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Examining the top offerings in the WCM platform marketplace

Once you've decided that a WCM platform is right for your business, it's time to decide which to choose. Expert Geoffrey Bock discusses the leaders in today's crowded marketplace.

Web content management vendor selection remains a tricky business. Begin with your business strategy -- what you expect to accomplish with all of the content you produce and must manage. Also, make the transition from web publishing to a total digital experience -- from one-way content production to two-way content interaction. You must also consider the key capabilities for a WCM platform and decide which ones are the most important for your business. Once you address these items and decide that WCM software would benefit your organization, there's only one question left to answer: Which WCM platform is best for your business needs?

Step one for vendor selection is considering your business requirements. Make sure you have a plan for how you're going to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. Realize that from a technical perspective, web content management (WCM) comprises a key set of capabilities and services within your enterprise application architecture.

WCM blends text with rich media of all types. It extends beyond self-contained websites to include many mobile experiences. WCM also creates the technical infrastructure for weaving together disparate content-related threads to create the fabric of digital experiences.

Next, review the capabilities that the various WCM vendors offer. In all likelihood, you aren't starting with a blank slate. Accommodating existing technology investments and current organizational operations is important. Price matters too; not only the upfront costs to design and launch the environment, but also the costs of ongoing support and maintenance. Calculate your total cost of ownership.

Then, consider system infrastructure, an increasingly relevant topic for WCM vendor selection. Although many WCM platforms can be delivered in a cloud configuration, many vendors provide native cloud offerings, and others have adopted cloud deployments over time. Consider the trade-offs between "on-premises" and "cloud-based" deployments. Assess your organization's content security requirements and tolerance for managing deployment risks in a public, private or hybrid cloud environment.

Once successfully woven into the fabric of your organization, you're going to rely on your WCM platform for a long time.

Understand how the product has evolved over time -- not just what the vendor claims it will do now and in the future. Also consider how well supported that technology is in the ecosystem. It should integrate with other core business applications without requiring a lot of work. If a technology is too isolated in the marketplace, it's likely to continue to be isolated, then get frozen out.

Finally, flexibility and agility are important considerations. Once successfully woven into the fabric of your organization, you're going to rely on your WCM platform for a long time. Make sure you're confident that you can adapt and evolve these content management capabilities as your business needs change.

Once you've covered these steps, it's time to look at the leading WCM platforms and how they compare.

Today's leaders in the WCM marketplace

The WCM landscape remains a crowded field, but certain offerings stand out because of their unique features, ease of use and ability to manage digital experiences and meet business requirements:

Acquia, a software as a service (SaaS) company, delivers enterprise-grade, Drupal-powered offerings to large enterprises, including media and entertainment companies, high-tech firms, life sciences organizations and government agencies. Acquia also provides SaaS enablement services for the Drupal community, such as hosting, support, account management and professional services.

In addition to its service offerings, Acquia also develops several products that deliver value-added capabilities, including Lift for content personalization, Content Hub to organize discovery and syndicate delivery, and Lightning to accelerate Drupal 8 development projects.

Adobe Experience Manager from Adobe Systems offers a broad range of WCM features that target the needs of large enterprises. These features include a robust content platform, a digital asset repository, a global search mechanism and integrated content analytics. The product supports marketing and sales enablement activities, and can easily integrate into large enterprise computing environments.

Since rich media is an integral part of digital marketing, Adobe Experience Manager features extensive integration with Adobe Creative Suite tools, which are used extensively by graphic designers and other creative professionals.

Drupal is an open source WCM project. Now in its eighth major release, this WCM platform defines content as self-contained objects and organizes sets of metadata to manage the content components. Drupal offers application developers extensive flexibility and easy integration into enterprise systems, with the caveat that some assembly is required.

Many design and systems integration firms deliver Drupal-powered services to small and medium-sized businesses, initially targeting publishing, and more recently, digital marketing applications.

Episerver Digital Experience Cloud is designed to create, manage and optimize digital experiences by blending WCM with digital commerce and enterprise search.

Designed for the midmarket and leveraging a .NET environment, Episerver combines content publishing capabilities with easy customization for digital commerce and search features. The platform's Digital Experience Hub for application integration makes it appropriate for companies that incorporate third-party apps into their web-related business operations.

With IBM Digital Experience, IBM organizes and packages its essential WCM, personalization, mobile, analytics and social offerings. Targeting large enterprises, IBM's digital experience management capabilities are delivered either on-premises or through a cloud offering. These experiences can be optimized to address a wide range of marketing, sales enablement and general operational use cases.

Digital Experience offers organizations customizable content development workflows, integrated content and social media analytics tools and automatic end-user device detection for optimization of published content.

OpenText combines its expertise in enterprise information management with several WCM offerings which they provide to large enterprises and midmarket organizations. These platforms include OpenText TeamSite and OpenText Web Experience Management.

TeamSite targets the total digital experience and features omnichannel delivery (with personalization) to full screen and mobile devices. Web Experience Management focuses on content publishing and offers full support for responsive website design. Both platforms include analytics tools to provide line-of-business managers with easy to understand reports on content usage and trends.

Oracle WebCenter Sites delivers comprehensive WCM capabilities as part of the company's overall user engagement software products, leveraging its Application Development Framework and core database technologies.

Oracle WebCenter Sites is designed for enterprises that already depend on Oracle for maintaining key business functions. WebCenter Sites supports customer-facing use cases and manages content for various digital experiences delivered as Oracle-powered solutions. The platform lets users develop native, device-specific content or take advantage of its responsive content creation tools for adaptive delivery. Built-in demographics data also helps businesses target specific audiences with their content.

Sitecore Experience Platform from Sitecore combines its extensive WCM capabilities with content analytics and digital marketing functionality. Sitecore provides an integrated suite that delivers state-of-the-art digital experiences.

Initially designed for the midmarket and deployed as an on-premises system, the company has steadily gained enterprise customers. Sitecore is building out its cloud-based deployments as a comprehensive WCM platform that especially targets marketing and sales enablement.

By combining WCM and sophisticated analytics within an integrated suite, Sitecore supports in-depth content personalization that can benefit customers, as well as deliver on the promise of content marketing.

WordPress is an open source WCM that's popular for small office/home office and midmarket environments, as well as for workgroups within large enterprises. Initially deployed as a blogging solution, the WordPress community has steadily added features and functions to support multichannel web publishing (including support for mobile web apps), social media and digital marketing activities.

End users can launch and manage their own websites through a cloud-based environment at WordPress.com, using standardized templates to create a basic environment. Design and systems integration firms can further adapt the WordPress platform to meet the business requirements of their individual organizations.

Planning for the long term

Now that you have a better idea of what features the leading WCM vendors provide, you can more easily and quickly move through your organization's strategic planning and selection process. But, before you make your final selection, keep the following two things in mind. First, select a WCM platform that meets your business requirements as they are, and not as you wish them to be. Be sure to address current requirements, objectives and outcomes. Second, recognize that you're going to face new requirements for managing web content in the future, so be prepared for things to change and plan for continuous evolution. Armed with this information, you can ensure that you provide your organization with the right WCM platform to meet its needs. 

Next Steps

How has the WCM landscape evolved to today's changing digital experiences?

How do you gauge if your digital content strategy is successful?

Develop a content strategy before beginning a web content migration

This was last published in November 2016

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