This is perhaps the most important factor for WCMS buyers.
The total cost of an information system is easily displaced as buyers have a tendency to ignore the total lifecycle of the software. A CIO in a small company could explain that she spends zero on web content management since she does it all by herself, but the number of hours she spends updating the web content each week might amount to a significant expense relative to the size of the company.
A WCMS has costs upon acquisition. The software is bought, and additional modules or plug-ins will likely add to the price. It must be tested, deployed and tweaked by developers to fit the company's environment. A web design must be applied to the templates. Users must be instructed on how to use the system. Older content must be imported.
There are maintenance costs to be considered. Content managers receive wages. The WCMS is customized, extended and maintained by developers, adding cost to the investment.
The final step of the lifecycle is migrating away from the WCMS to a newer one, or perhaps the web content is to be absorbed into an enterprise content management system. The content has to exported from the old system and imported into the new system. Finally, the value of the previous investments are nulled as the intellectual capital put into the use of the legacy WCMS is no more.
Depending on the amount web content and the complexity of the software, all these tasks involve considerable costs.
Like in any form of company profiling, there is no immediate return on the investment (ROI). This can lead to an negative process where the WCM division of an organization gets low priority and receives low-funding, the division performs worse web content management, and the web-site returns less revenue. However, many of the WCM systems benefits, like in any IT-investment in general, are intangible and hard to find and measure [Weill & Broadbent, 1998]. Intangible benefits of running an advanced WCMS can include a smaller need for WCM-staff. One less full-time employee could quickly make such a large WCMS investment worthwhile.
Measuring all investment down to an economical figure can prove to be an inaccurate measure of a WCM system's success. There may also be other infrastructural business values which should be investigated. A quality web-site is a crucial part of the identity of a large IT-company. All in all, finding the ROI is a complex task which is not the center focus of this research, but it has been explored in many others [Hallikainen, 2002], [Ward, 2003]. I recommend exploring some of these before planning a CMS acquisition.
Hallikainen, P., Kivijärvi, H., Nurmimäki, K. 2002, "Evaluating Strategic IT Investments: An Assessment of Investment Alternatives for a Web Content Management System", conference proceedings from HICSS-35, IEEE International
Ward, T. 2003, "Find ROI: Measuring Intranet Investments" Retrieved 30. April, 2006
Weill, P., Broadbent, M. 1998, "Creating Business Value through Information Technology & Rethinking Technology Investments: The Information Technology Portfolio", Leveraging the new infrastructure, HBS, ch. 1 & 2, p. 1-4