Version control is pretty much a given, but check for it nonetheless. You should have the option to easily roll back pages to any previous save. With heightened legal and government compliance requirements, versioning also gives you an archive of content and changes. If you have intricate records management needs, make sure the CMS lets you specify the length of time versions are maintained. Similarly, it's important for pages to automatically go live at a scheduled time and also expire when you specify.
Workflow, the checks and balances of content, doesn't have to be elaborate. However, there should be some method to specify who needs to review content before it goes live, e-mail notification to the reviewer of their pending tasks, and a quick way for these managers to spot what's changed (for instance, side-by-side comparison of original and revised text). For more sophisticated projects, it's important to have a visual workflow designer plus features to develop parallel or alternate workflows based on roles or a person's availability.
Many organizations have a separate search application, but don't assume it will seamlessly integrate with your CMS. As such, determine if the content management system comes with a search module. If so, does it have advanced functions, such as searching multiple sites and can the engine exploit pages' meta data?
Will it play nice with your enterprise systems? An API is a baseline requirement if you expect your CMS to work with other enterprise systems and various Web servers; depending on your environment, look for ASP.Net, ASP, Cold Fusion, or PHP support. Also, ask for API documentation in case your developers need to extend these components for special requirements.
In making your CMS selection, also consider other data interchange standards, including XML, RDF (Resource Description Framework), RSS, and Web services. These capabilities can prove invaluable at many levels. For instance, adhering to XML won't just smooth data sharing with your sales force automation system, price book, or e-mail marketing products; it can provide the necessary conduit into enterprise search applications or analytic tools.
Similarly, RSS and Web services might be the ticket to a quick integration with your intranet portal.
On the security side, you'd be smart to consider single sign-on for both content authors and registered users; in this case, assess how well the CMS works with Active Directory, LDAP, or other authentication systems. Additionally, check whether there's 128-bit encryption support.
What more can you get beyond the basics? If you're seriously considering a CMS, then you've probably decided that building a "home brew" system isn't for you. Bravo, since experience shows that the effort to develop something from scratch is often far harder and more expensive then originally anticipated (often reaching six or seven figures).
So besides some hooks into other systems provided by supplied APIs, how do you ensure that your CMS won't run out of steam after the initial rollout? One answer is to see what other components the vendor offers. Document and records management are often companion products that are easily added – or possibly selected during the initial system setup and configured when needed. Available social media functions are also worth reviewing, including blogs, wikis, surveys, and polls.
You might also inquire about an open SDK if you need extensive customization, say, a special version of the user interface.