The State of Web Content Management

Article ImageWith both content and technology always evolving with the fast pace of culture, web content management (WCM) systems must keep up. This is no easy task, and it keeps the industry leaders on their toes. "WCM is about creating and managing content in a central repository with the purpose of delivering it-publishing it-to the web," says Irina Guseva, senior analyst for Real Story Group, "as well as to other channels such as mobile, social, print, and email." And that requires continual adaptation.


A shift in focus has been a notable adaptation within the WCM industry over the last year. According to Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer, CMO and co-founder of Hippo, the early days were about publishing content without the need for IT assistance, but the future of WCM includes customer engagement too. "It used to be called content management and then web content management. I think that ‘customer engagement management' is the definition of the future. You need a system that's able to create a relevant journey for the customers on all channels and helps the marketer to reach his goals."

"It's not just about making it easy to spread the content on the web without any IT people to make changes, but the big shift is now actually starting to engage with your audience and trying get into a personal conversation across all these different channels," Brenninkmeijer says.

These days, a WCM system needs to be easy to use as well. "After decades from inception of the web CMS industry, vendors started paying attention to usability again," says Guseva. "Many are devising or refining role-specific universal interfaces (UIs), where business and marketing folks can operate in less technical and more task-oriented environments."

Mobility continues to trend at the forefront of consumer and vendor minds. Guseva says that goes beyond delivering content to mobile devices through device recognition and responsive design, but also in managing content on-the-go. "In the latter case, the industry has been lagging behind, though," she says, "aside from a few mobile applications attempted by several vendors that mainly focus on workflow and content approvals."

WCM industry analyst Scott Liewehr has observed a new trend among consumers over the last year: concern about globalization. He says, "As spending has significantly declined, [companies'] expansion into new markets is kind of the way that folks are trying to drive revenue now. They are a lot more concerned than I've seen in the past about globalization."


This recent focus on globalization sees CMS vendors scrambling to adapt. "To be honest, the vendors aren't extremely helpful," Liewehr says, often pointing users to workflow processes because their systems aren't equipped for globalization techniques. So Liewehr is confident that WCM systems will soon include platforms to assist consumers with the many aspects of this function. "It's not mere translation," he says. "Companies are deciding where on the globalization maturity scale they need to be and how much change is required. Then they are maturing the processes accordingly." WCM systems need to keep up.

While the shift in focus to more customer relationship applications is obvious, Guseva isn't completely confident in the viability of that approach over the long term. "More and more CMS vendors are looking at customer experience management (CXM) as the absolute guiding light and are turning their products into ‘CXM suites,'" she says. "I do not think this direction will be successful, at least the way it is being developed and positioned now. It is just not a good idea to pile on social media intelligence, email marketing, marketing automation, and CRM features into the CMS. This is one of those cases where best-of-breed tools will have a better chance of winning."

Brenninkmeijer believes that, in 5 years' time, the internet as a whole will adapt to the individualized customer experience on all levels, making a CMS that engages all avenues more of a necessity. "I think the concepts that are already being used by Google, Facebook, and Amazon will become a lot more mainstream for smaller organizations," he says. "For that you need to be able to get customer insights and be able to react." And this is where he believes changes to the approach of content management toward engagement are necessary.

Accordingly, Liewehr sees WCM vendors starting to include content collaboration as a part of their systems. Currently, WCM systems lack elements such as an editorial calendar, content curation tools, or even tools that focus on content creation. "Web content management tools today assume that you already have an article written and just ingest it into the system," he says. "As web content management tries to shift to creating an experience for the audience, it also needs to focus on the experience of the content authors." Oracle's acquisition of Compendium back in October shows Liewehr that the industry is becoming aware of the need.

Additionally, as vendors look to replace outdated WCM systems, there is concern that pertinent information about previous customer interactions will be lost. This is where the hybrid CMS comes in. "What we're seeing more and more is taking a new, more advanced technology, weaving it into the old system in place, and putting a cloud-based system on top," Brenninkmeijer says. "We just retrieve data from that old system and start building off of it and be agile with that."

Guseva believes that SaaS vendors, which were supposed to free up organizations from a huge IT burden, are mainly failing to deliver on that promise. This opens up future opportunities within the WCM industry. "True cloud CMS vendors-offering the ability to scale up and down your CMS environment on a per-needed basis-will start displacing SaaS vendors, offering broader sets of functionality and technical services, especially for elasticity and customization," she says.

Perpetual adaptation is a necessity within the WCM industry. Fortunately, with the addition of hybrid systems, a shift toward customer engagement (however that will look) and a stronger focus on CMS reliability, keeping up shouldn't be a problem.