Tony White of the Gilbane Group began his talk on the evolution of the Web CMS market with an observation. White, apparently something of an early-bird, spotted 22 people in his hotel lobby at 6:30 a.m. this morning. Over half of the people there were taking advantage of the free wifi to browse the Web, while only one person was reading a newspaper. He asked the attendees to imagine how different the behavior of his fellow early risers would have been even as little as five years back.

In a fast-paced talk, White went on to share some of his observations as a consultant specialist in Web CMS. He resumed the market briefly as a wide spectrum from low-end point solutions to complex enterprise platforms, with almost no correlation to price, and warned attendees of putting too much trust into analysis that assume a correlation between cost and quality, as it may not be the case.

The Shifting Sands of Web CMS

White skillfully evoked the shifting sands of the current WCM market. In a table from an article in Giga Week, he lays out what amounts to the wreckage of the former Web CMS market leaders from just a few years ago.

Between acquisitions and market shifts, there has been an almost total change in the vendor pool. White mentioned that in his recent consulting work, several clients have expressly requested that he consider open-source solutions in his analysis, something that did not come up before.

Client Requirements Are Changing

Meanwhile, as the vendor landscape is shifting, the client's requirements, which vary considerably by vertical, are also changing. White cited the tourism sector, for whom a huge degree of hyper activity is a necessity. A tourism site might need to integrate hundreds of partner hotels, feedback from clients, multimedia clips of entertainment, etc.

White noted that in publishing and media, a sector under-going great change, and in which business models are typically "all over the map", open-source solutions could have an edge for two reasons. First, they don't require a large upfront expenditure in licenses, and second, while the development costs can be considerable, the resulting solution may be more adapted to their business than would be attainable from all but the most costly proprietary content management system.

From a survey of 500 Web Content Management clients, White found that 64% had experienced some degree of cost over-run, often from underestimating development costs for in-house solutions. White drove these figures home with a couple horror stories culled from his consulting work.

What's Next for Web CMS

Wrapping up, White sees a higher degree of scrutiny of costs from clients, a need for marketing integration into site design and higher conversion rates from sites, and increased demand on the part of mainstream business clients for user interactivity (i.e. Facebook, Web 2.0).

At the same time, he sees a market consolidation in the works with fewer commercially options available. European vendors are gaining world market share, and interactive agencies and system integrators are influencing more deals, increasingly filling the role of advisor and analyst.

You can read more about Tony White's work in web content management on his blog.