Demystifying the Technology Selection Process, Part 2

Last week, INN’s CEO Kevin Davis offered some initial steps to follow before deciding on your news organization’s content management system (CMS). This week, he rounds out what every independent news publisher should consider when hiring a technology service provider.

Know the different services

  • A programmer is a person or agency that writes actual code, either on a work-for-hire, licensing or open-source basis.
  • A configurator is a person or agency that understands a particular programming language or platform, but does not actually write code. Instead, they “configure” existing code for your needs.
  • A designer is a person or agency that understands how to lay things out on a page, but does not substantively touch the underlying code.

It’s absolutely critical to the success of your project to understand these differences. As you might imagine, pricing for each type of service often gets more expensive as the skill level of the service provider increases.

It can be tempting and convenient to turn to students or volunteers for technological services. However, I advise against this, as continuity, rigor, methodology and experience are important considerations when selecting a resource. Also, professionals can create good documentation for what they provide, and that’s important in keeping future maintenance costs down.

Getting a bid

This really is a three-step process:

  • You should have a short list of potential vendors from last week’s due diligence process.
  • Create an external version of the business requirements that you put together last week.
  • Send out the business requirements as part of a Request for Proposal (RFP), being sure to let bidding vendors know how and when they can ask you further questions, and the deadline for sending in their proposals.

Negotiating the contract

Whether you select an agency and sign a standard contract or an individual, and put him or her under a freelance contract, it is important that you sign a contract that specifies: who owns the underlying code (If this is work for hire, you should. If it’s a license, they would. If it’s open source, nobody would.); what deliverables are expected and when; and, very importantly, what happens if anything goes wrong.

In my experience, the vast majority of effective contracts handle the last point so that your risk is managed, and your financial exposure is minimal.

More on this topic:
Top 10 Mistakes Made When Selecting a CMS
Website Design Components Checklist [PDF]
444 Questions to Ask When Selecting a Web CMS