Scott Liewehr has a beef. He believes the SaaS (Software as a Service) WCM (Web Content Management) offers a lot, but you might not be hearing the real story why. Don't believe going SaaS is about easy deployments and hardware savings, it's much more than that.
Hang on, we'll get there. But first, let's just set the stage a little bit more. Scott Liewehr is a digital content technology analyst and consultant. You've probably read a number of his reports from Gilbane where he is a lead analyst for web content management. Or you've listened/watched him on CMS-Connected. Or maybe you are part of the CMS Pros organization where Liewehr is president. Suffice it say, Liewehr has been around the industry for a while and he knows a thing or two about web content management (WCM).
When it comes to SaaS-based Web content management, Liewehr thinks vendors aren't telling you the best story, and in fact may be misleading you a little bit.
What SaaS WCM is Not
Let's step into the what it's not zone and hang for a bit. According to Liewehr, SaaS WCM is:
1. A Business Oriented Cloud
Forget about saving money on hardware and simplifying deployment. If you are a marketing executive looking for the right WCM solution, you probably don't really care about that stuff anyway. While your IT group is probably involved in the decision making, the business value for going the SaaS route is about much more than this, so don't let the tech talk turn you off. And don't buy into that whole saving on resources and boxes thing, IT has a lot more hardware to look after than your WCM, so that incremental value isn't really worth a whole lot.
2. This Interoperability Thing is Bogus
Okay, so Liewehr says this is only partly true. Sure a cloud-based WCM can interoperable easily with other web-based systems (in the cloud or on premises), but the reality is you probably aren't using only web-based systems. You probably have a few on premises software apps that you need to integrate with to deliver an end-to-end Customer Experience Solution (of which WCM is a key part). Think CRM, ERP and other systems that maintain customer data.
The truth is, SaaS-based WCM is at a slight disadvantage, because an on-premises solution can integrate with both web-based and non web-based systems.
3. Scalability is True, but is it Necessary?
Liewehr acknowledges that SaaS WCM does offer scalability benefits, but the real question is, how many of you are dealing with global scalability? The truth is, if you are are a big brand, your market is already well defined and you know you aren't going to get much bigger than you are. So this need to support you on a larger scale is really irrelevant to you.
Now if you are a startup, well that's a different story.
4. It Really Isn't That Much Cheaper
So is it really cheaper to go SaaS WCM? According to Liewehr, time and again the SaaS alternative comes out to be a lot more expensive than you might be led to believe. Just take a look at the total cost over the course of the years you will be using it. The real cost advantage, Liewehr says, is that it isn't all up front. This provides a low barrier to entry and you can get up and running quickly. There's also a low barrier to exit, so if you find it isn't working out, you can cut the ties and be done with it much more quickly then you can with an expensive on-premises WCM solution.
5. Sure It Can Innovate Quickly, But Does It?
A number of SaaS WCM vendors talk about their ability to apply upgrades and add new features faster than on-premises solutions. It is feasibly possible, Liewehr says, but make sure you look at what they are doing and if they are truly innovating faster. Just because they can, doesn't mean they are.
Editor's Note: Another take on Saas WCM: SaaS Web Content Management Systems Are No Panacea
So, When is SaaS WCM the Right Choice?
So, why then, would you choose a SaaS WCM solution? Remember Liewehr does believe the model has a lot to offer.
1. You Can Deal with Rogue Sites
There's a reason that open source WCM solutions are getting a lot of attention these days. They are easy to set up and get a website up and running fairly quickly -- a nice low barrier to entry. But in many cases, while it makes marketing happy, it makes IT crazy because it can't manage these rogue sites, It has no control over what's happening and many are trying to figure out how to get it all under wraps.
This, says Liewehr is a perfect market for SaaS WCM. Liewehr does not believe that an organization should have only one WCMS -- that's a perfect world and it just doesn't typically exist. You can have multiple CMSs, just be sure you have the proper rules and governance set up to manage everything properly. To help IT manage rogue sites, Liewehr says a SaaS WCM can easily become the sanctioned alternative.
Create a relationship with a SaaS vendor that would allow you to enable groups in your organization to quickly go there and spin up a website. You'd have rules and guidelines in place that say when a group can do this as opposed to using the central solution you have set up in the organization. In this model, when the SaaS website is created, the group who create it is responsible for paying for the subscription and managing its creation and deployment, as well as taking it down, but IT still has some degree of control and insight into what's happening across the organization.
It's also a great way to slowly get off a big WCM implementation that is ready to be replaced, but not something the organization is ready to do.
2. Marketing in a Box
This is something that would work great with a SaaS model for organizations that don't have a huge investment in on-premises apps that need to be integrated. Reach out and find a SaaS WCM provider who can offer you a specialized package offering a mix of WCM, CRM, analytics, email and social networking integration. This would include specific vendor integrations and would offer all the capabilities you need to do Customer Experience Management (CXM) out of the box.
The challenge here is that there may not be any current SaaS WCM vendors offering this (a potential miss for them). But if they did, you have a quick solution to get set up and start putting your CXM strategy into play.
Get the Bigger SaaS WCM Picture
Liewehr has spent some time looking at the marketing models of a number of SaaS WCM vendors and unfortunately he's not seeing the right messages. The people in many organizations with budgetary approval to select a WCM solution is increasingly marketing. IT is still there and has a say, but even this group is smart enough to understand the reality behind some of the "tech" messages.
There is a market for SaaS WCM, and it's a market, Liewehr says, that has great potential. But you have to go into it for the right reasons. Which means you need to set aside the sales story and understand why SaaS WCM is right for you.