Open Source Could be Like Transporting an Elephant in your Car

Business Director, Commerce & Retail
Valtech DK

abril 01, 2014

From time to time, I get the question: “What kind of Open Source systems do you recommend?” The question could be answered like this: “Oh, WordPress is good – and take a look at Umbraco as well”

...But the question is just as random, as asking the car dealer to sell you a suitable car – without telling him whether it’s for transporting two kids or your pet elephant. Any car can transport your kids, and most cars can transport an elephant – but they will probably travel slowly, and break down after a few miles.

Therefore, the question should be: “These are my business needs. Based on those – what Content Management system do you recommend?”

How important is your digital business? Can you survive a few days of downtime or will it hurt your business severely? How much traffic do you anticipate to your site? Do you need real time personalization – or are all of your customers alike? Do you expect growth in revenue – and are you taking on new markets? And how is your channel strategy?

These questions – and a bunch more – need to be answered long before, you can even consider which web content management and eCommerce platform you should go with. By saying that you will only look at open source – you are either a religious man – or you are on a dangerous path for your business.

The license and the ‘TCO’

Did someone tell you, that “Open Source” is free? They are hopefully not your trusted advisors – because they are terrible wrong. Think of it as Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Calculate the costs of customization of the platform to fit your business needs. Maybe a specific system costs a little more in licenses – but will save you three times that in implementation costs or lost competitiveness.

Without doing your homework and investigating thoroughly what your actual business needs are, you do not stand a chance of calculating the final cost of your platform.

Open Source systems are wonderful

So, what is my point? That all Open Source systems are terrible, and all systems that come with a price tag are absolutely flawless? Hell no! Are you building a blog or a campaign site, WordPress could be the right solution for you. Are you a single person startup with just enough turnover to pay your own salary, you probably shouldn’t mortgage your house to buy an enterprise content management system.

There are many instances where an Open Source system would be the right choice – but make sure you take a look at your long-term business needs before believing something as stupid as “it’s free!”

So when should I use something else than Open Source?

After investigating your business needs, take a look at Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management Systems. With this, Gartner has created a non-biased, independent evaluation of all leading Content Management Systems.

If you are looking to do serious stuff with your website, to create a long term platform that can drive business in the digital channels – you need to look closely at the systems in the upper right corner of Gartner’s Quadrant.

Will one of them be right for you? Maybe… probably… But completely failing to investigate these systems thoroughly based on your business needs could have serious consequences0.

As a Scandinavian, it makes me proud to see, that we have both Danish Sitecore and Swedish Optimizely among the world leaders in CMS.

Sell the CEO's Beemer…

How much is an acceptable license cost for a content management system? For most businesses, less than the price tag on the CEO's Beemer. So where do you investigate in your company’s future? In the parking lot or in the platform, which for most companies is becoming more and more business critical?

Make your own choice

Choose the right system – based on your business needs. Are your company at the verge of a financial breakdown, you should go with the lowest initial price tag as possible. But if not, make sure that your decision supports a long-term vision for your digital business. Is that Open Source or license based systems?

Tell me your business needs, and I will tell you what I recommend. Before we both know your business needs, why not just flip a coin? The chance for success is just as high.

And what car do I drive? I examined my needs, and found out, that 9 out of 10 trips are from my home to the nearby forest to walk my dog. So I bought an old beat up SEAT with plenty of room for dog, treats and girlfriend. I could have gone to the car dealership, closed my eyes and asked for “a blue car”. But chances are, that his recommendation wouldn’t fit my needs – so I made the obvious choice to open my eyes and tell him what the car would be used for.

I recommend you do the same, the next time you are in the market for CMS – and do not be hypnotized by a price tag with just a zero on it.