The long, sordid history of web content management system (Web CMS) complexity is finally catching up with us. End users are revolting and demanding an easier way to manage content because the old ways are just too hard. At the same time, some in the industry are instead touting this complexity as “inherent” or “OK” because that is “just the way it is.”

I disagree, and I’ll bet you do too.

For a long time deploying a Web CMS platform was all about complex technologies used to solve complex business rules. Then it became about creating engagement with customers across multiple channels.

But for many organizations the platform to manage content was still a technology driven application. The integration firm would “throw some stuff in at the end if the budget allowed” to handle the process of getting content from the marketing/extended team into the system, and up onto the web. This has created huge bottlenecks, as only a very few in the organization can actually input content. And the end-user experience is so frustrating, that many simply stop using it altogether.

Customization = Complication?

To date, WCM vendors have been responding to current customer experience and engagement mandates and multi-channel publishing requirements with even MORE complexity, not less. This increases the overall costs and length of deployment cycles, and results in buyers having to purchase new systems every three to five years. Buyers attempt to envision what they could possibly need in the future and throw it all into the requirements bucket to “future-proof” their platform.

And with this kitchen sink expectation has come massively, complex frameworks that require tons of customization, all with a promise of “a great platform to do neat things.” To placate the end-user’s concerns, wonderful workflows are drawn, and beautiful demos are constructed showing how each end-user will have their own experience depending on his/her role.

But as the number of channels and the overall web opportunity explodes in front of us, end-users will refuse to wait the typical 6-12 months it takes to get the continual custom development required before that beautiful framework is finally in place. In that same length of time the web will have shifted again, and your end-users’ needs will have too, leaving your system inefficient and obsolete.

Flexibility, not Complexity

Instead, the currency in today’s web is FLEXIBILITY. How much can the content owners do themselves? How quickly can the technology adapt to a rapidly changing content marketing strategy?

For example, Google Plus was launched just SEVEN months ago. And now, with the advent of “Google Search Plus Your World,” a decade’s worth of SEO dogma is being rewritten. Who had heard of Pinterest before January? What is in the wings right now that will be hot in July that we haven’t even heard of yet? How will your system adjust?

This inability to quickly deliver relevant and timely content across your channels means missed opportunity to capture and engage your target audience. Those missed opportunities can easily translate into missed revenue -- not to mention additional costs for services to support, maintain and upgrade what has become a highly customized system.

The marketer shouldn’t have to throttle back their web strategy and content marketing efforts just because their technology is in the way. All of these pressures are creating the revolt against complexity. End users want a flexible system they can adapt on the fly. They don’t want to be constantly going back to IT or an external firm to make simple changes. And frankly, many IT organizations don’t want or need to own the application any more.

In the face of blindingly fast market shifts, here are four things to consider as you refine your web strategy:

  1. Reduce Complexity: Custom frameworks are just that, custom. Most of us don’t have a limitless pool of cash for not only the upfront development costs, but the ongoing maintenance and support of the custom application. Worse yet, you are the only person in the world with that application making support difficult and upgrading nearly impossible.
  2. Build Flexibility: Don’t try to guess what you will need 12 months from now, you truly have no idea. Need proof? Ask yourself what you thought about Google+ 12 months ago. Oh, right, it didn’t exist yet. Instead, ensure your systems and plans are flexible to adapt to “What’s Next” when it's appropriate.
  3. Content Marketing: Whether the vendors and analysts call it web content management, web experience management, customer experience management or some other new thing, you have a content marketing business opportunity. Focus on how you can enable your content producers and the content market strategy to deliver on that opportunity.
  4. Deliver Value: A well-structured content management strategy supported by a next generation web content management system sits at the intersection of Traffic, Engagement and Effectiveness. Bringing together this data spotlights which content you should be sharing, in what channels and what content themes are creating the most engagement. The combination creates instant “actionability” to make changes in the moment. Marketers are able to read and react, rather than read and report -- a critical missing link in connecting your activity to business outcomes.

Fortunately for marketers in 2012, there is a better way. Flexible and highly usable Web CMS products, that make it possible for business users to take control over their content marketing initiatives and empower content contributors, have now arrived. Furthermore, a new wave of integrated analytics connects the result of your web activity tightly with the business outcomes your organization values most.

Are you ready?

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