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Five buying considerations for Web content management systems

If you're buying a Web content management system and want CEM features such as analytics, these five purchasing considerations may guide your search.

If you're embarking on the process of purchasing a new Web content management (WCM) system that incorporates customer experience management (CEM) capabilities, consider these recommendations. Companies with WCM software in place must consider whether their platforms can scale to accommodate this functionality, according to Forrester Research Inc.'s recent report Market Overview: Digital Customer Experience Delivery Platforms.

Scalability was a critical factor, for example, for New England Biolabs in Ipswich, Mass., which deployed Sitecore after months of weighing WCM technologies. "It was at the point where we couldn't scale our old systems," said Tanya Osterfield, digital marketing manager at the company. "We chose it for content reuse and the ability to extend our Web presence to mobile, as well as for more customer engagement and CRM [customer relationship management]-type things." Those with a Web content management system purchase on the horizon should weigh these issues in determining whether the WCM suits their business processes and can integrate with CEM functions.

Having a central repository
Tanya Osterfielddigital marketing manager, New England Biolabs

1. Map out your buying process, even if it is lengthy. Companies that are satisfied with their Web content system go through a sometimes lengthy process to choose the right technology for their business requirements. At New England Biolabs, the selection team read research reports and attended trade shows, and had calls with several vendors, whittling down the selection list to five WCM systems from an initial list of more than 20. Finally, it brought three vendors on-site for half-days to provide demos of each system and to test them in a sandbox environment. By creating a formal request for proposal, then bringing vendors on-site to see their short-list features in action, New England Biolabs gained confidence in its ultimate choice.

2. Understand which technologies are foundational to digital customer experiences. Determine which WCM or e-commerce platforms can serve as the foundation on which to build in other capabilities. Some platforms can provide the bulk of functionality that you need for Web content management or e-commerce. Ensure that your platform provides at least 80% of that critical functionality and doesn't require add-ons.

3. Consider your business strategy and technical requirements. If you have a WCM platform at your company, consider that as your existing capability for the next three to five years. But also look to the future and consider whether this platform can integrate new capabilities, as discussed here. Your WCM platform should also be able to accommodate your business processes. While most Web content management systems now encompass functionality such as workflows and alerting, permissions and access control and other features that may be core to your process, ensure that this platform can reflect your processes today -- and be flexible enough for change in the future.

4. Eliminate departmental silos. Part of the power of these platforms is in creating a more holistic view of audiences and consumers and incorporating data from multiple departments. Use the conversation about a WCM purchase or upgrade to spark discussion about how to break down departmental divisions.

As you look to the future, consider ways in which your foundational platform can consolidate data and centralize information while also giving departmental silos greater responsibility for data quality. According to Osterfield, having a central repository for various back-end systems related to its product line contributes to having "better data. It makes us more efficient and departments have more ownership of that data."

5. Find Web content management software built on open technologies. WCM buyers should seek technologies that are built on open standards and have prebuilt integrations and partnerships with proven, mature best-of-breed applications for digital customer experience and online engagement efforts rather than all-in-one suites. Open technologies are critical to future integration and migration, scalability and, in sum, building for the future.

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