10 May 2019
Jim Tasevski

What is GovCMS?

GovCMS is a whole-of-government digital platform built on open source content management system Drupal. It’s fully managed and compliant to serve government websites.

GovCMS viability

When a digital project starts, it’s important to check GovCMS’s out-of-the-box offering to see how well it suits your project.

Salsa’s GovCMS viability methodology involves analysing project requirements against technical solutions. The technique assigns a rank to each requirement and represents the complexity of effort to deliver or comply.

Salsa uses a rigorous process to assess each requirement and determine whether:

  • an existing theme can be modified to meet the requirement;
  • an out-of-the-box feature can be configured (and to what level);
  • a third-party module can deliver the requirement; or
  • a custom module needs to be built.

Note: In general, it’s better to avoid too much customisation. See our blog Best practice for custom requirements for more information/why.

The table below presents Salsa’s GovCMS compliance classification rating system for conducting site assessments against GovCMS. You can also view this table as a PDF file.

GovCMS compliance classification

Australian Design System components

We’ll also look at how the GovCMS base theme maps to your design requirements. GovCMS 8 ships with a default base theme that’s built using some of the Australian Design System components. A new website’s theme can be built on top of the base, leveraging the existing components and adding brand-specific styling.

Additional components can be brought in from the Australian Design System during project development as needed to streamline the build. Salsa can identify components that can be used and combined to fit the requirements, while calling out gaps that would need to be built on top of the available components.

GovCMS SaaS versus GovCMS PaaS

Sometimes our GovCMS viability assessments will look at both GovCMS SaaS and GovCMS PaaS to identify the best match.


Software-as-a-service (SaaS) is one of the two official offerings available on the GovCMS platform. SaaS is a fully managed solution that takes most of the management overhead away, so you can focus on core functions. To provide such a fully managed option to the highest SLAs, the platform needs to limit the control that customers have over the underlying codebase and its configuration.

By using GovCMS SaaS you can:

  • Develop and deploy your own themes, either from scratch or by building on top of the existing default base theme that provides accessibility, usability and standardisation (Design System components)

  • Add a limited level of functional customisations via the theme layer

  • Add site configuration and metadata

  • Implement rich content workflows

  • Manage website users and their roles

  • Create flexible and fieldable content types and their displays


Platform-as-a-service (PaaS) is another service offered by GovCMS. The main difference of this model is the freedom to fully control the application (codebase and its configuration) while still benefiting from the infrastructure support and platform tools and services. Of course, in this case the Department of Finance can’t be responsible for the application, which means that you’d need to self-manage the updates, patching and ongoing technical maintenance. With the ability to accommodate the unique technical requirements, this could also come at a price of accumulated technical debt and management in the future. However, if the GovCMS codebase is used and properly managed this option provides great value if you require unique functionality that can’t be met within SaaS.

By using GovCMS PaaS you can:

  • Leverage the out-of-the-box benefits of GovCMS distribution, including the base theme and configuration

  • Modify the GovCMS distribution or swap for any other codebase

  • Add custom and contributed extensions

  • Implement custom integrations with other systems (e.g. CRM, PayWall, etc.)

  • Manage website administrative permissions

  • Have full control over the application roadmap and development

Salsa assessments

Salsa’s GovCMS viability methodology gives you a clear understanding of how your requirements map to GovCMS’s out-of-the-box solution and the level of compliance. This methodical approach ensures you have a thorough understanding of GovCMS’s viability and the effort required to meet your full requirements. Salsa’s viability assessments can also compare GovCMS SaaS to GovCMS PaaS to ensure the best match possible.

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