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Where's the beef? Wendy's chooses an open source WCMS

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Imagine winnowing down a software platform from 25 vendors -- what Wendy's did when choosing its WCMS. The burger firm made the complex task simpler with a scorecard ranking system.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Wendys.com sells 1.5 million burgers a day via its website and app. At that scale, when it came time to update the back-end software supporting it, choosing a WCMS wasn't as simple as running the Frosty machine.

Earlier this year, the fast-food giant sought a simpler design but far more complex data tracking for personalization, said Michael Mancuso, the company's head of digital analytics who also heads up Wendys.com. In this Pipeline podcast episode, he discusses the process for choosing a WCMS.

Spoiler alert: Wendy's didn't weigh technology analyst reports that rank the market leaders. Acquia, the open source WCMS platform vendor, eventually beat out 24 other prospective vendors. (The vendor actually ranks well in such industry reports.)

"You may not necessarily be a leader with Gartner or Forrester, but if you have compelling business value and can fit into our ecosystem, we'll evaluate you equally," Mancuso said. "In doing that, we learned an insane amount about content management systems."

Chances are your organization doesn't have such large, complicated website ambitions that must accommodate variation among Wendy's franchisees that may offer different items, condiments or toppers.

But if you're choosing a WCMS, Mancuso offers many tips in this podcast for picking the right one, including involving stakeholders, sticking to business needs, thinning the herd of vendors and, of course, considering open source WCMS platforms. Grab a Baconator and tap play to get the whole story, recorded on site at the Acquia Engage user conference.

Transcript - Where's the beef? Wendy's chooses an open source WCMS

Don: Hi, it's Don Fluckinger on site at Acquia Engage Conference in Austin, Texas. I'm here with Michael Mancuso. He is head of digital analytics for Wendy's, but he's also product owner for Wendys.com, so that means he sells an awful lot of burgers online. What did you say, a million-and-a-half a year?

Michael: So, I will do a million-and-a-half per day.

Don: I mean, a day. I meant that.

Michael: It is an incredible amount of food that we sell. And it's almost inconceivable to think that a 10th of the U.S. population visits our website every year.

Don: Well, thanks for joining us today. You recently changed from legacy content management system to open source, Acquia, based on Drupal, for your website. And that's no small endeavor when you have a 10th of the American population using your app, or your website, or whatnot. So, we're gonna discuss sort of how that buying decision was made. So, walk me through, sort of, what was it like before and how did you know that it was time to do a rip and replace at the scale we're talking about here?

Michael: You know, it wasn't an easy decision to come to. Anytime you're looking at a site that has such a tremendous volume of users and a lot of historical content, there's complexity that goes into this that often can cause detrimental business impact if it's not done properly. For us, it came to I was spending a lot of developer resources to bring content to life and I wasn't able to move at the speed or other channels were moving to get our new thoughts and to get our new products out to customers. Our approach was ... it's an approach that can be universally taken whether you're a small business or a large enterprise, and it really focuses on centering in on the business problems you're trying to solve. Now, if you're not an empowered decision-maker in your organization, ask someone in your C-suite, ask someone who is, what keeps you up at night?

When you're looking at how to align your strategy to purchasing a new content management system, see where there can be impact on solving some of those issues. If you are a decision-maker, you should have a pretty good understanding of the KPIs that you need to drive as a business. Use that as a standard candle when evaluating features and functionality. The approach we took was meeting with each of the different groups that interacted with the site today and we asked them a few simple questions. So, first, how is your department measured this year? And how are you trying to move your department ahead? Then based on that, how can you help our customers? If there's features or functionality that don't directly align to the business strategy or to helping customers, it's time to re-evaluate those because a lot of the complexity in these projects comes from moving over legacy concepts and ideas that may not be used but are rampant, and we had no shortage.

Don: Right. You didn't want to port bad processes to the new site. So, you sort of had to clean out your house before you went on to the platform.

Michael: We did and the outcome of these meetings we created a balanced scorecard. So, by department, I understood the business impact of the different features and functionality we were asking for, and the types of content we wanted to migrate. From there, I'll be the first to say, "You don't know what you don't know." And even in my role, I'm very comfortable that there is a lot I don't know. So, we took this balanced scorecard and built a very mini RFP, you could say, that was hyperfocused to what Wendy's needed and we sent that out to 25 different content management system vendors. We're one of the types of organizations where you may not necessarily be a leader with Gartner or Forrester, but if you have compelling business value and can fit into our ecosystem, we'll evaluate you equally. In doing that we learned an insane amount about content management systems and Acquia managed to hit every sweet spot we needed perfectly. Would I say that that is true for every type of company? Probably not and you should go through your own due diligence. But I was unbelievably impressed with what we saw during that part of the process, and the level of rigor our teams dug in. Because anytime I see perfect on a scorecard, I don't know about you, but I get very nervous that either I've asked the wrong questions or I'm not getting the right answers. And the deeper we dug, the more satisfied we were that this was the right platform, which translated into us being able to go from signing a contract to replatforming our website, migrating all of our content and going live in 88 days.

Don: Some of our readers do have businesses, like Wendy's models, like franchisees, or in other cases partner relationship management where distributors or retailers are interacting with customers. How do you sort of overcome, I'm not gonna say those barriers, but how do you work through that business model to connect with customers individually, yet serve your franchisees or, you know, other businesses to serve their retailers or distributors?

Michael: Terrific question and it's a very important one to have considerations around because the drivers and goals of my franchisees are complementary, but not necessarily congruent with those of the corporate entity at Wendy's. And our customer needs may not necessarily align with either. So, when we look at creating experiences, a big part of it is the central strategy this site should drive value across the board. Now, our franchisees, they care a lot about profitability as they should; we care about profitability, but we also care a lot about sales volume going through. But our customers, they just want really good burgers and they want their hamburgers quickly and they wanna understand all the things they can add, change and other products. So, we set up a base platform that allowed us to drive those, but through personalization, we were able to earn the confidence of the different entities that we were getting the right message to the right people at the right time.

Don: And so, walk me through sort of the vendor elimination process. You said you sent out to 25 vendors, how do you go from this big stack of perspectives to narrowing the field to a few finalists? I mean, how do you do that from a content management point of view? What advice do you have for your peers who probably are not going through 25 vendors, but they're walking the same steps, right?

Michael: Absolutely. Once you have questions that are really impactful to your business, and for us, a lot of them were around scale, they were around security, but we gave specific use cases. When we talked about, does your platform support good SEO? Everyone supports good SEO. So, we would give examples, so this is our problem with SEO and how we have structured data. How can your platform help us? We had a qualitative side and a quantitative side. So, they were open-ended questions that we would use to discuss with those departments, and for the binary questions, yes or no, or maybe is this something that's a feature, is it a paid ad, is it custom development, we would rank those differently. Once you have your scorecards in, separate price from the equation because right now price and value are completely incongruent and look at the features that aligned to your core business and select your shortlist. For us, there was three that really fell within the circle of meeting all of our needs. That's when price and value came into play. And that's where understanding the talent we have available, the nature of our ecosystem, and our MarTech stack, and how it would all fit together. And for us, knowing that Aquia being Drupal was open source, we had the freedom and flexibility to know as our MarTech stack evolves, it would not be major services engagements for our website to evolve with us.

Don: So, some of our readers are a little bit wary of open source. How come that was no issue for you?

Michael: In many cases, I'm wary of open source because the market itself can be very fragmented. With that said, there are a few really strong open source providers and when I look at Drupal, the developer base, the number of companies using the platform and the security researchers around it, I know that if there is a zero-day exploit, I'm getting my patch rapidly. And the same can't be said for the non-open source providers. They don't have a large group of people constantly poking holes in it. So, if there are exploits, I, in this instance, felt there was more risk going with a proprietary solution. That doesn't translate for all open source. But with Drupal and some of the other open source tools we use, it was a very easy decision on our part.

Don: When choosing a content management system, it's sometimes hard to avoid the vendor noise and the vendors. What's your number one tip to help focus on your company and your needs, and not to be taken in by, you know, the smoke?

Michael: You know, this is advice I wish I had 15 years ago in my career. It comes down to the quality of the questions you ask and the more specific you are, the more you can understand if the person answering really understands what you're getting at. If I asked any of the content management systems, can you support managing metadata so I can find my content easily? Every single one of them are gonna say yes. Now, if I talk about, can I set up an integration with our item management system to automatically bring over this information? And can I set up business rules to programmatically build metadata to share with Google, so I can index my menu content in a search-friendly way? Well, now all of a sudden, there's a use case and if they can or can't becomes very apparent in where the gaps are. No one's gonna do everything, but there should be clear lines of understanding where they can't. And if anyone can do everything out of the box, you're either not pushing your platform enough or you're not asking the right questions.

Don: All right. Well, that sounds like great advice. Thanks a lot for your time today.

Michael: Thank you so much.

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