As we close out our March editorial theme on the internal customer experience, let's have a look at a web content management vendor -- e-Spirit -- which has taken the time to build a platform that delivers a great experience to not only the customer, but to the people who build the customer experience.

The Be All or The Best of All?

You have two options when working with a web content management system. You can buy a platform that does it all or you can buy a platform that does the core and integrates additional applications you need to build your entire online environment. e-Spirit falls into the second category. The Dortmund/Germany company started in 1999 and has evolved with a core understanding that it doesn't have to be all things to all people, but it does need to play nicely. And nicely it does play.

I recently chatted with Oliver Jager, VP Global Marketing and Communications, and Robert Bredlau COO North America about FirstSpirit, e-Spirit's Web Content Management System, or as they also call it, content integration platform.

Playing Nicely with the Others

There are a number of things that go into creating a great experience, either on the website, on a mobile device or other channel. It's not just about content from your Web CMS, it's also about images, video, content from back-end systems. This means that the average marketer uses a number of tools to help create and deliver these experiences (many orgs have a YouTube channel, or a Flickr site, for example). These external tools are well known and marketers don't have any desire to use something different.

e-Spirt recognized this need to support multiple toolsets, but also recognized that the processes involved in moving between the various tools is time consuming and can lead to a loss in productivity. With the creation of the FirstSpirit AppCenter, organizations can bring together a number of tools into the FirstSpirit interface, supporting a single location to work from while still leveraging the tools marketers are use to.

FirstSpirit AppCenter

The key is that for organizations who have already made significant investments in tools and technologies, they don't need to rip them out and replace them with functionality offered within FirstSpirit. But these same organizations can also leverage the user interface of FirstSpirit to utilize these tools.

Portals are a great example of technologies that FirstSpirit integrates with including the big names like SAP, IBM, SharePoint and Liferay. eCommerce is another (ATG, IBM, hybris) and just about any web application you can think of (or create) can be integrated using the AppCenter.

What e-Spirit does is develop certified integration modules using its AppCenter API for many well-known/popular applications that are made available within the AppCenter. For custom built web applications the AppCenter framework/API is used to support the integration. It's also good to point out that it doesn't matter what technology the web application is developed with, the AppCenter will support all technologies along with a number of standards like CMIS.

Easing SharePoint Pains

One area that e-Spirit has spent a lot of time developing is its SharePoint integration story. Although a high number of organizations use SharePoint in some form, there are many who aren't happy with it, noting limitations in things like globalization and localization.

FirstSpirit connects with SharePoint to offer seamless web content management. Users can decide to keep using SharePoint as a front-end tool or switch over to FirstSpirit's interface interfacing with SharePoint on the backend. Orgs can take advantage of FirstSpirit's versioning and workflow capabilities when web content is stored within its repository and they can utilize SharePoint permissions and workflow when applying personalization to content. Essentially FirstSpiriit offers content management capabilities for both internal and external sites that need SharePoint content.

Making the Marketers Life Easier

What's important to point out is that many Web CMS vendors spend a lot of time ensuring that organizations can provide a seamless, engaging experience for customers, but they often forget that the people who put these experiences together also need simple, easy to use tools. Without them, it takes too much time to get things together, too much planning and manual processes and it's more prone to error because you are moving through a number of different tools to get all the content and assets you need.

I won't say that e-Spirit is the only WCM vendor who delivers on a seamless user experience for marketers (editors), because I haven't seen everything. But I will say that if you take some time to watch some of the videos demonstrating the drag and drop capabilities, the productivity tool integration and other capabilities you might be impressed enough to dig a little deeper.