When CMSWire Founder and Publisher Brice Dunwoodie started looking for a new digital experience platform for his company's content and relevancy operations, he was confident he knew what he needed as well as why he needed to switch platforms.

CMSWire had outgrown its previous web content management system (WCM), which dated to the publication's blogging roots. As the company expanded into the conference arena, Dunwoodie knew he needed more robust content and experience management functionality.

After an analysis and a review of in-house skills, Dunwoodie opted for Copenhagen-based Sitecore for the foundational platform and Quebec City-based Coveo for the enterprise search engine.

Dunwoodie was on an accelerated time frame between choosing the solution and implementing it. Recently, he discussed his experience at Sitecore Symposium in New Orleans.

So Many Solutions to Consider

Before we get to Dunwoodie's buying journey, it is worth examining why his decisiveness is noteworthy.

For starters, there is an ever growing number of solutions on the market, which companies typically feel obliged to vet to ensure they are getting the best system for their needs. Also, content formats and related best practices are changing so rapidly companies can easily conclude their "new" system will be obsolete in few years.

Finally, overlay all of this with the message the market is continually sending out about CMS and content. You must be current! In fact you must be more advanced than what is current! If you can't manage, manipulate, combine and disseminate content in real time based on context intelligence, then you, your company, employees and future generations are doomed.

With this looped tape playing nonstop in the background (talk about obsolete content formats) it's understandable if, at some companies, decision paralysis sets in.

Relevancy Is Your North Star

The solution, though, is very simple, according to Dunwoodie and others CMSWire spoke with at the symposium. Focus on relevancy: What is the attribute or attributes of the content experiences that are key to your customers' success?

Make that your North Star. For CMSWire, time (chronology) was an essential component of relevance for its audience, Dunwoodie said. "Readers are consuming news half the time they visit CMSWire and if it's news, when something happened is core to its usefulness."

In fact, time was so relevant, so integral to the company's mission that ultimately the CMSWire team stepped back from the project and invested heavily in building chronology into the heart of the Sitecore implementation. CMSWire further augmented its Sitecore investment with Coveo's intelligent search functionality.

In another company this combo of Sitecore and Coveo would look completely different than what is found on CMSWire.com. But that is how it should be — the different look reflects what is relevant to each company.

Understand Your Customers

It's a simple concept. But for many companies, the journey can be paralyzing. "Everyone knows customer experience is important and just as many people — everyone that is — feels as though they are not doing enough," Darren Guarnaccia, EVP of Customer Experience at Sitecore, told CMSWire.

And if this is the case among Sitecore's users, imagine how newbie investors in digital experience technology must feel, Guarnaccia said. "They don't know where to start or how. They don't know if they need the perfect website or a call center that focuses on excellence or an elaborate content management system. Or maybe they know they need all of that and they don't know which to prioritize."

At first, Guarnaccia's approach sounds different than Dunwoodie's. Guarnaccia's advice is to just get started — to jump in and never mind whether it is the perfect moment or that the perfect software has been identified. "There will never be the perfect time or the perfect software," he said.

But in the end, his beliefs intersect with Dunwoodie's. "I advocate understanding the outcome of the customer instead of trying to sell a product to that customer," Guarnaccia said.

Dunwoodie, you may remember, began his search for a new content management system because of the company's evolving needs. It was moving into the conference space and needed to provide the best experience for all of its users, including internal staff. In other words, understanding the customer's outcome is about as relevant as you can get.

People and Processes

But Guarnaccia reminds us that this is not just about selecting the right CMS or enterprise search app. "It is not just about the technology," he said. "It is also the people and processes."

If you happened to attend the Silver Spring, Md.-based AIIM's annual conference earlier this year, this might sound familiar. Way back in 1943 the organization was known as the National Micrographics Association. It later became the Association for Information and Image Management, and is today known simply as AIIM.

So if any entity understands how radically technology can change a business, it's AIIM.

And indeed, content management and the various forms and formats for content have morphed dramatically into an incredibly complex ecosystem, AIIM Chief Evangelist John Mancini said.

"Now we have a tendency to talk in elevator speeches that would require an elevator ride to Saturn to tell our story." But, but ... in the end, "it all comes down to people, process and technology," Mancini said.

Once you understand those three pieces you can apply them to any problem or question — whether it is determining the best outcome for a customer, or understanding what is most relevant for your own operations.

Every Company Has a Unique Journey

Back to that customer who doesn't know where to start. Once you understand there is no right answer — or no uniformly right answer that can be applied to every company — it becomes much easier, Sitecore CEO Michael Seifert told CMSWire.

"Every company's journey is a different one," he said. With that, Seifert breaks down that bewildered company's decision it must make of where to invest. He starts by making a few assumptions about this company. It has the right skills in house and the right roles assigned to the issues identified. Most importantly, it has decided what is most relevant to its content management aspirations. And that would be a new, highly-interactive and personalized website.

To be begin, the company must start with gathering and analyzing the interactions of the people accessing the existing website, Seifert said. This step alone can yield very important data. It provides a better customer profile and yields data that can assist with the new site's optimization and personalization, Seifert said.

"Once you have that data in hand you can determine the next steps," he said.

"Do your customer come looking for information that could be better provided by an online self-service application or do they come to the site to find a phone number or other contact information?" If it's the latter, are they calling about a problem with their account or because they want to expand their services?

And so on.

In bits and pieces, this new website is put together with the customer experience in mind.

Title image by James Forbes