Even after 15 years, the content management industry is still evolving. It's what I love about it, it's what keeps me in this space and it's what keeps me excited to watch its development. 

Taking a snapshot of something that’s in constant motion is hard — you inevitably miss some aspects. Attempts to capture this dynamic space often feel the same way. People categorize web content management (WCM) in many ways, and no one approach is perfect. Our industry still hasn't figured out where we draw our parameters or where we all intend to go — but that’s half the fun, isn’t it?

The ways in which we try to place order and definitions onto the WCM industry comes to mind with the publication of the 2015 Gartner Magic Quadrant for WCM. Though not the only approach to understanding the market, it is among the best known. With the newest report's publication, I asked three leaders in the Web Content Management space — Erik Hartman, Robert Rose and Janus Boye — their views on the Quadrant, the industry and what’s next in WCM. 

As a CMO of a WCM Vendor, I don’t agree with all of their views, but I appreciate and value their contribution to an ongoing discourse. It’s that discourse — and diversity of views — that keeps our industry innovative.

Note: This is the first in a three-part series.

Take One: Erik Hartman

Erik Hartman
Erik M. Hartman is the owner of Erik Hartman Communicatie. Hartman consults, presents and publishes about information management strategy, architecture, governance and tools. With the Information Management Foundation (TIMAF) he created an initiative with other information management practitioners to provide a strong and clear foundation of information management. Erik lives on a houseboat and has his office in the historic centre of Utrecht, the Netherlands.

What impact does the MQ have on customer decision making?

Hartman: My expertise is in the Benelux. In those markets, the Magic Quadrant plays a role in the decision making process, but is not central to it. The impact of Magic Quadrant placement is relative to the footprint of IT in a particular organization. In my experience, non-IT decision makers don’t always know about the Gartner Magic Quadrant.

It’s important to recall that the Gartner Magic Quadrant is not an evaluation of functionality per se — it provides a picture of the vendor, that vendor’s turnover and client base, et cetera. The Magic Quadrant is not, however, a full overview of CMS functionality.

I work with clients in several large enterprises, and in those organizations, the Magic Quadrant is a useful tool to convince CIOs.  In difficult decision making processes, the Magic Quadrant provides reassurance regarding the financial viability and roadmap of a vendor. Over the years, Gartner has built up a great body of knowledge about the companies it evaluates, and is not easy on vendors with regards to the cautions and challenges they identify. But, while Magic Quadrant placement certainly helps, for me, it’s never a key requirement to recommend a system to clients.

How does placing in the Quadrant impact vendors?

Hartman: I’d describe the Magic Quadrant as a recognized seal of approval. It’s great for increasing global awareness of your product. As a vendor, once you’re in the Quadrant, you’re mature — and among a set of vendors that are internationally accepted. While I don’t fully agree with seeing it as an exclusive quality certification, it is certainly perceived as such by IT decision makers in large enterprises. 

What's the difference between Best of Breed vs. Marketing Suites in the MQ?

Hartman: In general, there are of course major differences between best of breed and marketing suites. But it’s a question of what solution is best suited to an organization’s needs. There’s something to be said for the versatility of best of breed — by definition, best of breed can meet a large range of requirements and offer an extensive number of functionalities through integrations. However, there are some very specialized marketing suites these days. 

Many CMSs claim to understand the needs of marketing nowadays, and some are more capable of serving marketing than others. In my opinion, not all of these CMSs can fully compete with specialized marketing suites in certain scenarios. 

That being said, I also see several Web Content Management Systems focusing on marketing so exclusively that they forget about the true core of content management. There are editors who have to create, and publish and archive content — not to mention the developers working with the system.

Ultimately, the suitability of a solution completely depends on the maturity of the organization, which tools they already have in place, and how a solution will fit into their existing landscape. When considering a CMS, I advise every organization to focus on scenarios, and break down existing needs vis-a-vis the tools already implemented. Rather than thinking in abstract, make sure your CMS is a good fit in your particular situation, and that functionality serves your particular needs.

How important is programming language?

Hartman: Sometimes it seems almost too important to some of my clients, and I remind them to take a step back. Of course, IT decision makers still take programming language very seriously. But if you look at the market, there are very few .NET CMSs, and certainly not many enterprise-grade PHP Web Content Management Systems. Most enterprise CMS are Java based, because it’s an interoperable language in its core. Open standards are making interoperability easier, and making language less important. I advise my clients to focus on the functionality first and foremost.

What about open source vs. proprietary?

Hartman: Proprietary vendors still dominate the Web Content Management market. Ten years ago, having an open source vendor on the Magic Quadrant was unthinkable. Gartner is ultimately quite traditional, but their customers are opening up to open source. On the grand scale, open source is quite new within the Quadrant. 

I think it’s great that through their positioning in the Magic Quadrant Wordpress, Hippo and Drupal (through the Acquia platform), and tools like Alfresco in the ECM Magic Quadrant, are paving the way for open source technologies to be considered by the enterprise. 

They’re carving a path to change the perception of open source within the enterprise — and MQ placement is helping change the discourse around open source from a debate on "religion" to more real arguments based on the specific needs of an organization.

What will cause future disruption in the MQ?

Hartman: Video management is about to become extremely important. By 2017, half of the content on the internet will be video. Most WCM systems have no answer beyond digital asset management tools. I see a space for major disruption in video. Beyond this, a focus on usability for editors. Many WCM vendors seem to have become so focused on flashy functionality that they’ve lost sight of the actual end-users who need to work with their products on a daily basis.

Secondly, the ability to truly communicate content ROI. I’m emphasizing the importance of measuring Content ROI to my client base, as most organizations still struggle to prove the value of the information they manage and the content they produce. Demonstrating ROI is still very immature among WCM systems. We have the theory and the best practices, but few tools are doing this. And it’s not about just finding a tool on its own, organizations will need to transform internally to become more ROI focused alongside these tools.

Do you see a correlation between enterprise adoption of open source WCM and new players entering the MQ?

Hartman: Many of my clients really don’t have strong feelings about open or closed source on principle. Some still lack confidence in selecting an open source product (though, as I mentioned, that perception is changing.) 

Unless an organization has political reasons for open source (you’ll find this in certain European governments) or is very IT driven and has reasons to want the code, conversations about open source versus closed source become conversations about interoperability and flexibility. One of the latest developments in open source software has been the “enterprise edition” model. Alfresco, Liferay and Hippo all work this way — combining support with the transparency, integration capabilities and flexibility of open source.

What innovations are important to enterprises?

Hartman: Ultimately, the modern Web Content Management needs to provide more than just a tool to publish content. We’re well past that — and that’s reflected in the Magic Quadrant. What the WCM vendors need to really deliver on now is the ability to have a dialogue with online audiences — across channels, online and offline. 

The lines between digital life and “real life” are increasingly blurring, and WCM systems need to respond to this reality. Web Content Management Systems need to provide information — that is, a symbiosis of content AND data — to organizations hoping to stay relevant in this increasingly digital world. 

Predictive analytics, the ability to work with structured and unstructured information, and the capability to deliver the right content to the right person at the right time is crucial, whether that content is delivered via tablet, smartwatch or a smart car. The system that has the tooling and implementation to truly deliver on this promise will be disruptive.

Keeping Up With the Series

Read more of Capturing the Web CMS Zeitgeist:

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  lydia_x_liu.