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To stay competitive in the digital age, companies need to produce and deliver their message to audiences efficiently, compellingly and across multiple channels. Web content management software gives organizations of any size the power to do so while eliminating the need for web design knowledge to complete tasks. With these points in mind, how do you decide whether and when your organization should employ WCM software?
Any group that produces content for a website needs tools and technologies to manage information. A WCM platform delivers the capabilities for creating, storing, organizing, producing and distributing information that appears on one or more websites, and that creates multichannel digital experiences. All kinds of industries, company cultures and company sizes use WCM software.
There are several ways to segment the WCM marketplace and categorize differences among various WCM products now on the market. One approach is to consider the core business purpose -- where content adds value to produce results:
Publishing. Most WCM efforts begin as publishing activities: An organization needs to post information on the web that a target audience will find compelling. Whether in print or online, organizations of all types publish information. Newspapers and journals are even in the business of monetizing the content they produce. The business value is in the content itself.
Marketing and sales enablement. Many organizations need to get the word out about their products and services, functions typically termed marketing and sales enablement. These functions require specialized capabilities to maintain a branded presence and highlight a firm's value. A website that delivers the right content to the relevant audience at the right time can enhance competitive advantage, particularly when sales activities are closely linked to marketing campaigns. The business value comes from the marketing and sales results, such as leads generated and deals closed.
Operational tasks. Beyond marketing and sales, WCM can enhance various operational tasks and functions. WCM can structure the ways work gets done. For instance, a franchise network depends on access to shared information and services. A franchisor produces marketing collateral and sales training guides as well as products and services to its network of franchisees. The information flows define the relationships. WCM can enhance franchisor/franchisee relationships just like many other kinds of sales enablement and marketing operations support. The business value comes from the relationships enabled by the content.
Another way to segment the WCM marketplace is by organization size:
Large enterprise. Enterprise-scale WCM is designed to deliver a comprehensive technology for managing content across an enterprise; generally an organization with tens of thousands of employees, millions of customers and many complex business processes. Large enterprises often have specific security, content residency, regulatory compliance and enterprise architecture requirements. WCM usually requires custom development to meet enterprise requirements and processes.
Small and medium-sized business. WCM for the SMB targets midsize, midmarket organizations. These organizations rely on relatively standardized and predicable business processes. WCM can be easily tailored to the needs of various customer-facing business teams -- such as marketing, sales and customer support -- without custom development. Typically WCM is delivered as a packaged platform where a systems integrator adds the necessary services to design content flows, structure the information architecture, define templates, tailor the security requirements and incorporate WCM into the enterprise ecosystem.
Small office/home office. WCM is also relevant for the small office/home office (SOHO) market. Individual entrepreneurs need to maintain their websites and forge business relationships by managing and distributing content. While they don't have the solutions profile of an SMB or the deep pockets of a large enterprise, the SOHO business thrives on packaged solutions delivered through shared online environments, delivered as public cloud services.
Yet another method for segmentation is by deployment model. The deployment of WCM software mirrors the growth and transformation of the underlying IT infrastructure required to maintain a modern enterprise environment.
Originally, WCM was deployed as a hosted technology within companies, just like other enterprise applications. But, with the steady evolution of cloud services providers, contemporary WCM software is frequently installed through a software-as-a-service or platform-as-a-service model. Differences between these two models include single tenancy vs. multitenancy as well as the ability to integrate with third-party content resources via customization capabilities rather than application development projects.
Many contemporary WCM platforms are now delivered as cloud-based subscription services. Organizations of any size can purchase predefined WCM capabilities on a subscription basis. This model is particularly attractive to SMB and SOHO market segments.
Organizing content for business value
WCM supports a shared repository -- that is, the single source of truth -- for all of the content needed to create digital experiences. The shared repository provides the mechanism to ensure that content is created once, managed centrally and distributed as needed to produce business results.
This shared repository reduces duplicate activities. No longer should two or more people be creating or updating information about the same topic. A shared repository should also substantially mitigate, if not eliminate altogether, possibilities for publishing inaccurate or outdated content. Reducing errors and duplicate efforts are business benefits that fall to the bottom line.
Content stored and managed within a shared repository can range in length from discrete chunks of information to complete -- and self-contained -- webpages or digital documents. From a business perspective, it is important to consider the granularity of the content itself. Discrete chunks -- sometimes referred to as content components -- deliver the greatest business value, as they are easiest to dynamically assemble into multiple digital experiences.
WCM delivers the capabilities for managing these granular content components along three dimensions:
- What they contain.
- How they are organized.
- How they are protected and secured.
Content components include the information itself as well as the metadata that characterizes these components. Content components can be secured by controlling access through the shared repository and can be further secured by encrypting the objects themselves.
Content sourcing, delivery and management
WCM creates and maintains the varied business processes for adding content components to the shared repository and then updating them as needed. WCM coordinates these editorial activities through a set of library services that control check-in and check-out activities. Library services ensure that contributors cannot overwrite their updates, and provide mechanisms for resolving conflicts. WCM can also define the workflows for editorial reviews and approvals.
A WCM platform also includes capabilities to deliver content to the right target audience at the right time. This content creates digital experiences that enhance business value. Initially, content delivery simply focused on full-screen webpages. Business benefits included the timeliness, accuracy, and the look and feel of a webpage display, as well as the ability to follow the links and surf through the collection of pages on a website.
Today, however, WCM often supports content delivery to multiple websites, each with its own look and feel. These microsites can target different audiences and be built for different purposes. With increasing frequency, WCM platforms also support multichannel delivery, notably offering capabilities to deliver content to places such as social networks, mobile apps and business partners' websites. Many WCM tools also dynamically assemble content components from the repository, enabling site owners to personalize and target content delivery based on a variety of factors.
The capabilities of WCM software also extend beyond predefined websites. WCM tools are now able to manage content across a digital ecosystem, such as the web-wide environment supported by Google or a commercially linked network of sites with vested interest in information sharing. To make these connections, pay attention to the underlying content-descriptive metadata, which requires agreed-upon definitions. For example, search engines facilitate findability by encouraging content owners to tag and categorize their content in predefined ways. WCM platforms provide the frameworks to manage these standardized tag sets and deliver the business value for search engine optimization.
Finally, WCM platforms enable marketing and sales activities through content reuse and curation. These activities begin with a single source of truth -- an authoritative repository where marketers and sales support staffers can find content needed for campaigns. No longer do they need to waste time hunting for the right content -- the most up-to-date and approved versions of assets. Rather, what they need is available online, well indexed and easily discovered. The content is often enriched and tagged with relevant metadata, related to particular tasks and campaigns.
Marketers and sales staffers can readily assemble, over time, the content collections that work, the ones that reinforce particular perspectives and marketing messages. Like subject matter experts who know about a topic area, line-of-business staffers can curate content to reinforce business objectives and build branded identities. These staffers can also syndicate and redistribute content to business partners and thus channel information flows to many different enterprise applications.
Provisions for business analytics
WCM platforms provide the foundations for tracking business results. Specifically, WCM software logs when content components are being accessed and what metadata terms are being used. These logs can then be assembled to test design alternatives, determine the most popular content items being accessed and record the person or process making the requests. WCM often provides basic analytic capabilities, such as A/B testing of site design alternatives.
Of course, logging access to content is only one aspect of determining business results. WCM logs must be linked to data from other sources -- such as customer profiles, search results metrics, and e-commerce and online purchases -- to provide quantitative insights about digital experiences.
The role of IT and the business
The success of WCM within an organization depends on the collaboration and teamwork between IT and operating business units.
Web content management software has a simple business purpose: to ensure that nontechnical users have the capabilities they need to create and manage digital experiences. To make this a reality, IT must work with the line-of-business to deploy and support the right set of content technologies that solve business problems.
This is a broad and general mandate, as the size and scope of WCM deployments vary and should be handled according to specific business needs. IT must be clear about its role in supporting the line of business. Technical leadership that resonates with the business mission and objectives is essential. IT should be a partner in design and technology selection deliberations by helping to clarify business requirements, describe digital experiences and identify content resources.
Often, business leaders can describe what they want while IT can highlight, in technical terms, what the organization needs. IT can then manage the WCM capabilities that deliver digital experiences. IT contributions include the following:
- Providing technical oversight for the WCM software implementation.
- Setting and maintaining both technical security and operational governance requirements.
- Managing the technical aspects of the WCM platform.
- Ensuring integration with various services and applications within the enterprise ecosystem.
How WCM contributes to business competitiveness
A contemporary organization should have web content management capabilities within its software toolkit to deliver content across multiple digital channels. This firm faces twin challenges -- sourcing and distributing content in a systematic manner. At each step of the way, line-of-business users, not IT, should be in the driver's seat.
As a software category, WCM delivers the system, the capabilities and the needed technologies to source and distribute content. Moreover, in today's digital age, organizations face continuing competitive challenges. Whether large or small, they need to rely on a flexible and adaptable set of content technologies, organized and delivered by a WCM platform.
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