[Evangelism] Article: Is Plone a Good CMS

ctxlken ken.wasetis at contextualcorp.com
Mon Aug 3 16:46:43 UTC 2009


Back during my 'objective CMS evaluation consulting' days with another 
consulting firm, it was pretty common to have a 'short list' of 
recommended CMS solutions to have clients evaluate.  I, of course, 
always tried to have Plone on that list, because usually the functional 
requirements from clients large and small could be met by Plone, but in 
those days, open source was only widely accepted at the infrastructure 
layer (Linux for OS, maybe JBoss as application server), and it was a 
tougher sell (to IT folks only, really) to pitch 'enterprise' 
application solutions that were open source and/or that were based on 
Python, a not-so-widely accepted 'enterprise' development language by IT.

The typical 'short lists' looked like this:

Enterprise CMS list:

Percussion Rhythmyx
Vignette (becoming OpenText)
Documentum (now EMC)
Stellent (acquired by Oracle)
BroadVision (wow, that's going back; only on list because we had a lot 
of experience with the portal delivery side of BV)
RedDot (acquired by OpenText)
Plone  (it couldn't hurt to get it more exposure and to show clients 
that we were knowledgeable of solid FOSS options other consultancies 
didn't even know of)

Windows/.NetShops CMS list:
RedDot   (.Net for CMS, but Java-basd for portal delivery engine; Used 
to be just a nice looking and easy-to-use CMS, but very feature-rich now.)
nCompass Labs  (a really nice CMS that was purchased by M$ and became 
'CMS 2002', which seemed to then get killed in favor of Sharepoint.  
Ektron  (low-end cost .Net option, but also more limited functionality)
Plone   (Realized Plone project wins after pitching it head-to-head 
against the commercial tools)

Affordable/Open Source CMS List:
Ektron (especially attractive to Windows shops)
Joomla  (for only very simple CMS requirements; basically to 'add pages')

Since Plone continued to beat out other open source tools when clients 
had more demanding functional equirements, we eventually slimmed that 
last list down to Ektron vs. Plone

Notice that Sharepoint wasn't even on our list at the time, as we saw it 
strictly as more of a 'DMS' (Document Management System) that could be 
used on Intranet projects.  Later on, my company bought a Microsoft 
integrator that provided Sharepoint services, so that became a bigger 
part of our offering, but wasn't really part of the public-facing web 
CMS (WCMS) list of options we came to the table with.  It probably is 
something my old company leads with now, though.

So, we had 'short lists' or recommended tools clients should consider 
that were based upon client and expected budget size, but also that were 
based upon these other criteria that I believe come into play:

Decision Maker - IT vs. Marketing:

If Marketing, we were more likely to get to propose/implement open 
source/Plone because they just want a great, feature-rich 'solution' for 
the best price, and don't care about whether it's written in Java or 
.Net or whatever the standard skill set is of IT.  Much of the time, 
marketing wants to side-step IT and hire contractors and get support 
from the CMS vendor anyhow.

Open Source Adoption Likelihood:

Again, if talking to Marketing/PR, this is less of an issue, but in 
discussing options with IT, we would attempt to determine to what level 
they might already be using open source, and how difficult a sell this 
would be, not just for us, but for the internal group trying to get the 
project approved (Marketing, Human Resources, etc.)

Magic Quadrant Effect:

If a client is starting off with, say the Gartner 'Magic Quadrant' ECM 
Report or the Forrester 'Wave' Report (for which they've already paid 
thousands), then they are less likely to have heard of open source CMS 
tools (though this is slowly changing and we need to push for coverage 
of Plone), and are focusing in on 'enterprise' type software and likely 
have the corresponding budget size in mind as well.

See the Gartner Report 

See an older Forrester Report here and notice coverage of Alfresco (open 

Some clients (especially IT managers) will only blindly follow these 
reports.  It's called 'managing risk-to-resume' and is akin to the old 
addage that 'nobody ever got fired for buying solutions from IBM'.  At 
least that's an old addage in the Midwest U.S., where 'Big Blue' was 
always king during the mainframe days.  So, IT managers see risk in 
going with solutions not in the 'magic quadrant' and if we perceived 
that, we knew that recommending open source was going to be more 
difficult unless we could really get the business department (marketing, 
et al) to push hard for it.

Since this is the Plone Evangelism list, I think some things to take 
aware are:

1) Research Coverage:

We should do what we can to contact Gartner, Forrester, Jupiter, and 
other research firms to see what we can do to get Plone represented by 
their research.  What benchmarks do they use to determine which tools to 
cover?  Is Alfresco covered because it has a corporate face/backing to it?

2) Comparison Sheets:

We should provide comparison sheets that, rather than being general 
enough to cover evaluations at the 'high end' and at the 'low end', are 
targeted comparisons at each end, and in the middle.   For a CMS 
comparison of open source tools only, Idealware.org has already done 
much of the work for us.  Basically, indicating that all of the primary 
open source CMS tools that make it to organizations' short lists are 
viable, but that the more complex functionality a client needs, the more 
they need Plone.  A summary grid such as the one they present in their 
report would be very nice to have for each targeted 'short list' we 
would want to market.  Of course, it's better when an objective third 
party does it, but since Plone isn't getting much public coverage in 
comparison to commercial tools, we may need to do some of this 
ourselves.  The CMSWatch.com reports DO cover commercial and open source 
tools, so maybe the foundation should purchase a report (and others) and 
then publish its own 'summary report' or something that doesn't conflict 
with any report's license.

I have just this week been asked to come up with my own Ektron vs. Plone 
comparison report for an IT integrator that knows Plone is a better fit 
for their client than Ektron, but needs the specific criteria that 
proves this.  It's not the first time I've been asked for such a report 
by someone who is a project champion and who wants to navigate around 
questions about open source or python or whether it can run on 
Windows/Linux or how to host it easily/affordably (without hiring a 
Python or Linux expert), etc.  It could help Plone integrators to have 
such marketing answers/collateral.

The most commonly requested comparisons for our firm and that I think 
would be most helpful are:

Plone vs. Drupal  (I can now thankfully point clients to the 
Idealware.org report that was produced by an objective party)
Plone vs. Sharepoint
Plone vs. Ektron

3) Client Testimonies:

Contact clients that we know chose Plone over other (commercial or open 
source) CMS tools and ask them if they'd be willing to do an interview 
or to fill out a survey that asks how they believe Plone vs. CMS X 
compared in terms of various factors typical of normal evaluations. 

It would also be really powerful to survey our past clients and provide 
'average' numbers for small, medium, and large-sized projects, when 
implemented with Plone integrators versus what clients were quoted 
(ranges, not actual numbers) from commercial vendors.  My experience 
with the commercial vendors (outside of Ektron) is that a client is 
typically looking at $250K on up just to get a 'Quick Start' package, 
where the integrator implements one section of the website and includes 
a week of training, so the client can have their own staff finish the 
rest, or pay a lot more in fees to have it finished for them.

4) Cost Comparison Collateral:
It'd also be helpful to have an hourly rate schedule comparison of 
'certified' commercial vendor integrators vs. Plone integrator firms 
(leaving freelancers out of the equation so as not to compare apples and 

I've been seeing topics for webinars from vendors such as IBM, Oracle, 
and others similar to 'The Hidden Costs of Open Source' or 'Open Source 
Doesn't Come Free'.  Sure a Plone implementation is going to cost 
something for the consulting time, but it'd be useful to have an overall 
project costs comparison chart as well as an hourly consulting 
comparison chart, because generally the commercial vendors are going to 
charge $150-250/hr for services, while Plone services are typically 
under even their low number and decision-makers need to see and consider 

This point is especially important as a decision-maker looks at the 
3-year project cost.  After implementation, a firm going with a 
commercial solution is going to pay annual license fees and is going to 
continue to pay higher hourly consulting fees, so the long-term costs 
are even more drastically higher for a commercial system.  Many 
organizations are silly and only look at year-1 implementation costs and 
let the following years' costs be ignored during the selection process.

5) Plone.net:

Add these surveys/interviews to the Case Studies section of Plone.net.  
Or, possibly even better, once we have some of these, create a new 
section on Plone.net called Client Testimonials that are interviews with 
clients (especially focusing on the CMS evaluation/selection process) 
rather than just project recaps that focus purely on what was done with 
Plone was it was selected.

6) Plone Foundation Advertising via Google Ads:

Once we have client testimonials to point prospects/leads to, I'd 
recommend having the Plone Foundation provide limited funding for some 
Google Ads that would appear when people search for 'content management 
systems', 'open source cms', 'plone', and similar terms.  The ads could 
have eye-catching teaser titles such as 'Why did NASA select the Plone 
CMS?'  There actually is a nice interview-style recap of the Plone 
selection/implementation process from someone at NASA, by the way.  I 
recall Jon Stahl's blog or a tweet referring to it.  Nice 3-part read.

If we could even get 3-4 such testimonials, I think it'd be a very 
powerful and persuasive area for Plone.net and Plone would probably 
benefit from teasers to this directly from the Plone.org home page.

I hope this wasn't just a walk down memory lane for me, and can help 
provide some perspective for those on the list who have worked 
exclusively with Plone in the CMS space.


Ken Wasetis
President and CMS Solution Architect
email: ken.wasetis at contextualcorp.com
office: 847.356.3027
website: www.contextualcorp.com

Matt Hamilton (via Nabble) wrote:
> On 23 Jul 2009, at 09:34, Matt Hamilton wrote:
> >
> > On 21 Jul 2009, at 21:00, Matt Hamilton wrote:
> >
> >> Janus Boye just published an article entitled 'Is Plone a Good CMS?'
> >>
> >> http://www.jboye.com/blogpost/is-plone-a-good-cms/
> >>
> >> A fairly even article saying basically 'Danish Govt say Plone is a  
> >> good CMS, but is it fair that they pick one?'
> >
> > There are some fantastic comments at the bottom of this post now by  
> > Martin Aspeli and Ken Wasetis. Great work guys, some nice insights  
> > into 'big firm' consulting and how they go about things.
> In a further development on this, I privately emailed Janus to ask him:
> "One question to a point slightly raised on your
> post. You mention that Plone consulting companies are generally quite
> small.  How does this compare to the other Open Source systems you
> mentioned, ie. Umbraco, Liferay, Typo3? Do they have larger consulting
> companies?"
> As I was genuinely interested to see if Plone consulting companies are  
> *really* smaller than others, or if it is just a perception thing. His  
> response as this:
> "I would say Umbraco has been the most successful in attracting larger
> consulting companies. I am speculating this may be due to large
> consultancies with .NET skills using Umbraco as a low-end alternative to
> commercial systems such as EPiServer and Sitecore.
> Let me know your thoughts and then I'll write a blog about it."
> This is a very interesting point. So he is saying that there are some  
> larger companies using other .NET CMSs such as EPiServer and Sitecore,  
> but when that company needs to do something low end they are using  
> Umbraco.
> So is this a good thing? What does it mean to the Plone community? Are  
> there companies out there that say something like 'We normally use  
> Vignette, but in this smaller case we will use Plone'?
> At the moment I think we are often trying to pitch against the big  
> boys saying our system can do everything they can. But maybe the  
> message that Umbraco is using is 'we are lighter/smaller/quicker/
> cheaper etc' than the big boys. I know in reality Plone can/does use  
> both messages.
> What are your thoughts? I want to gather them up to send to Janus.
> -Matt
> -- 
> Matt Hamilton                                       [hidden email] 
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