Until recently, each company department or business unit created its own content for a corporate website. Technical staff created documentation, sales developed sales materials, PR wrote press releases, and so on. Each group generated its own content, often using its own content management software.
But with the current demand for rich media and personalized content presentation, a siloed and territorial approach to a content management system (CMS) is inefficient and costly. Today, enterprises invest substantial resources in their websites to provide diverse content offerings that include videos, podcasts and social-media-generated content. Increasingly, all this must be managed so it can display correctly on a host of mobile devices. As a result, many organizations are moving to unified Web content management (WCM) platforms to enable central control over their content.
There is no single answer as to whether to move all of an organization's Web content to a single CMS option or to add a standalone product. An existing CMS may lack the necessary capabilities or depth of functionality, said Irina Guseva, senior analyst at Real Story Group in New York. "You may have to go with best-of-breed applications for specific functions, such as social media monitoring, digital asset management [DAM] or marketing automation," she said.
But WCM platform vendors are now adding capabilities that are increasingly in demand, said Josh Chalifour, director of knowledge services at the research firm Technology Evaluation Centers in Montreal. "They're adding mobile and social, as well as personalization [of content]," he said.
Centralizing content brings efficiencies
Now we have a lot tighter control on what's displayed on the Web.
e-commerce manager, Uponor North America
Some organizations can improve efficiency by consolidating disparate content management products into a single WCM platform. Moving to a standard platform can reduce the time spent and the cost of managing a collection of different systems and their associated content repositories, said Joseph Bachana, president of DPCI, a WCM, DAM and collaboration implementation services company based in New York. "Managing a lot of content repositories costs money and IT resources," he said. "Moving to a modern, standards-based platform allows you to store content in one place."
According to most experts, standardizing on one platform can cut costs or improve productivity by integrating various CMS options whose vendors don't always provide connectors to others; streamlining licensing and maintenance; removing roadblocks to repurposing content by making sure videos, images, white papers and other content is accessible to all potential users; and unifying workflows when creating, approving, sharing and publishing content.
Platforms can unite content
Several years ago, Uponor, a manufacturer of plumbing and heating systems in Apple Valley, Minn., updated its website content, which includes separate sites for customers in Europe and North America, as well as a partner-facing site that provides technical product data for Uponor's contractors and other partners. Uponor needed a new approach to WCM so it could provide richer content and up-to-date product data. But with thousands of images, documents and videos stored on desktop computers, shared drives and servers, and squirrelled away in standalone content authoring applications, there was no easy way to know what content the site had or where the latest version of it was.
"It was a mess," said Don Costello, e-commerce manager for Uponor North America. "We had no version control, no checks and balances as to what was uploaded to the website and when it should be taken off. IT uploaded things whenever someone asked them to."
After a detailed search, the company implemented Sitecore's Web CMS option, which enables it to use a central repository, indexing and search capabilities, and a user interface enabling non-technical staff to manage content. It also has support for rich media, mobile and social media content.
"Now we have a lot tighter control on what's displayed on the Web." Costello said. "The online catalog is always updated, so we don't have to delay price increases or spend time with callers who are looking for updated product information. And our developers can go back to coding."
The argument for point products
Sometimes, however, an organization that is otherwise satisfied with its CMS, might find a particular feature lacking or need to add a capability the existing system doesn't include. It's also possible that an organization might have invested so much time and energy in a well-working customized Web CMS that it cannot afford a complete rip and replace, and instead opts to find a well-suited point product.
Steelcase Inc., an office furniture and accessories maker in Grand Rapids, Mich., found that it needed sophisticated digital media management features not available with its existing CMS option. Steelcase, which relies on its Web presence to market its products, wanted to simplify its use and management of product images.
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After determining it wanted to add a point product to its existing CMS, the company invested in Widen's Media Collective DAM software and used Widen's API to connect it to the Steelcase CMS. "Widen takes the files off a camera and transcodes them into multiple formats, any resolution, even PowerPoint and PDFs. [The CMS] wasn't meant to do that," said Deb Start, information architect at Steelcase. As a result, Steelcase can use a high-resolution image of a new desk and use it in any number of different formats.
Whether the business need is to consolidate all efforts surrounding content management tasks on a single platform or to implement a content management technology aimed at a specific shortcoming of a WCM endeavor, there are products to satisfy a host of Web content issues. The key in deciding whether a best-of-breed product or a complete CMS platform is the best choice is in carefully examining organizational needs and considering the range of options.
About the author:
Sue Hildreth is a freelance writer covering enterprise IT issues and trends. She is based in Waltham, Mass., and can be reached at Sue.Hildreth@comcast.net.