For years, Web CMS vendors wanted you to believe that you have to consolidate all your websites into one platform. It's true, there is much logic in doing that.
The Web CMS (WCM) vendor provides an incredible amount of tooling for content authoring, content management and content delivery. There are mobile preview tools, social media publishing tools and campaign site management tools.
In a consolidated solution content can be shared across channels. Content can be managed in centralized silos, tagged, authorized, go through workflows. It can be translated, published to paper magazines and more and more. Analytics are also deeply integrated in the WCM itself, making it easy to see what content is effective and what content is not.
The technology is there to put the Web CMS at the centerpiece of all your online communication channels.
But if you look at organizations -- especially those with large, high profile websites -- and look at their portfolio of systems, for some reason they often have a large number of systems that comprise their "solution" and are used to manage all their channels.
They have a mobile app development agency that builds a mobile app and they have separate analytics tooling. A mixture of social media publishing tools and social media monitoring tools are at hand. They have printing-on-demand solutions. Campaign websites are often completely separate, sometimes built in basic hand-coded HTML and flash, without any sophisticated or integrated WCM or Customer Experience functionality behind them.
Why is it that, although the Web CMS has such a large amount of tooling available for all those channels, organizations still choose for channel specific tooling?
I see two major reasons for this.
1 - Time to Market
Sometimes, if you want a simple campaign website, a fast social media publishing tool or a mobile app, a Web CMS to power your new online initiative feels like overkill. Or perhaps you might know of a technical bottleneck, say getting your Marketing Automation system wired into a new part of your core website, so you bypass this by using the Marketing Automation system to create a new, isolated microsite.
A digital marketer, who already wrestles with delivering fast results in combination with a limited budget, might just decide to throw up a small HTML website or isolated microsite, instead of reusing all the tooling of their existing Web CMS.
They use the tools they think will get the basics covered quickly. This should come as no surprise.
Of course, if you take this route you then miss out on opportunities of sharing data, content and other tooling across all their channels, which might be beneficial in the long run, but at least you have that social media campaign, campaign website or mobile app out there in the market quickly.
This is a classic trade-off between short time to market and a long term investment in integration, data quality and consistent customer experiences.
2 - Maturity and Focus of Channel Specialists
The existence of channel specialists is another key factor in solution fragmentation.
It is a fact: they just are great at what they do. They focus on exactly one thing (like mobile analytics, social monitoring, form building, etc.) and do everything there. This means that they have much more to offer than a generic vendor that tries to provide everything in one toolbox.
Most Web CMS or Customer Experience platforms provide plugin mechanisms for more customizations to reach the same level of functionality, but that approach is often more expensive in the short term and tends to take more time to "get it right" and get it live.
Channel specialists are seductive and look great for short term goals. But a reliance on them leads to a fragmented digital marketing and customer experience infrastructure.
The Best Way Forward
So, what is the best strategy? Should you try to put everything into one customer experience / digital marketing platform, or use channel specific tooling and best of breed point solution?
There is no easy answer to the question -- it's situational.
In general, it's a good idea to build primarily on a single platform. Try to learn as much about the roadmap of your software vendor and to understand what their strengths and weaknesses are across each channel.
But don't blindly follow this strategy -- forcing everything into a single platform.
Some tooling is too good to pass up: it's sometimes very cost effective or even free. It might be fast, effective and have lots of functionality for that specific channel. Additionally, the pace of innovation is high in our sector, so some vendors will break out and lead the market as others invest elsewhere. Can you afford to ignore them based on a single platform policy? Probably not.
Evolve, innovate and strive to consolidate best practices and technologies when possible. Look for integration tooling and push your vendors to work together and build the bridges that help you reduce silos, orphaned data and orphaned digital experiences.
Editor's Note: You might be interersted in other articles by Martijn van Berkum: