WCM: Go Big or Go Home


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Remember the mid-to-late 1990s-corduroy, Dolly the sheep, Netscape, The Matrix, and (last but not least) the inception of the web content management (WCM) industry? It's amazing, really, how the foundational pillars of WCM technology have evolved since then. Let's take a trip down memory lane and see how this evolution affects modern digital businesses.

In Forrester Research's "The Forrester Wave: Web Content Management Systems, Q1 2015" report, the analysts dubbed WCM "the backbone of digital experiences." What this means is that WCM is an important foundation, but there's a lot more that goes on top of it to make and deliver truly exceptional digital experiences.

Yes, I said "digital experiences," not "web content." We're not even calling it WCM anymore. Instead, it is digital experience management, expanding the reach into many more channels than the original WCM systems.

Let's take content reuse, for example. In the early days, it was all about reusing the press release intro paragraph from the press release page into the "Latest news" widget that may appear somewhere else on the site. Or you'd include content that was created for the website into the email newsletter. Then came social media, and content reuse meant being able to deliver content to a new category of sites. And maybe that content had to be optimized for each channel-and personalized to the consumer.

But how about reusing content from websites and other digital channels in on-site, brick-and-mortar sites? Most successful brands are able to use technology to carry over and optimize digital experiences to their physical locations. Engaged customers are happier customers, who buy more and use services more. They are also satisfied with their experiences.

In the early days of WCM, templating was one of the most arduous tasks. A lot of time, effort, code, and aspirin went into this exercise, with the goal of determining and displaying content on webpages. While the templating process has not become automagical, it has changed dramatically. The same content can be rendered with different templates to optimize it for different channels. With content strategy and greater focus on user experience (UX) and customer experience, template sets are becoming slimmer and more intelligent. Hopefully, you don't need to create a set of templates for each channel from scratch and can reuse a lot of code components, as well as create responsive sites from the get-go-without having to wait for and rely on web developers to do that for you.

Content is still king, but unlike in the '90s, we're not just creating mounds of content and pushing it out from the WCM system. Instead, we're looking into the best practices of content marketing. Creating more content doesn't equal better content. Intelligent content is useful, relevant, timely, and optimized for your various audiences, depending on where they are in their journeys. 

If content is king, context is queen. The combination of analytics and WCM used to give us simple analytics data, such as clicks and page views. That is no longer enough. Data-driven decisions prove to be the most successful. It's not just about all the Big Data you have. It's also about your ability to dissect that data and turn it into meaningful insights, which will help you improve content, decrease time to market, or improve the bottom line.

Finally, I wanted to mention that it is truly transformational how the roles surrounding WCM systems have changed. Developer and content authors were, at minimum, the most frequent users of a WCM system in its early days. But now, we have armies of cross-functional disciplines involved in the art and science of digital experience management: data scientists, content strategists, social managers, digital asset managers, digital experience heads, and community managers-the list goes on.

As we watch this industry evolve, it is truly amazing to see how far we've come. Get the most out of this evolution, and enjoy the ride!