SALT LAKE CITY -- There's something beyond the glamour, the food, the Grammy-winning bands and quips from Michael Keaton at the Adobe Digital Marketing Summit here. Many of the 6,000 attendees gathered at the Salt Palace Convention Center have an important job back home.

They manage Web Content Management Systems (CMS).

It's not as pretty as the sights here in Salt Lake. It's a technology battlefield of code development, implementation challenges and customization realities.

James Trinnaman knows this well. He's the solutions manager for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Salt Lake area. He and his team implemented the Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) Web CMS in November 2013.

"Our previous CMS was home-grown based on other platforms," Trinnaman told CMSWire. "People who are doing the content for us wanted a simple way to standardize templates and take a little more control of ownership of publishing themselves so they weren't depending on IT to do so."

Powering up AEM

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So what it's like inside the Web CMS trenches with Adobe? Forrester tells you it's pretty cool. Adobe's the long-time Queen of Forrester's Web CMS world — and Gartner sees Adobe as a leader, too.

But the real Web CMS work comes from boots-on-ground implementers like Trinnaman. Managing content for his organization means dealing with complexities like including the most languages in the world outside only the United Nations.

So far, the team at the LDS Church uses AEM to power one site. It took it about six months to launch that first site, using AEM 5.6. The church just upgraded to 6.0 about a week ago. LDS is also using most of components of the Adobe Marketing Cloud.

"We're still getting it to where we want it to be, and how we want to integrate with Mongo (database)," Trinnaman said. "We're also trying to figure out how we leverage our existing development stacks."

Custom Work Required

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How much work's required implementing a Web CMS like AEM?

Like with many Web CMSes, Adobe's comes with customization work, according to Ali Alkhafaji, a Chicago-based senior director of technology and architecture for Paris-based Valtech, an AEM implementer exhibiting at the conference.

"AEM is probably the most complete out of the box solution going," Alkhafaji said. "You are going to find features, templates, integrations. But you still see agencies from Deliotte and Accenture to Valtech and Virtusa because it's still a generic product. Every product is going to use text components and image components, but if you're a bank you want to have a quote component, or if you're in healthcare you want to have a request-for-information component. AEM has these, but they're not custom."

Learning Opportunities

Most clients paying for the Adobe Experience Manager suite will "shell out more money" for customization because "they're looking to make the most out of it."

Easier Integrations

Adobe added cloud integration into its AEM dashboard, a big help for users, Alkhafaji said.

With its analytics platform (formerly SiteCatalyst), for instance, users have their Java script coding they can throw into a web application to learn "what tracks are what and what sets off an event." The analytics platform is part of the Adobe Marketing Cloud, as is AEM.

AEM's cloud integration into its dashboard means developers still must set all of the pages and components with the right code, but a marketer can take it from there.

"A marketing person can go on the dashboard and match their SiteCatalyst variables to their AEM variables," Alkhafaji said. "They can change whenever they want and activate it just like that without having to go back to the developer for code changes. The ramp-up is still there, and you have to have the coding part, but after that it's just mixing and matching. It's a very beneficial aspect of the SiteCatalyst integration."

Open Source Roots

Officials at the LDS Church who caught up with CMSWire in Salt Lake this week agreed that integration with AEM's been fairly smooth. They like the fact it's based on open source technology -- from the Day Software acquisition -- and that it's a Java stack.

"From an author experience, once you learn how to use it it's pretty easy and intuitive," Trinnaman told CMSWire.

The LDS officials also like Adobe's support with AEM, still powered by the Day Software model. One of Trinnaman's colleagues said he'd like to see Adobe improve from a systems administration standpoint.

"But," he added, "only a few people see that."