CMS request for proposal: how an RFP template can smooth the way

If your company is planning to relaunch its website, it will usually also need to find a suitable content management system. But what exactly does “suitable” mean?


The pool of CMS vendors is vast – as is the number of selection criteria. It’s worth remembering that the quality of the service providers and their offers will reflect how well your project is put out for bidding. That’s where a request for proposal (RFP) comes in.

What is a request for proposal?

Choosing a new CMS demands the same amount of time and resources as actually implementing the CMS further down the line. For that reason, it’s important to make sure you select the right tool from the outset based on your requirements. Otherwise, you could be in for a bumpy ride and run into problems.

The price shouldn’t be the only factor you consider when weighing up the bids submitted by CMS vendors. There are often differences in terminology, structure, layout, and scope, making a direct comparison tricky.

For better comparability, an RFP document can help you formalize requirements and assess vendors.

It is in the form of a questionnaire that goes through the most important aspects of the new CMS. First of all, that offers the major advantage of letting you place the answers from the top vendors next to one another to easily compare and assess them. Second, the RFP helps you work out what requirements you want to define for the new CMS in the first place.

What questions should you ask yourself before starting the call for bids process?

Today, a company’s CMS is one of the key tools for managing its content, creating valuable customer experiences, and controlling how it presents content on different channels and devices. To get to the bottom of your basic expectations of a CMS and clarify your time plan and other details, you should first round up all the major stakeholders within your company.

After all, the management board will most certainly look for very different things in a CMS compared to the developers, editors, or designers, for example. By coming together, you will be able to determine the success indicators for introducing the CMS, the project scope, as well as the schedule and budget. Key questions could include:

  • What are your business goals?
  • How do you expect the new CMS to perform in order to reach these goals?
  • What are the weaknesses of your current CMS?
  • Are there any technical or regulatory limitations?
  • Are there deadlines to meet?

You will find other important questions in the RFP template:

What does an RFP contain?

Although the exact layout of an RFP document always depends on the individual company, the task at hand, and the required information, it is advisable to include the following components in the basic structure:

Overview of the project

This is where you can summarize your basic goals and problems to enable vendors to better understand why you are looking for a new CMS and what it needs to do for you to meet your goals. It is better to focus on your expectations in terms of the project’s “success” rather than the solution itself. That will give vendors the chance to develop unique solutions to help your company.

Vendor information

In this section, you can assess the vendors’ knowledge of the market and find out what strategy and roadmap they implement. This is important for identifying whether their expertise and vision are consistent with your project goals. For example, you could ask the vendors what makes them stand out from the competition.

It would also be wise to ask about the future viability of the CMS, since choosing a CMS is a long-term commitment and it should therefore be scalable.

Project requirements

This is the most detailed aspect of the RFP questionnaire and covers a wide range of areas, tasks, and requirements: management of roles and rights, content creation and editing, multilingualism and localization, personalization, accessibility, SEO, analytics, metadata management, and much more. The RFP template contains questions relating to each requirement to guide you and your potential vendors.

Technical requirements

Technical requirements may refer to the solution itself or complementary services provided by the CMS vendor. Information about the solution’s platform (cloud or on-premises) is thus just as important as asking what operating systems are required.

Security requirements

This section is for checking what security requirements are met by the new CMS, whether generally accepted industry standards or concepts for data protection, identity management, and access control.

You’ve created and sent off your RFP – what’s next?

You can now use the results of the RFP to narrow down the top vendors even further to two or three prime candidates who you would then invite to a face-to-face (or of course remote) meeting. This setting is an opportunity for the vendors to present their strategies and solutions to you in detail. The teams can also already get to know each other at this point before the winning candidate is selected.

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