IBM is getting ready to release some updates to its Web Experience Management (WEM) platform. While we can't give you details of what's to come, we can give you some perspective on IBM's approach to WEM and the customer experience.

I had the opportunity to chat with IBM Web Experience Strategist Brian Cheng on IBM's view of Web Experience Management, its platform and thoughts on the new WEM Initiative.

IBM's View of Web Experience

We tend to focus more on IBM's analytics and social business solutions these days. But as you might know, it has a web experience platform that is also implemented in a number of organizations. It includes, at its core, IBM Websphere Portal and Web Content Manager, among a number of other solutions.

For IBM, the focus is on reaching and engaging customers -- whether they are externally facing, like customers or internally facing, like business partners. As part of reaching and engaging you have to know how well you are doing and then act on that information. The discovery process includes bringing together information from standard web analytics, social analytics, customer sentiment and business intelligence. It can also include forecasting, sales information and KPIs.

With all the information, the intent is to engage with the customer, clearly tracking and understanding how they are reaching the customer and optimizing the experience accordingly.

It All Comes Together with WEM

There are a lot of components that make up a web experience strategy. These include things like campaigns, managing structured and unstructured content, rich content (like digital assets), etc. In addition, a WEM platform also needs features such as dashboarding and KPIs.

It's important to understand that web experience management doesn't happen in a silo -- so IBM provides collaborative features throughout its web experience suite so that the right people and information can be quickly found to support customer engagement.

You are also not just looking at your website when you think about web experience. You may have an online storefront, social networks and communities, mobile channels, there may be things like kiosks and other offline channels that need to be considered. What this means, of course, is that you need a lot of capabilities within your WEM platform to not only engage across multiple channels, but also to track and analyze what is going on and continually improve the experience.

It's interesting to step back here a minute and recognize that IBM sees customer experience management (CXM) as a facet of web experience. Customer Experience Management is, for IBM, about the external customer. Web Experience, in IBM's view, covers both the internal and external customer. This is a very different view from what many other vendors say CXM is about. But I think in the long run, we are simply dealing with semantics here.

IBM's View on WEMI

If you haven't heard about the new OASIS Web Experience Management Initiative (WEMI), you can get the details here. We asked Cheng what he thought about the new initiative. Cheng indicated that he really likes what CMIS has done (he views it as the second version of JSR170), but with WEMI he feels it's too limited in its view, that WEM is broader than what a single piece of software -- in this case, web content management -- can do.

Cheng admits to not knowing the details of what's happening there, but from his perspective there's so much more to think about than WEM, like documents, dashboarding, analytics integration and after the back office solutions are considered, you have to consider search, social networking, ad networks and other elements that go into web experience.

IBM is very committed to standards, but IBM believes that sometimes we over complicate things. Cheng wonders if WEMI is over complicating web experience. Should we maybe stop talking about APIs and frameworks and start talking about solutions and how our own systems are working together? Right now, Cheng believes WEMI is too scoped and that there needs to be more players at the table (not just WCM vendors), and that there are standards out there right now that may be sufficient enough.

IBM's Web Experience Platform

According to Cheng, IBM has all the pieces to offer an end-to-end web experience platform -- all with the same user experience. The suite includes Websphere Portal, which includes Web Content Manager, and IBM Connections, OmniFind Search and portions of Sametime (instant messaging). Also within the portal you have the development tooling (Web Experience Factory) which allows you to integrate back end systems and mobile experiences.

For analytics, you can use CoreMetrics or Omniture or Webtrends, with the help of a partnership that identifies a standard set of tags, but it's CoreMetrics that is integrated directly into the portal.

When it comes to personalization, Cheng said that it has been a fundamental piece of the portal for at least ten years now (since 2001). There is also a feature called Like Minds which is behavioral personalization. It's only been the last four years that IBM has seen people taking advantage of the functionality. Now, IBM is looking at the next level.

The Project Northstar Roadmap

Back in 2009, IBM talked about Project Northstar, its 3-5 year roadmap for web experience. Three years into its vision, we see the integration of social and anaytics -- two key elements. In September of 2010, we talked about the work IBM had done to date. That included Websphere Portal 7. What's coming next is Websphere Portal 8 and the evolution of its complete Web Experience Suite.