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I need a comprehensive list of questions or at least basic idea of which questions to be asked to the client before customizing a cms for them?

I may use Wordpress, Drupal, Sharepoint or anything, I am asking what should be the preliminary investigation questions like "Who are the potential users?" or "How much load are you assuming on your site per day?".

Thanks.

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In my experience, clients might want to build a CMS for a very wide variety of reasons, and not all of those reasons are necessarily good ones. Your job is to ascertain why they are really undertaking this project, and to deliver the best possible solution.

To most effectively render a good service, I would suggest the following approach:

1. Determine their business objectives.

What kind of business is this? What do they sell, and to whom? By answering these basic questions, you will be able to approach your solution with those objectives in mind.

2. Determine the objectives of the project

Where does this particular piece fit into their puzzle? Do they really need a complicated thing with a ton of features, or could they accomplish the same thing with a far more simple solution? If you can bring them a better, more efficient, cleaner solution, you will demonstrate to them that you are an expert worthy of their trust (and money!).

I have encountered countless occasions in which someone thinks they want something big and complicated, when all they really need is an extremely simple solution.

3. Offer options

If, after determining objectives, there is not a single obvious solution, you may consider presenting two or three possible options. You need not bog them down in the technical details; you simply want to be able to give them a rough idea of the possibilities, and which ones are more or less complicated and expensive to implement.

For example, I have often been asked to provision a blog for a client that is just now getting around to having one (!!). By showing them two options, the "Cheap, Simple, Basic Features" route via a Tumblr/Posterous etc and the "Powerful, Robust, Complicated" route via WordPress or something similar, I can make it easy for them to understand the differences and the possible scopes.

As with all things in Project Management, it's all about healthy communication. The more you understand where they are coming from, the easier it will be to ensure you are rendering a service that will make them happy.

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You might want to check out the document "Questionnaire.doc" from the TopCoder.com project documents list. It gives a great series of questions to ask at the beginning of a project.

To paraphrase (and summarize):

  • What is the goal of the software?
  • Are you replacing a legacy item? Describe it.
  • Are you creating a new item? Describe it.
  • Who uses the software? What roles do they play?
  • What data does the software need to complete its intended function?
  • What effect does the software have when it has completed its intended function?
  • What external systems does the software need to interact with (computers, hardware, people) ?
  • What reporting is required of the software?
  • What else does the software author need to know (deployment environment) ?
  • Why does this software matter?

There's more, but I'll leave it there.

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