As web content management represents a link between the fast evolving web technology space and the need for large organizations to leverage the web as a communication channel, WCM operates at the junction of very high tension.
Not only is there the need for large, slow enterprise organizations to operate in an extremely dynamic technology environment but, even within the enterprise, WCM provides the link and a shared platform between the business and IT.
This is particularly interesting since every organization internally tries to hide away in their respective silos. This works well most of the time, but it does not work on a public-facing website where the entire universe of an enterprise is visible and just one click away for the surfer. Any misalignment within the enterprise organization bubbles up to the surface and is exposed to the world.
The three mega trends -- mobile, cloud and social have material, irrevocable impact on the WCM space and strongly suggest material changes to how we perceive the WCM space and what are our implicit requirements for a WCM stack.
WCM and mobile
Of course, presentation and device detection, as well as location-based services, are no-brainers with the advent of mobile devices, and it is imperative that a content delivery solution address these. Table stakes are not very hard to achieve from a product perspective.
What's a bit more challenging is to provide the content author with an in-context simulation of that content across devices, screen sizes, resolutions and densities.
But the really fundamental change comes via touch. Mobile brings touch as the primary way by which users on both sides of a web content management system interact with content -- both the surfers/consumers of content and also the authors or contributors.
This is a huge paradigm shift that cannot be overstated. When I see three-year olds (or our cat for that matter) touch a TV or a laptop screen only to be disappointed and move on to something more interesting since "this screen must obviously be broken", that indicates how much of a change is actually happening. This means that all the content contribution parts -- from workflow management to editing screens -- need to be built with a "touch first" approach.
All interaction patterns change -- no double-clicks, no right mouse button, the finger covers what you click on and so forth -- this calls for a complete rewrite with a mobile first approach from the ground up, in a "mobile or touch first" manner.
"Touch" is just the beginning of the entire transformation of how we change the input devices of computers from mouse and keyboard to more natural ways of human-to-computer interaction and mobile serves as a catalyst for that.
Cloud and WCM
Cloud and BYOD are probably the biggest challenges for enterprise IT, security and regulations. While this probably seems too obvious, the biggest changes are not immediately visible and require some digging under the covers.
Traditionally built enterprise software relies on infrastructure that has become old, dusty and really unfeasible for a cloud deployment that needs to scale horizontally. In a traditional enterprise deployment, scaling is a somewhat theoretical exercise where a vendor needs to prove that they could scale statically. Scaling up and down is usually an effort that needs to be carefully planned and executed by specialized IT personnel.
Enterprise IT and hardware manufacturers manage to get enterprise software vendors addicted to insanely fast disks, low latency network, blazingly fast CPUs, dozens of cores or transactional databases. These implied infrastructure contracts make the entire enterprise software business fat and lazy and the web content management industry is no exception.
We used to build our software in a way that would delegate a lot of the performance, scalability and reliability to underlying hardware infrastructure, instead of addressing the issues at hand from within. The cloud as a paradigm shift forces the entire industry to reconsider the principles that we believed in for 25 years.
In a world where nobody is willing to buy hardware anymore, scaling infrastructure in seconds rather than months becomes crucial. In a world of big data, distribution, elasticity and scalability and traditional acid transactionality become irrelevant. In a world where hardware reliability and performance guarantees turn into wishful thinking, latency immunity is an imperative. In a world where unexpected geographical distribution of infrastructure becomes the norm, dealing with locality is a matter of staying in business.
Social means context in WCM
Broadly speaking, I would argue that the advent of social effectively means that we mentally have to turn every seemingly anonymous consumer of information into an identifiable producer of information that bring the richness of their entire social graph.
In the context of WCM people usually think of social as a few superficial features like comments, communities, forums, ratings, publishing to social networks and social analytics.
Under the covers, social means much more from an infrastructure perspective as well as for the frame of mind for an enterprise. First, infrastructure to support social needs to deal with user profiles, activity streams and social graphs that are aggregated into the users context and, secondly, it means that enterprise will have to accept that the surfer is no longer just a consumer and whether the enterprise likes it or not, the users will produce.
Most importantly, social means that we now have so much context about a visitor that it is no longer acceptable to have a "one size fits all" anonymous experience and we will see the "revenge of personalization".
The first time around, the block personalization had major challenges -- neither the technology nor the online marketing departments were ready for the added complexity that personalized experiences introduced. Since then, both have changed.
A robust management, tracking, analysis, aggregation and simulation of a visitor’s context and a transparent and simple way for the online marketer to control and optimize the experience of each individual visitor will be key.
Web content management delivery will need to be completely revamped to deal with added complexity in distributed caches and SWO as well as the ever-increasing privacy constraints.
Enterprises will have to realign their internal communication patterns and organizations to deal with the inbound communication coming through a wide range of channels (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, owned websites and communities) and will need a completely different level of support from social content moderation systems to appropriately react to social incidents and turn brand terrorists into fans.
WCM turns WEM
The creation and management of digital experiences across mobile, social and web channels has a long and exciting journey ahead that will turn them into the most central tool of the online marketer. Since we are looking at a paradigm shift, I fully expect a complete overhaul of the WCM ecosystem. Again.
Note: This article was originally published on the Adobe PEEK blog here.
Editor's Note: Check out Part 1 of David's article: "Past, Present & Future of WCM - Part 1: The History of WCM"