By Elizabeth Quirk
Web content management (WCM) tools manage and control content across an organization’s digital channels. As digital content grows exponentially and new channels emerge, sophisticated WCM tools are in demand.
According to research firm Gartner, WCM systems utilize specific management tools based on a core repository to control content for consumption over digital channels. Product functions go beyond publishing web content and include a high degree of interoperability with adjacent technologies, such as sales force automation, customer self-service, marketing resource management, digital asset management (DAM), and web analytics. Gartner explains that WCM also organizes and provides metadata about the content as well as libraries services such as check-in/check-out, version control, and security. WCM enables businesses to control Web content as well as preforming other functions.
The Evolution of WCM
The WCM market endured seismic changes in the past several years. Enterprises transitioned from adding content to websites without a clear goal attached to leveraging content to drive revenue. The evolution of WCM stems from the way people access and consume content, services, and digital experiences.
Today’s WCM needs are more dynamic, integrated, and interactive. With the maturation of digital marketing and the proliferation of channels—including mobile, email, social, digital kiosks/displays, wearables, and messaging platforms—content can no longer be tied to a specific channel. “It needs to be channel agnostic so it can be created once and published anywhere,” comments David Le Strat, senior director of product management, Oracle.
Ryan Donovan, SVP product management, Sitcore, agrees, adding that the focus has also shifted away from siloed WCM platforms to providing end-to-end digital experience that encompasses other solutions such as analytics, personalization, and e-Commerce.
Today’s consumers behave very differently than they did years ago. Denise Douglas, product marketing manager, OpenText TeamSite & OpenText Optimost, OpenText, believes one of the biggest changes has been the shift from a traditional approach to WCM to a more holistic approach of digital experience management (DXM). “Truly forward-thinking organizations blend physical space with digital screens and experiences. These changes in consumer behavior and expectations lead organizations and businesses to develop content that not only fits many devices, channels, and audiences, but also is also consistent with the overall brand, wherever it is experienced.
Because of changing consumer behavior, there is a need for greater agility to react to customer requests.
“First-generation WCM solutions are not designed to keep up with this need of agility and integration. Therefore, they are replaced by new generation of solutions, which have a modern architecture and take advantage of the latest web technologies such as ASP.NET MVC and Angluar,” says Barrett Coakley, senior product marketing manager, Progress.
Tieerd Brenninkmejier, CMO, Hippo, a BloomReach Company, believes that the ability to optimize content based on measureable, data-centric goals is imperative to drive return on investment. He says this is something that has existed in the e-Commerce industry for quite some time and that the WCM industry is now catching up with.
Brenninkmejier says, modern WCM solutions create a personal experience across all digital touch points, and managing the data required to do so. With the ever-increasing proliferations of enterprise technologies, each collecting massive amounts of data, today’s WCM solutions must interoperate with all these systems, collect and compile the data, and produce actionable insights on content performance and personalization across the entire digital landscape. As the amount of usable data increases, so does the need for WCM solutions to offer analysis, automation, front and back-end integrations, and a cloud infrastructure that has the elasticity and scale to manage it all.
In addition to the increasing consumer demands, enterprises are now more comfortable with cloud solutions.
Douglas feels that companies want the option to move their DXM solution to the cloud, benefiting from the security, scalability, and always-on capabilities to remain competitive, while also moving from a capital expenditure model to an operational expenditure model. “An organization’s comfort level with the cloud may vary by industry or type of content, for example—DXM solutions need to have the ability to be deployed on premises, in a hybrid or fully cloud model, based on customer requirements.”
Before the cloud was an option, IT departments primarily worked with WCMs. David Aponovich, senior director, digital experience, Acquia, believes modern WCMs must be cloud-first and useful for all business users.
Adrian Newby, CTO, Crownpeak, says that typically, the first justification for a move to the cloud is based on cost savings, and then it quickly becomes apparent that agility and consequent speed to market are by far the biggest benefits. That is not to say that all cloud-based WCM offerings are equal. Newby admits that some truly do exploit the opportunities of cloud-based computing, and make very intelligent use of features in cloud-computing services that have no analog in the traditional, on premise data center world. Others differ little than the same, legacy solution, shoehorned into a cloud environment, bringing with them all the limitations and challenges of the monolithic, legacy architecture.
“Different channels also have different performance requirements, so they need technology that can flexibly scale to support new channels. We believe that this creates a tremendous opportunity for a cloud-based, channel agnostic content management system,” adds Le Strat.
“The innovation they bring in the WCM space revolves around IT deployment, such as cloud enablement, the use of REST mircoservices and modularization,” adds Arjen van den Akker, product marketing director, SDL.
When to Upgrade WCM and Why
Many organizations built a digital content strategy around specific channels. According to Le Strat, as they evolve and look to increase their content velocity, and brand consistency, the content strategies should enable consistent customer experiences across channels. Technology must all keep pace with the needs of their businesses and enable them to build the right rich content experience no matter the channel, or UI technology.
Aponovich points out that many organizations don’t use WCM effectively as a strategic driver for content and digital experiences, and occasionally that is due to old technology. In his opinion, many WCM’s are getting dusty. They were implemented when digital was a smaller part of an organization’s business strategy. Many old systems are not flexible enough to support new business models or mobile or other channels, and they aren’t scalable enough to handle new sites and experiences. “If they have these inabilities, and are also unable to personalize experiences, handle a proliferation of sites or a growing body of content that needs to be shared, they should certainly consider upgrading,” recommends Aponovich. “As soon as a company realizes that digital experiences drive business, they should upgrade to a WCM built for their current and future needs.”
Newby argues that most businesses are not up to date with their WCM systems. In fact, research from Garner and Forrester confirms that upgrade or replacement of the content management system is consistently ranked as one of the highest priorities in most enterprises. However, according to Newby, a depressingly large number of companies still seem to be inclined to hang on for as long as possible. “These companies survive on long-term maintenance contracts and wait for an event such as a full-on site redesign or corporate re-brand to replace the content management platform. Although, one could argue that making two major changes concurrently adds significant unnecessary risk,” he explains.
Some companies have caught on and have begun to invest in—and update—their WCM technology, which is often long overdue. Rising consumer expectations, in terms of the digital experience they expect from brands, is driving replacement cycles in combination with a trend towards globalization that forces brands to localize their content in more languages than ever before, according to Akker.
“Most businesses are not fully up to date with their WCM systems. Many bought or designed their systems back when the web was the primary channel and customers did not expect to have a seamless, fully integrated experience across all channels,” says Doug Heise, VP, Global Marketing, CoreMedia.
Many legacy WCM systems are not designed for true multichannel publishing or dynamic content reuse. It cannot easily support content personalization or contextual publishing and doesn’t provide online editors with the ability and control they need to create and publish great customer experiences quickly. They are designed for building Web pages rather than delivering seamless customer experiences.
Tying into the Customer Experience
WCM systems are the critical backbone to driving effective digital experiences. They need to be open, but not necessary open source, and provide the ability for marketing to integrate various systems in order to create that 360 view to drive a more personalized customer experience.
Coakley says older systems can be somewhat difficult for marketers to use, meaning they have to get their web team involved in order to make even the simplest change. This arrangement no longer works, a modern WCM solution should enable marketing to take control of the customer experience and allow them to make changes simply and easily without having to open a ticket with IT.
“We believe that driving effective digital marketing efforts requires looking beyond the purchase, and beyond the surface. Successful customer experience management has to take into account the full lifecycle of your customer relationships, from awareness to evaluation to purchase, use, advocacy, and recommendations,” explains Douglas.
Organizations today need to attract the customer, inform, teach, and convert them so they will make a purchase. This should be followed up by operations, onboarding and ongoing support.
“Technology bridges need to be established to allow assets, information, and data to flow between systems, departments, people, and processes. This cross-organizational approach ensures a consistent experience and helps to maintain a relevant, valued engagement for your customers and prospects,” adds Douglas.
Newby describes the tie between WCM systems and digital marketing and consumer experience management as an essential enabling factor, although it is no longer the case that a WCM system is all you need. Careful selection of a variety of third party services, such as marketing automation platforms, social media communication suites, and data enrichment services are also essential for a properly rounded digital marketing program.
Increasing WCM cannot exist in isolation from digital marketing and customer experience management. According to Heise, content management systems must serve as a hub for orchestrating content from a wide and diverse set of digital repositories and combining those content assets into hybrid digital experiences that can be deployed on demand across any digital channel to any digital device. Web sites are just one of multiple possible destinations for this content.
WCM systems, digital marketing, and customer experience management are already converging. Sitecore has been rapidly expanding its product portfolios through added investments in product development. “The consolidation makes sense given customers’ desire to simplify their technology investments. Supporting a single suite is far easier than managing five or six point solutions,” adds Donovan.
Le Strat argues that WCM and more importantly, content management services, need to be an integral part of the digital marketing and customer experience management technology landscape. They need to enable consistent content production processes and content delivery to the relevant channel.
“A digital experience-focused WCM system doesn’t just tie into digital marketing and the customer experience, it drives them. Not only by focusing on the acquisition of new customers, but by providing a perfect journey for the entire lifecycle of a customer. Every touch-point a customer has with your organization should create brand value and the perfect experience, continuously closing the gap between offline and online customer experience,” says Brenninkmeijer.
WCM is defined as the process of controlling content for consumption over digital channels through the use of specific management tools based on a core source. Although product functions go beyond simply publishing Web content, WCM solutions are an important tool for businesses to have in order to be successful.
A lot has changed in a relatively short amount of time, which is why it is crucial to upgrade WCM systems to keep up with ever-changing trends.
Feb2017, Software Magazine