In the midst of all kinds of things passing away lately, web content management was also proclaimed dead (and brought back to life) in one session at Gilbane Boston.

Robert Rose, the self-proclaimed chief troublemaker at Big Blue Moose, started off with giving the attendees a nice trip down the WCM memory lane to the early ages of the industry with transformations of desktop publishing and origins of WYSIWG. (Slides here).

Web CMS Then and Now

According to Rose, the big bang moment for WCM falls to the late 90s, and everyone agrees that this explosion happened around the Vignette acquisition of CNET's PRISM. Special mention went to other early pioneers of the WCM industry -- MS Frontpage, Typo 3, Interwoven and many others.

The purpose of a Web CMS, at some point, was focused on making it easy for non-technical people to move stuff to the web. And, often, it still is. Rose did a historical comparison (today vs. 5-10 years ago) of several factors of why organizations are buying a new CMS, who has been driving the procurement process, what are the most desired features and how Web CMS vendors responded to the changes in the past 10 years in their products and messaging.

Nowadays, it's marketing who drives the acquisition of a new CMS. In 2005-2006, that job was in IT, if you remember the gigantic RFP Excel sheets with only few marketing requirements in them. Most sought after features at that time were ease of use, WYSIWG, collaboration, reporting, search and workflow.

In 2010, we are looking for customizable UIs. Marketeers also want features like SEO, eCommerce, personalization, social media and A/B testing.

Rose noted that RFPs are getting longer. In in early 2000s, an average RFP was 8-10 pages long; in 2010, we are seeing at least 30 pages on average.

WCM vendors have been changing their messaging from easy to use and edit directly in the website to to engage visitors and generate experiences that compel. In 2010, it's more about business and marketing solutions. After marketing started taking control of public websites, collaboration and content governance has gotten added in, and what we see now is an overlap of different things in the WCM market.

What Changed and How to Go About It

But has it changed why and what we buy? It was the exact same thing in 2005, as it is in 2010. We are still trying to make it easy for people to update their websites, making Jim ad Bob's lives easier to update content. What should we be purchasing? Is it Web Engagement Management? Web Marketing Management? Web content marketing, said Rose.

Here are the 3 ideas he suggested to change what we are buying, starting with a couple of quotes:

  • "Sometimes you just have to say WTF"
  • "I deal in human fulfillment" - Be able to experiment

A well implemented marketing content management process is the power to do both.

1. Invest in the process, not the product

What is your process?

  • Separate the IT governance processes for online marketing
  • Realize that no one *really* wants to use a CMS.
  • Build a process around change.

2. Value driven, not ROI driven

CMS tools don't provide ROI. ROI is different than accountability. Stop buying based on a fictitious number and start buying based on value. We became myopic on ROIs, and it is scary.

Who does ROI studies 6 months after buying the tool? This happens rarely, if at all. We just don't go back and say let's do an ROI study. A CMS is a tool. Start buying tools that facilitate the process the best. It's about applying the right tool to the right process.

3 Web content is now a conversation

Web content is now a conversation that lives beyond your website. It needs to be more than content management now. It needs to be able to listen, as well as talk.

The CMS needs to be able to get value from analytics data, for example, or user-generated content. And you have to have people who can react to that and manage those interactions.

What will the new WCMS look like? Web conversation management system? Doesn't matter what it is called. What matters is:

  • What experience we are creating
  • How we use content to deliver that experience
  • The process by which we deliver and respond to that content.