2014-10-September-Choice.jpgWeb content management has completely changed. Some people argue that “Web” is too small a word now, because of the “omnichannel” world we now have to populate with content. Others argue that it’s about the “digital experience” or the “customer experience.” Whatever it is – one thing that's clear is that the amount of content, along with the number of tools producing it, has increased significantly.

So -- how do you select a CMS today? Certainly marketers have learned (sometimes the hard way) that technology is not a marketing strategy. Despite what vendors of WCM, CRM or MAP (marketing automation platforms) solutions promise during the sales process -- simply applying a way to manage, measure and develop relationships with customers does not a marketing strategy make.

We see companies succeed when they focus on selecting a tool for the processes of becoming more skilled with managing content as an asset -- as opposed to just focusing on the success of the implementation project. That might seem an antiquated thought – but we still see a lot of failure in the opposite approach. Too many companies still prioritize the code, the platform and even the form of product licensing over how well the tool will actually facilitate their innovative marketing ideas.

We generally see three key areas for companies to prioritize to enhance a selection process:

1. Agility Is the New Scalability

Marketing today has to be incredibly agile. Certainly the development methodology by the same name is making its way into the marketing department. One primary goal of any business must be to achieve agility with content. Forrester Vice President and principal analyst Craig Le Clair explained that: “two things are vitally important: awareness and execution for being agile. You have to sense and be aware of what’s going on. And, you have to be able to act upon it quickly.”

And yet the exact opposite has happened in many of the web CMS systems out there. So many of them have moved from being smaller, agile systems purely focused on digital content -- to bulky suites of all manner of content, digital asset, workflow, analytics and governance behemoths. Some of these solutions now take from a year and a half to two years from the time they’re purchased to the live environment! That’s too long in today’s fast-changing customer experience landscape.

  • Pick For Process Pro Tip: Look for (and ask) any WCMS provider to illustrate how quickly the solution can be implemented and new content platforms (e.g. sites, social channels, blogs, mobile apps) can be stood up. This should be prioritized criteria.

2. It’s The Product – Not The Language

Most digital content experience projects begin with a prototype of sorts, and/or the first Web site. Enterprises should avoid letting the first implementation impact their perception of flexibility and speed. As covered previously, initial projects or prototypes often go smoothly due to the organization’s focus on making the “big system” perform quickly, or the small “lightweight system” scale effectively. But then the product decision is made based on performance in a (most likely easy) first project -- not on overall performance.

You are evaluating a product -- not the language that product’s been written in. A Java system that was developed to a highly governed, scalable enterprise digital asset management system but is now positioned as an “experience manager” for marketing will NOT be as successful in facilitating the agile process of marketing as a Java system that was built to manage omnichannel web projects. This goes both ways.

In both of these cases, it’s how the product was built that is the problem -- not Java.

Similarly, a PHP based website builder architected to quickly stand up blogs and small community websites isn’t going to scale to the need of a global enterprise as well as a PHP product developed to handle complex languages, millions of pages, workflow and other enterprise needs. But it’s not PHP that drives that -- it’s the product design.

  • Pick For Process Pro Tip: Marketing and technology teams must work together to understand the end-goal of the process they are trying to facilitate, rather than the prototype that will be first. That purpose and process should be a key part of the initial testing of the tool.

3. Customer Experience Are Events, Not Solutions

In a report called “It’s Time To Rethink 'Enterprise' Software,” Digital Clarity Group analyst Tim Walters wrote, “the empowerment of consumers by social, mobile and always-on connectivity means that every company is challenged to produce and deliver consistently positive multichannel experiences. Meeting this challenge requires a broad and growing software ecosystem ….” He concluded that just because software comes from an “enterprise vendor” doesn’t necessarily mean it works for the enterprise. As he wrote: “software becomes enterprise level only when it has been put to work and has successfully supported complex enterprise processes.”

Too many times, the selection process conflates features for value. Developing great customer experiences is NOT about the potential to do something that we’ll never do -- but rather our ability to actually do it. In other words – if I’m trying to have a great dinner party for 25 people -- having it at Disney World is probably not the place to create a great atmosphere -- despite all the amenities available.

Customers have interactions with brands in discrete events. And it’s up to the marketer to optimize those events so they are as engaging, interactive and informative as possible. It is an orchestrated dance that must be integrated in ways that support the complex process that is today’s customer journey. This is what creates a much better chance for us to reach the customer experience goal we have set for ourselves. This is what transforms our Web site, our social channels and our blogs into revenue generating machines.

  • Pick For Process ProTip: The product should be selected based on the need of marketing and technology -- not the inherent size of the organization. Just because you are a Fortune 100 company doesn’t necessarily mean you need a seven figure WCMS. And vice versa. Just because you are small or mid-market company, doesn’t mean you only need a small blogging tool. Let the need for developing customer experiences define the tool -- not the other way around.

Evaluation Is A Process Too

The landscape of developing digital, content-driven experiences for customers is only becoming more complex. As some of the reactions to the latest Forrester Report on Digital Experience Delivery have illustrated -- it can be hard for businesses to even know where to start with what kind of tool will match their needs.

There are more than 2000 WCM solutions to choose from, all of them varying in price, design and functionality. So what’s the key pro-tip for selecting for success in this environment?

The answer: a well-planned and well-executed process for evaluating the various solutions and the teams that will implement them. Marketers MUST understand the process they are trying to facilitate. How are the content and marketing teams evolving? How is the business transforming to handle an omnichannel environment? What kinds of business requirements will be needed? These are the answers that the technology teams need to help the marketer determine what kinds of tools will best fit the bill.

Businesses are becoming more (not less) content-centric. As such, the entire business needs to be much more skilled at content, its management and the way that it’s used to delight, inform and serve customers.

If we select for projects, that’s what we’ll get: a great system that does one project well and fails quickly over time. If we select for the process, we’ll get a system that may push us beyond our comfort zone initially, but will build success over the long haul.

Title image by Ryan Schultz (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 license