal users, your audiences, et cetera. What's the one thing that it needs to be able to do in a continuous maturing way and hold onto that? And having the team to support it. Internal, external, doesn't matter. I mean, now that we've got managed services and subscription, it's so much easier than when it used to be on-prem. It's a lot less complicated from a resource perspective. But it's all about what's the one thing? If you could only have it do one thing and do one thing really, really well to support your business today and its growth, go with that.

Deane (21:35):

Okay. I have a follow up question, but before I ask it, I'm going to ask Corey to explain a fantastic phrase called the swoop and poop. Corey explain that. Then I have a follow up question for Cathy.

Corey (21:46):

I first heard this term from a friend of ours, Margot Bloomstein, who's a content strategist.

Cathy (21:53):

Brilliant, brilliant.

Corey (21:54):

She introduced this concept of swooping and pooping, which essentially is, you've made some really big decisions potentially at the project team level. You've made decisions within your marketing team and you are ready to go forward with whatever it is. It might be a design decision, it might be a technology decision. Then eventually somebody in the corporate suite or somebody who holds the purse strings comes swinging in and essentially swoops in and poops on your parade. They're like, "Well, sorry, this isn't going to work for this reason. This isn't going to work for whatever reason." Happens to be something you probably didn't even know about or hadn't even considered yet.

Deane (22:33):

Cathy, we want to avoid a swoop and poop in a CMS selection.

Corey (22:37):

I love that this was just a setup for you to be able to use it in the sentence.

Deane (22:42):

We want to avoid a swoop and poop. If we take a look at all of the entities, the poopable entities in an organization, and who do we have to have at the table? And I mean, is this something you see people outside the process swing in at the last minute and saying, "We're not going to do this?" How do we avoid that? How do we make sure that when we're ready to go, we're really ready to go?

Cathy (23:01):

It's so funny that you say that. I was just telling this story to a client last week about how we had done ... I was working with a client in Japan and how important it is to understand corporate culture as a consultant to understand how decisions are made within the organization as well as from a cultural perspective. Because we had gone through the entire selection process. We're talking like 12 weeks of work. I had been to Japan twice, the second trip there we had done all of our onsite visits, our information exchanges, a hundred percent of the team was on side with the selection. We'd all come to the same conclusion that this particular vendor was the right vendor. The president had been being wooed by another vendor who we had already like ixnayed, and that's who they went with because the president said, "Nope, I want them." Completely the wrong decision. But because in Japanese culture, it is the person at the highest floor that gets to make the decision. But back to your question, that's isolated, but I'd forgotten that happened.

Deane (24:10):

Would you say that that person effectively swooped in and pooped on them?

Cathy (24:13):

Oh my gosh, yeah. Epically. Never has there been a larger one dropped on a project for me.

Deane (24:18):

Our phrase holds, it's accurate?

Cathy (24:21):

100%. And I think the way to avoid that is, one, understand, like I said, the culture. I didn't realize that just how much in Japan that hierarchy had. People said, "Oh, the president has to agree." Well, okay, that makes sense. But I had no idea that he could come in and veto everything. But I think that's where one of the things that I should have mentioned when you said how do you start is we start at the table. When we have our initial kickoff, we make sure that whoever's sponsoring the team obviously is there, that there's technology representation and not just one part of the technology. Who's going to be involved? Is there an implementation team? Do you have it divvied up into multiple sectors? front end, back end, et cetera, who's going to maintain? Who's the stakeholder going to have the relationship for the ongoing upkeep and growth of the the solution as well as core representatives from the business?

It can't just be marketing and communications. Who is the internal audience that you're serving? And making sure that they're there and understand what's going on and how to contribute. Then we provide updates throughout the engagement on, "Here's the status, here's what we found." And when we do things like, "Okay, here's what we're proposing are your core needs," we make sure that's that core project group, cross representational is involved in that so that there's agreements, so we don't get surprises. And generally speaking, aside from the Japan one, I haven't had a swoop and poop. I've had a swoop and try. Then we've made sure that they have the information so they go elsewhere to do their business.

Deane (25:59):

There's so many metaphors we can bring into that.

Cathy (26:01):

So many.

Corey (26:02):

Well, I mean, you'd think that if they've already engaged somebody like you to help them with that process, that they at least are already open to the understanding that the decision you're making is a decision that should be held with some regard.

Cathy (26:16):

Exactly. Yeah. And to Deane's point earlier about the cost of engagement with us, generally speaking, it's actually more cost effective. They actually end up saving more because we have the relationships with the vendors, so they do actually get the best pricing, but also the time that it saves and the risk that's being mitigated by having us on. I've actually had several clients come back and say we should have doubled our price because that's how much money they saved in using us. It's like, "Well, that's a little late now, feel free to give us a bonus." That never happens.

Deane (26:50):

You help them to avoid being taken for a ride, basically.

Cathy (26:54):


Corey (26:55):

Cathy, there's also sort of a subset of projects and groups that may be looking at between two or three open source solutions. They may not be somebody who can get a Cathy, they may be able just so they're looking at this project, "What do I choose in this situation?" Do you have any advice for groups like that who may be wandering into this on their own?

Cathy (27:18):

Absolutely. Absolutely understand that not everybody has a budget to bring in a industry expert. There are a ton of resources out there. You can go to our site, ContentAadvisory.net. There is a guide that will step you through exactly our process. It takes a little bit of time, but there are tools that you can again, download with that and use it. It's about putting rigor and structure around the solution. It's not about a bunch of people looking on, "Oh, this one looks good and this one looks good." Do some research, find out the questions to ask. There's a ton of great analysts out there who share their process, including us. Leverage what you can find. And even if you can't afford to bring in an expert to run the entire selection, there's many ways of working with us. We are always happy to tailor to whatever budget, as are others.

Find out where you feel you need the most support, at what point, whether it's running onsite information exchanges where you'll have someone like me who's not afraid to stop a meeting and tell the team that they're being jerks and to get back in line or to push back on a price and say, "No, hat's not correct." There's a lot of great RFP templates out there. And one thing with RFP, make it simple. Make it straightforward. Ask for the information, only the information you really need to know, because if you give vendors a good, solid, intuitive, easy to follow RFP, that doesn't waste their time, you're not going to get boiler plate answers. You'll actually get responses. Things like that, just there's a lot of ways of making it simpler and much more streamlined.

Corey (28:58):

Awesome. Cathy, you're not just an analyst, but you're also a podcaster. Do you want to talk to about your podcast at all?

Cathy (29:05):

Oh, thank you, Corey. Yes. I started a podcast last year, it's called Uncharted Journeys and I speak with women across industries about their journey to success. And I have been so humbled and flattered by the women who have given me their time over the last year. I'm on episode number 33, I think. Kay O'Neill is this week, so she drops tomorrow. You guys probably know her. Fantastic. The stories are so inspirational, and like I said, I've just been humbled by the response. again, if you guys know anybody that you think would make a great guest, please let me know.

Deane (29:39):

[inaudible 00:29:40].

Cathy (29:40):

I'd love have you guys on. But unfortunately you don't meet the first criteria.

Corey (29:45):

I'm not sure we meet any of the criteria, honestly.

Deane (29:48):

Didn't you and Carla have a conversation?

Corey (29:50):

Yeah, Carla was on there.

Cathy (29:51):

She was on early. She was like episode four or something.

Deane (29:54):

Carla is the CEO of Blend Interactive, with whom Carla and myself and one other founded Blend Interactive in 2005. I was glad you got a chance to talk to her. Cathy, you-

Cathy (30:05):

I actually kicked her off. She was the first one this year. She was my 2023 kickoff, I think.

Corey (30:10):

That's right. Yeah.

Deane (30:11):

Cathy, you have been absolutely fantastic. You're one of my favorite people in the industry and after hearing how you handle vendors, I'm now a little bit afraid of you, but.

Cathy (30:19):

And I'm super interesting, right?

Deane (30:23):

Let me tell this story. Let me tell this. We invited Cathy to speak at our very first [inaudible 00:30:29] conference 10 years ago in 2013. And we had a technology publication in Omaha were doing a little write up about us. And for some reason we had sent them information on all the speakers and we didn't send them information on Cathy or something, I don't remember what happened, but they came out with this quote which talked about our speakers and, "This person's an expert on this and this person's an expert on this and this person's an expert on this, and Cathy McKnight, who's also super interesting." And it was just horrible that they did that. And I sent you, do you remember what I sent you?

Cathy (31:01):

I still run in it. You sent me a long sleeve running shirt that said, "I'm super interesting."

Deane (31:07):

You did and I felt horrible about the PR there, but that's the super interesting, and Cathy, you are super interesting and you are super helpful and thank you very much for taking time to talk to us.

Cathy (31:19):

Well, thank you both for having me. This is great. Have fun in Stockholm. I hope you find something. There's a really great, if I can remember it, Italian place because I'm not a particularly fan of all the sauces they put, but there was a really good Italian place that I went to. I'll try and find and send it to you.

Deane (31:34):

Yes, I came to Sweden to eat Italian.

Cathy (31:37):

Well, you didn't go to Sweden to eat Swedish food.

Deane (31:42):

No, I didn't. Cathy, thank you very much.

Corey (31:44):

Thank you.

Cathy (31:44):

All right, thank you. And thanks Corey. Cheers.

Corey (31:46):

Yep. Bye. All right, we're back, Deane. Cathy is great.

Deane (31:56):

Cathy is fantastic. She and I go back probably [inaudible 00:32:01].

Corey (32:00):

The year and also Canadian, which I don't think I knew.

Deane (32:03):

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. She was born in Montreal. She lives in Toronto now. Very, very Canadian, proudly. Cathy has been doing this for a number of years and she works all over the world. She talked about she has gotten very, very used to the kind of psychology and reverse engineering the psychology of these selection teams and the ladders above them, which lead to the decision. And this can be, I think it needs to be said, this can be a really unpleasant process because sometimes you just really want to get to the project. And I don't want to overstate the need of technology because I think it's rare for a project to fail purely on technology. Projects usually fail for social issues or requirements issues or people just kind of don't know what they want. The business issues really, they don't really fail for technology, but you can make mistakes and it's good to have someone in your corner that knows what the unknowns are. You want to minimize unknown unknowns and maximize known knowns and known unknowns. And that's where someone like Cathy comes in.

Corey (33:06):

Also we don't want to understate the fact that this also takes time. This is not a thing that you're going to be able to do over a week. Choosing this type of technology, especially if you're selecting something that might end up with a decent cost with something that might be into the five and six figures, you're going to want to take some time to make sure you're spending it in the right space. And so I think where we have seen some issues sometimes are when an organization comes in and they think that maybe they're going to take some ... Like a technology selection just at the start of a project real quick. And it ends up taking much longer than they thought. Because you've got to coordinate demos, you've got to coordinate stakeholders, you've got to coordinate tasks, it's not like a thing you can just turn around in about a weekend and hope you've picked the right tool.

Deane (33:53):

Yeah, and as a vendor, let me just jump in and advocate for my end of the equation too. This is a situation where you are going to be imposing on other people. You're going to be writing RFPs [inaudible 00:34:03] and vendors are going to want this business and they're going to work for this business. You have to be careful not to be abusive. And I don't mean knowingly abusive, you probably wouldn't do that, but it's easy to be accidentally abusive in these situations. You can't send off an RFP with 132 questions and want an answer in 48 hours. You just can't do that. You need to give vendors notice because you're going to get bad answers. Or vendors are going to say, "Look, we just can't respond." And so don't rush this process both for your benefit and for the vendors. I mean, the vendors are going to work very hard to make you happy and it's fair to expect that the vendors will work to earn your business, but they have lives too.

And it's really not fair to just be incredibly and overly demanding with a CMS vendor just on a human level. And I throw that out there just because I was very sensitive to that. When I would work with a customer and we would send an RFP to a vendor, I would make sure the vendor had four weeks to respond. I thought that that was fair. Three to four weeks to respond. Then also with demos, I mean, if someone's preparing a customized demo for you, don't ask for it on Tuesday. I mean, if you sent them a bunch of requirements that you want to see. If you want just a canned demo that they do all the time, that's one thing. I mean, they could probably throw down and do that on five minutes notice. But if you want to see very custom scenarios that you wrote and give them time to work through that. I feel like I'm over advocating for my end now being a CMS vendor myself. But I feel strongly about that.

Corey (35:29):

No, I think you're right. I mean, listen, it's all part of creating a relationship with the people you're going to be working with, and that goes both ways. You don't want to want to be a jerk to the people who are going to want to help you with that tool. That's our show. Thanks to our guest, Cathy McKnight, of The Content Advisory. It was great to reconnect after what? 10 years. Check out her podcast, Uncharted Journeys, wherever you catch podcasts. The Web Project Guide is a product of Blend Interactive, a web strategy, design and development shop that builds websites and guides teams through complicated web and content problems from content strategy to CMS selection, we're dedicated to making great things for the web and this podcast is one of those things. This is episode 16 of The Web Project Guide, which also corresponds with chapter 16 of the book: select a content management system.

You can read the full text of this chapter at WebProject.guide/select-cms. If you want your own copy of our big beautiful book, you now have two options. Digital copy, which isn't as big and beautiful as the actual physical print copy. Both are great. Both are available at The Web Project Guide store. You can visit order.webproject.guide where you can pick up either version of the book or you can also grab a Web Project Guide gift set, which includes some Web Project Guide socks. As always, leave a review on Amazon for the book or leave a note or a five star review on your chosen podcast network. If you leave an actual written review on either the book or the podcast, I promise we'll read it next month and you will probably win a pair of socks. Anyway, thank you for joining us for another month. Subscribe, share, and check us out next month when we talk about hosting your site. And until then, go do amazing things.

Deane (37:05):

Good luck and forgive our weird sock fetish.