A Guide to WCM: Choosing the Right Tool for You

Article ImageIn the late 1990s, when web content management (WCM) became a category of software, the focus was the content life cycle: create, edit, and deploy webpages. Original website managers were happy to simply see content appear on a website, and there wasn't much thought for the people on the other side of the screen.

If content management used to be just about content, it's become much more than that now. Content is still king, but now, it's ruling with a very demanding queen: the end-user experience. Along the way, websites have become exponentially more complex.

Software that used to just manage one-way publishing now at least attempts to support multidimensional web experiences -- whether in a public website context or on your enterprise intranet.

In your search for a CMS package, you will find an increasingly confusing array of technology players. Despite persistent predictions of industry "consolidation," the web CMS marketplace remains extraordinarily fragmented, characterized by a wide swath of mid-sized vendors and a sturdy set of open source projects. In addition to the commercial/open source divide, you can find SaaS players, regionally strong vendors, and those companies that focus intently on key sectors, such as higher education and government.

In the Real Story Group's longstanding evaluations of the key vendors, we divide the marketplace into five segments, from most complex (and expensive) to simplest (and least functional).

Complex Enterprise Platform Vendors

These are large-scale platforms typically marketed as part of multidimensional "suites" that span many function points. These suites have tended to prove less well-suited for straightforward web CMS projects. And as a consequence, these products tend to be struggling in the marketplace right now. To be sure, the vendors themselves are mostly doing well -- selling their document management applications. For web content and experience management, these are very high-risk sources.

Upper-Range Platforms

Upper-range platforms occupy an expanding space between departmental installations and the traditional, document management players above. Relative to the latter tier, these vendors tend to be performing reasonably well in the marketplace right now. Perhaps the biggest difference between these products and the tier above them is their focus on web content management.

On the plus side, their architectures can support reasonably extended and scalable projects. Note, however, that these platforms are typically not as "out of the box" as the mid-market offerings a tier below. You should expect integration costs to range from two to six times your licensing cost. These are not plug-and-play offerings.

Mid-Range Platforms

These offerings serve mid-market companies or departmental projects within larger enterprises. In particular, they target scenarios requiring above-average customization -- often requiring an outside consultant. So it's no surprise that this class of vendors tends to emphasize consulting partners and reseller channels, which means you, the customer, may be one step removed from the vendor. This will be a good or bad thing, depending on your circumstances.

This price/feature point appears to be quite popular right now, and these vendors have been reasonably successful at selling into large companies. That doesn't make them "enterprise" packages -- despite what the vendor may tell you. No matter, they are pretty good at providing content management, but you should note that you are trading off against potential feature and scalability limitations.

Mid-Range Products

A key advantage of this class of products as a whole is that they tend to offer more prepackaged features. Many of them actively promote "website-in-a-box" solutions that include bundled social applications, analytics, and collaboration.

This is particularly attractive if you are starting a new site from scratch and don't have pesky legacy content or pre-existing applications to address. They also tend to require fewer development resources.

Note that you are trading off against potential feature and scalability limitations and that product APIs almost certainly will not run as deep as those in the platform tiers. You can customize these tools to a point, but then, you're very much into uncharted territory.

Although generally less expensive than the tiers above, fees can still creep upward, depending on the final number of servers required or contributors in the system. Therefore, be prepared to negotiate up front if you are going to need multiple environments.

Simpler Products

These are smaller, albeit established vendors that come to the marketplace with packaged tools at attractive prices. However, the tools are not as feature-rich or extensible as their competitors.

These packages tend to cater to do-it-yourself teams or smaller development shops, although the level of complexity varies among them. They tend to target use cases with fewer contributors, and therefore, they generally have somewhat underdeveloped workflow and role management subsystems.

Consult Real Story Group for specific details on vendor pricing and product weaknesses and strengths. 

Complex Enterprise Platform Vendors

EMC Corp. Documentum: Documentum Web Content Management
HP/Autonomy: Interwoven TeamSite
IBM: Web Content Manager
OpenText Corp.: Web Experience Management
Oracle: Universal Content Management

Upper-Range Platforms

Adobe: CQ5
Alfresco Software, Inc. ECM
CoreMedia AG: CMS
Oracle: FatWire Content Server
Percussion Software, Inc.: CM System
SDL, PLC: Tridion
Sitecore: Sitecore CMS

Midrange Platforms

Alterian Technology Ltd.: Content Manager Enterprise Edition
Atex: Polopoly
EPiServer AB: EPiServer CMS
Hippo B.V.: Hippo CMS
Microsoft: SharePoint 2010
OpenText: Web Solutions
Plone Foundation: Plone
TYPO3 Association: TYPO3
VYRE: Unify

Midrange Products

CrownPeak: CrownPeak CMS
e-Spirit AG: FirstSpirit
Ektron, Inc.: CMS400.NET
Enonic AS: Vertical Site
Escenic: Escenic
eZ Systems AS: eZ Publish
Hannon Hill Corp.: Cascade Server
Ingeniux Corp.: Content Management System
Limelight Networks: Dynamic Site Platform
Magnolia International Ltd.: Magnolia

Simpler Products

Alkacon Software GmbH: OpenCms
Alterian Technology Ltd.: Content Manager Corporate Edition
DotNetNuke Corp.: DotNetNuke
Open Source Matters: Joomla!
OmniUpdate, Inc.: OU Campus
PaperThin, Inc.: CommonSpot
Telerik: Sitefinity
TerminalFour, Inc.: Site Manager

Source: Real Story Group evaluation research (http://realstorygroup.com/research/channel/cms)