There is no best web content management system. But there is probably a good Web CMS for what you’re trying to do. With that, we kicked-off a heated debate on Inconvenient truths and unsolved WCM industry challenges at the J.Boye 2009 conference in chilly Aarhus, DK.

And despite strenuous protestations by Aarhus mayor, Nicolai Wammen, who addressed the delegates at the opening ceremony today, the weather has not improved. Thankfully plenty of hot air warmth was radiating from the conference discussions, including the one on how to fix the WCM industry with all its problems and challenges. But why fix it, I ask, if it ain’t broken?

It Ain’t Broken, a.k.a. The Bright Future of Web CMS

CMS Watch’s Jarrod Gingras was certain there’s nothing to fix. The competition is healthy, the buyers have many options and that’s good for the marketplace. Clearly, there’s some frustration, but it is tied directly to the disconnect with end-users.

Gingras continued on to provided a rather positive outlook into what’s coming for the WCM industry in 2010:

  • Consolidation: There will be some consolidation, but nothing earth shattering or landscape changing.
  • Innovation and usability: Complex enterprise vendors will not concede to smaller vendors.
  • Platforms and products will continue to co-exist.
  • SharePoint 2010 is better, but will still fighting for deals.
  • Open source will see continued interest, but will have to improve usability.
  • SaaS: The hype may decrease a bit, acquisitions are expected.

The Big Questions

Janus Boye, the conference organizer, and Jon Marks, lead of development at LBi (both were also presenting at the session), didn’t seem to agree with Gingras and posed the “big question” -- How do we fix WCM? One way is to pay more attention to user experience and the needs of end-users by involving them more throughout the implementation. Change, as well as content, needs to be managed, said Gingras.

Marks, also known as McBoof in the Twitterverse, addressed several WCM issues:

Whose fault is it when a WCM project fails?

The ecosystem is sometimes broken, and we see a lot of finger pointing from customer to vendor to implementor. The products are not perfect, but they are what they are. As implementers, we do the above all the time, but we should know better, even if the customers do silly things.

Does the term WCM make any sense?

WCM as a term might be too big and too vague. WCM means too many things to too many people. The term needs to be sub-divided and we all need to take into account all its sides with respect to blurring boundaries among WCM, portals and SoCo.

Why are RFPs so bad?

Everyone is still doing checklists and matrices. This process encourages vendors to do what they hate. As a result, RFPs ask questions that achieve nothing.

On standards

The current ecosystem does not foster standards well. Let’s pray for CMIS and those that follow. Web CMS standards should not start with ‘J’.

Content migrations

They can be manageable with correct tools and processes. The migration of the delivery side is almost always a rewrite. And don’t believe vendor marketing bollocks.

How to Fix WCM?

In order to fix this mess, Marks suggested that one should:

  • Align goals for success when starting a WCM project
  • Plan for disaster
  • Don’t make monoliths

Boye brought up the fear and intimidation tactics used in the industry. If you’re waiting for WCM vendors to wake up and fix the problems, it is unrealistic. Vendors will not change until you make them change. The big problem here is that buyers are not talking to each other as much as they should. But Boye sees the buyers acting as catalysts for change by:

  • Openly sharing lessons learned
  • Stepping forward as references
  • Forcing vendors to take responsibility for WCM implementations
  • Identifying and adopting industry standards.

Quotes of the Day

  • Not every project fails, there are some happy customers (Gingras)
  • Too many projects fail (from the audience)
  • So many systems look and work very much alike (CMS Watch analyst Theresa Regli)
  • Q: I am asking a simple question… We made the wrong choice when selected our last WCM vendor. That set us back 2 years. What do you suggest we do instead of using RFPs and vendor interviews? A: Pay 2-3 vendors to build something and pick from the best. (from the audience, answer by Marks)
  • The most successful projects paid for the POC, people cringe at the bake-off idea, but what is the cost of a failed implementation? (Gingras)
  • The terminology is flawed. We should focus on the dialog. (Umbraco’s founder Niels Hartvig)
  • Don’t be afraid you will lose your job if you share knowledge. There are so many educational prigrams and books about the industry. (Boye)
  • Some of the problems arise from the sheer diversity of people using WCM products. (from the audience)
  • Standards are there, but most people don’t even do the basic things like [compliant] HTML. (Boye)
  • WCM vendors are having a hard time keeping up with the content.. and customers cannot integrate a Twitter widget into the CMS they bought for managing press releases. (Regli)
  • CMIS is still thought in the general audience as the document management-specific standard, even though DM and WCM are both subsets of ECM and the hope is that after version 1.0 of the standard it will be extended to WCM as well.
  • Buyers should think about where they want to go, not which “car” (=tool) to use to get there. (Boye)

For more WCM goodness, check out this Twitter stream hashtagged #fixwcm, as well as the J. Boye conference feed at #jboye09.