When it comes to selecting the best-fit Web Content Management (WCM) software, a great deal of confusion continues to haunt vendors and buyers alike. Industry analysts have done little to make this any easier. It's time to move beyond Web CMS.

Much of this confusion is courtesy of the industry perpetuating these mistakes:

  • Frequently lumping together disparate offerings that target clearly separate customer segments and customer needs
  • Failing to segment WCM offerings into solution categories, such as Web Experience Management (WEM) for Enterprise, basic web publishing for internal business processes/intranet, mid-market solutions for e-commerce, and so on
  • Persisting with the pointless notion that WCM is a functional subset of Enterprise Content Management (ECM), especially in light of the speciousness of the ECM platform; such a notion is even more off-target when considering WEM solutions
  • While understanding that WEM solutions are directly tied to interactive/digital marketing initiatives, analyst reports and benchmarks fail to use this understanding as an essential tenet of such reports

Analysts, writers and bloggers have continued to produce a large body of work on various aspects of the "ECM platform", as well as covering the questionable meaning of the term ECM and the many limitations of trying to shove a lot of capabilities into an "ECM container".

There are a fair number of industry writers who agree that there is no such thing as a comprehensive single Enterprise CMS platform. Within the debate of what belongs to ECM, WCM has been clumsily tacked on as a sub-component of ECM -- with very little credible basis for doing so, especially in light of the evolution of WCM offerings in recent years.

Meanwhile, it has been mainly the customers who have helped to propel the WCM industry into providing the sorts of capabilities that are really needed for external-facing websites. So a significant segment of the overall WCM market has evolved into Web Experience Management (WEM), for which a much larger solution ecosystem has come together.

[Editor's Note: CMSWire uses WEM to mean "Web Engagement Management", but we do not feel there is a significant difference between the two choices of nomenclature. For our take on the composition of WEM, see What is Web Engagement Management?]

Most Web Experience Management platforms have little to do with basic content management or basic web publishing (à la WordPress and TypePad), and even less to do with the so-called ECM platform.

Understanding how to provide a platform for excellent web marketing initiatives has very little in common with understanding how to set up internal business processes for audit and governance requirements -- goals which are largely the object of an Enterprise CMS project. Metrics for successful web marketing initiatives have no meaning for ECM initiatives, but are essential for determining best approaches to engaging and converting visitors into customers.

Social media / Web 2.0 have become important partners for WEM websites. These technologies and practices draw-in, engage and re-engage customers. In-bound marketing is highly dependent on quality and interesting content that is provided through a variety of social media that lead back to a particular website.

A more complete WEM solution description includes:

  • Understanding of solutions for B2B, B2C web/marketing initiatives
  • Sophisticated digital / interactive marketing strategies
  • External-facing web presence
  • Website essential to corporate business strategy
  • Ecosystem of ancillary tools to complete end-to-end solution for customer objectives
  • Savvy use of social media, well-integrated into website and marketing plans
  • Alignment with interactive/digital agencies

Related article: The 5 Pillars of Web Engagement Management

WEM Solution Ecosystem and Market Sizing

Another problem that has arisen is the seeming inability of major industry analysts to properly size the WCM, or WEM, market. There is also little evidence of analysts attempting to size the WEM ecosystem market potential in any tangible manner.

To be able to compare and assess WEM vendors, it is essential to define the ecosystem and its corresponding market size composite. Better market definition will result in better vendor benchmarks, instead of assessing a jumble of disparate vendors leading to disjointed "comparisons".

More and more single vendors are offering most, if not all, of the components of the WEM ecosystem as the end-to-end solution. Again, this solution segment has gone well beyond "web content management".

So a Web Experience Management solution is really a composite of several "markets":

  • WCM solution suite, with usability both for business users and IT personnel (includes behind-the-scenes "content management", workflow, design tools, and so on)
  • Enterprise-quality portal / presentation management
  • Recommendations-like technology for social search and personalization
  • Web analytics / testing / content monetizing tools
  • Rich media and video content management (monetizing components as appropriate)
  • Social collaboration / social marketing capabilities
  • Extensive integration / interoperability capabilities at several levels of the enterprise infrastructure

If we considered WEM as a composite of the overall solution ecosystem, then we could arrive at a better understanding of the overall market size -- tallying up the market forecasts for all or most of the components listed above to derive the comprehensive market potential.

It"s not unreasonable to look at the overall ecosystem market size, since many WEM vendors supply most of the solution components, and have active partnerships with vendors that supply the remaining components. The overall solution ecosystem becomes compellingly relevant when taking the customer"s point-of-view for the desired end-to-end solution.

Other approaches could be to come at it from the point of view of Interactive Marketing spend, or from looking at web site spend budgeted by companies with global web presences. For example, we could estimate the slice that the WEM ecosystem can command from these markets. For instance, Forrester data on website spend for 2009 shows some very substantial budget forecasts for large companies with a global web presence.

Interactive Marketing Spend

WCM seen as online marketing (WEM): by 2012, Forrester expects the U.S. interactive market to grow to $59 billion with a recession, or $61 billion if there is no recession.
Forrester, "US Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2007 To 2012"

Website Spend

Of the overall budget for website spend in 2009: