Lets Get the WCM out of the ECM

For years now, it's been obvious to many web professionals that Web Content Management (WCM) requires a Content Management System (CMS) designed specifically for managing web content. The evolution of WCM systems has been rapid and has grown, forcing a change in terminology to include “experience” in the vendor’s preferred Three Letter Acronym (TLA).

In the meantime, the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) space is fighting to maintain its relevance as the end-all, be-all of content management. The all or nothing approach worked well a decade ago but people are demanding changes from software at a rate that large ECM vendors cannot deliver. Rather than make the changes that need to be made to their offerings, these vendors are holding onto old mindsets. The industry needs to realize that ECM and WCM have gone in different directions and need to permanently sever their bonds.


The one thing that everyone can agree on is that the Internet, and how we work within it, is changing rapidly. Our news feeds are filled daily with new technology, platforms or user expectations. This means that the tools that we use to create our web and Internet presence need to evolve at a rapid pace as well.

No matter which ECM vendor you prefer, rapid evolution does not describe them. The larger and broader a piece of software becomes, the harder it is for it to change in a meaningful way. There are a lot of dependencies, components and legacy clients involved. Rapid change in the core ECM platform to support a new feature in the WCM side will alienate more people than it will win over.

The WCM world is evolving past content. This doesn't mean that managing content isn’t still a critical component -- you'd be hard pressed to find an expert who says that content doesn’t matter. The changes in the market reflect the extra components of tracking and nurturing leads, publishing to social media channels, and integrating the entire marketing automation process.

There is a lot going on and the ECM vendors cannot keep up. Nor should they.

Analysts Need to Let Go

In the latest ECM Magic Quadrant from Gartner, WCM accounted for 5 percent of the market definition for ECM. While down from the 7 percent from 2013, it needs to disappear completely. Five percent may not sound like much but it is preventing ECM vendors from moving on. It acts as a drag, limiting their architectural flexibility and diluting their resources and efforts.

There is also a 15 percent catch-all category for things like Digital Asset Management (DAM) and analytics. That is up from 10 percent in 2013. This is a dangerous category as anything listed as an example is something the vendors will focus on. If WCM is removed and just added to this catch-all category that is actually worse than leaving it in place as now vendors will be simply guessing.

The “miscellaneous” category needs to be killed. If a feature is important, then quantify the percentage and let people know. Don’t throw items with no focus up into a generic category. That doesn’t help vendors or buyers. It is just plain lazy.

What ECM Should Provide

There is still a business case to be made for content in an ECM system to be published to a website. That will never change. The larger issue is that there will always be a business case for ECM systems to publish content to a large number of systems, not just to WCM systems or their evolutionary descendants.

Analysts and clients should evaluate the availability of well documented APIs and a vendor’s support of standards, such as Content Management Interoperability Standard (CMIS). Those tools will allow the platform to publish content to any system, today and tomorrow. Those items need to be at least 15 percent of an evaluation, as ECM systems living in isolation are wasted investments.

The days of people wanting to buy ECM systems to use for websites has been gone for years. Let’s sever the last ties and focus on the problems each toolset is best suited to address.

Title image by Bill McKelvie / Shutterstock