[thelist] CMS: opensource or hand-roll?

Christie Mason cmason at managersforum.com
Wed Sep 17 15:57:27 CDT 2008

Off the Shelf (OTS), open source or otherwise,  can be fine for some very
defined situations and a horror story in other situations.  Generally
speaking I've found that starting off with an OTS version can be OK for
prototyping but then you run into a decision point where their processes
can't be supported by the OTS software.

Yes, some customer processes need to be changed because they're bad
processes to begin with,  but the more the software doesn't match their
current processes,  the more they'll either not use the system or they'll
develop complicated work arounds which will eventually lead to them not
using the system.  If you should decide to customize the OTS software then
you've got more problems when the next upgrade version comes out and you
have to reintegrate your customizations.

Then there's what I think of as the "potato chip" issue.  Clients think they
only need a system to do X, and the next thing you know they all want it to
do XYZ, then S, then AB.  You have to be able to know your client better
than they know themselves to be able to predict what they really need now,
and within the foreseeable future.

There's also the issues of security and support. A couple of years ago I
deeply and widely explored OTS systems, both fee/free, both PHP and .Net,
for a couple of months and I found an appalling lack of attention to
security, spaghetti code and sites that were more focused on marketing than

During the past few years I've either had to custom build or figure out how
to add custom modules to OTS systems.  Client TCO, so far,  has been less
for custom build because of the extra charges to recustomize for version
changes and open source software tends to have a lot of version changes.

If it's a small job, with limited editors and permissions, I still consider
going OTS first and then make the final decision after deeply understanding
the client's current processes and improved processes.

Christie Mason

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