It's hard to imagine being successful in today's digital Web world without a functional content management system. These essential platforms serve as foundations for nearly every Internet property. They are the frameworks that support day-to-day enterprise activities, and - with any luck - their future growth, too.
The importance of these systems cannot be overstated. You will be hard-pressed to find any savvy digital enterprise that does not recognize their importance, and there is significant innovation in the software category to match.
Whether you are an information publisher, a 'Net-based service provider or ecommerce merchant, content management systems provide ways to manage content, relationships and the experiences that consumers have with your brand.
Content management systems are the virtual workhorses of the modern digital age. But to get the most out of whatever system you choose, much needs to be addressed and considered. This process starts with identifying the key audiences that will interact with the system, such as employees, managers and, of course, consumers, and continues all the way down to determining what features and functionality that those audiences will increasingly demand.
It's time to put our content to work. With a platform you can count on, you will be better positioned to achieve Web success. To do so, it is essential to first understand the state of this key software market segment before assessing your needs and digging in to the many exciting features these platforms are offering today.
It should come as no surprise that the enterprise content management market is experiencing dramatic growth. Can anyone imagine building a website from (gasp!) the ground up?
Today's solutions include platforms that deliver content assets efficiently on a wide scale. Not only do most businesses believe, but they are buying into it in a big way. A recent Frost and Sullivan research study on the enterprise content management (ECM) market addressed size, revenue forecasts and insights on vendor market share, and predicted that by 2017 the total global market spend will be nearly $8 billion.
Sixteen independent ECM vendors were discussed in the Frost & Sullivan analysis, including top-five 2011 revenue earners such as OpenText, EMC, Oracle, IBM and HP (Autonomy). Overall, those top-five vendors accounted for more than 80 percent of market revenue in 2011.
Surprised? Don't be. It is the contention of many that the market is actually far larger than what has been projected. Why? The answer starts to reveal itself once you understand the degree of fragmentation in the market.
Software vendors providing content management systems have a very serious problem. Not only is it one of the least sexy of all possible software solutions (who among us would not rather
50 Top Content Management Systems
A discussion of content management systems would not be complete without a list of today's most popular systems. Website Magazine's June issue profiled 50 of the Web's top solutions, and our editors have made that list available on the Web at https://wsm.co/50TopCMS.
work with the latest social listening tool, right?), but the market is simply flooded with solutions that are so severely fragmented in the scope of their offerings that it makes the selection criteria a far more cumbersome process for businesses.
Part of the problem is that content management solutions are given a variety of names. You have your standard content management systems (CMS), your Web content management systems (WCMS), enterprise content management systems (ECMS) and a whole host of variations. This is only exacerbated by the role that Web experience management (WEM) now plays in this vital software space.
In the end, this causes confusion for technology buyers, regardless of how experienced and savvy they are. From a distance, however, these platforms really are not that different from one another.
If you have ever spent time analyzing the relative merits (and drawbacks) of specific content management systems, you understand that some, by their very nature, are more "robust" than others. In some instances, they provide far more functionality than a digital Web business would ever need. Or, in some cases, too little.
In the search for the right CMS fit, decision-makers will likely find software platforms serving large enterprises with complex needs and even more complicated organizational hierarchies. And, right alongside them, you will find in the search for the ideal platform exceedingly simple systems designed for highly specific tasks and focused objectives, stripped down to provide nothing more than the bare essentials.
ASSESS MY CMS!
When choosing a CMS, it is imperative that an organization first look at itself, understanding the process or processes currently utilized for creating and updating a website and, further, how it can be improved. Addressing workflows and identifying the users that can or should be empowered to eliminate any issues, as well as how new initiatives will impact that workflow, should all be part of the process. There is a seemingly endless supply of questions to ask about your own enterprise before you start the very important vendor selection process, so knowing yourself before hiring a company will serve you well. Website Magazinehas assembled an assessment guide to lead you through this process, and it is available at https://wsm.co/AssessMyCMS
Increasingly, businesses are quickly learning that content management systems aren't just for managing content but that they also support the enterprise in various ways by satisfying other business needs. In essence, how well do the CMS platforms being considered remove barriers and break down silos? Perhaps an example is in order.
CMS provider Sitecore recently announced the availability of a new technology that enables marketers and Web designers to use its Web platform as a hub for all Adobe InDesign content including document layouts and settings. Sitecore's Adaptive Print Studio brings together print and Web design teams to deliver personalized, customer-facing media dynamically, including annual reports, white papers, data sheets, brochures and catalogs. What the solution offers is a way to manage Web and print processes and to do so in less time and with fewer resources.
The best content management system for your enterprise likely won't be one that tops the list of review sites or that fits neatly within some magical quadrant of excellence. But it should be one that effectively and seamlessly satisfies the content demands of your business.
The system you choose, or should choose, is the one that provides the features that meet the needs, demands and growth projections of your enterprise. Above all else, it just needs to be simple.
The vast majority of Web workers are satisfied with opensource solutions. And, make no mistake, content management systems such as Drupal and Joomla are very popular and often considered the leading vendors in the entire CMS space.
The reason these platforms and others - including Umbraco and, yes, how could we forget WordPress? - are so popular is that they emphasize simplicity and ease of use. In fact, they often tout these characteristics as their main selling points above all other features including, some would argue, security.
There is a seemingly endless supply of information available about how to optimize and use these open-source platforms effectively. This shows that most of us just want our content management systems to be easy.
The demand for content management systems that do not require much in the way of technical support has driven many software developers to focus on creating solutions that do just that. For example, online marketing agency Conversion Pipeline released its own CMS for business websites that require editing flexibility without knowledge of coding.
But others will require - if not demand - "enterprise class" offerings with all the bells and whistles, support, training and maintenance available on the market today. So, what's the right CMS for you? Unfortunately, there's no right answer, but there are many wrong ones.
Familiarity with your organization's objectives, as well as its relative strengths and weaknesses, will be the first steps. But there's a whole lot more you will need to consider.
The following suggestions aim to provide you with a formal process and key criteria for selecting software systems that will power your Web business and manage content while also supporting your online property's' growth in the future.
Selecting a content management system is a decision that demands care (and even caution, in some instances), but it is also one that must be influenced and ultimately embraced by the entire enterprise. Technology buyers should receive input from every corner of the business - from marketing and IT to the C-Suite. And let's not forget our dear developers and designers - but what exactly should be assessed?
If you are actively in the process of selecting a content management system, or are casually considering a platform switch, realize that there will be numerous considerations to make that are related to the customer experience, marketing effectiveness, platform compatibility and readiness, usability/accessibility and even the degree and depth of vendor services and support that are currently provided. But only when you have established a team that you trust and from whom you can collect input on current usage, future requirements and perhaps even barriers to successful implementation and use, will you be able to know what you need moving forward.
Also keep in mind that a content management system isn't always just about the content, but it is often about the peripheral experience that is created. For example, one of the most significant and serious challenges faced by all enterprises relates to design (and redesign). The pace of the Web is such that oftentimes we don't know that we need something until we've mastered a whole set of other experience-driven demands.
For example, if you discover that there are some usability issues with your website, pose the question about how complicated it will be to change the layout and navigation structure. Asking questions of key internal audiences will help your enterprise understand the objectives and risks, as well as what should be the next step in your acquisition of an appropriate CMS for your business.
As much as you need to understand about your enterprise, you will need to understand as much if not more about the prospective vendors in the content management system field. So, what should you look for and demand from those that will help you power your consumers' Web experience?
There are numerous criteria, but we will only focus on a handful of the most important. For example, if you know the depth and skill-level of those who will be working day-to-day with your content management system, ask prospective vendors not just for a canned demo but a demo that enables your Web workers to interact with all of the functionality of a system. Without doing so, you will essentially be buying into a product you've never test-driven - and that can be a big problem for both technical and non-technical users. In short, hands-on demos are the only way to know which system is best suited to your employees. Using this approach will dramatically accelerate your speed to market.
There are, of course, many other factors to consider when putting a CMS vendor through the purchasing paces. For example, understanding the workflow functionality and capabilities of a CMS will be important for many organizations, so inquire about the presence of staging environments where authorized users can approve or reject changes before pushing updates live. Some system workflows in solutions are elaborate to say the least, so aligning them with your own enterprise's existing manpower resources will ensure that you won't pay for more than you need.
Also, knowing whether the system provides a simple or realistic exit support mechanism proves to be a deciding factor for many. There are numerous considerations to make when migrating platforms (e.g. database compatibility, etc.), but one frequent barrier can be proprietary templating systems that make it exceedingly difficult to switch providers. Finally, cost is often the most important variable. Knowing the out-of-the-box pricing, monthly fees, usage and license fees is not just smart, it is imperative as you proceed to grow your Web presence.
Ultimately, it is important to know if the cost is proportionate to the technology, feature set and overall quality as compared with similar products. Knowing if the CMS is going to save you money by integrating multiple technologies, or if it is going to create additional expenses, is something that any and every savvy Web business owner is going to want to know.
It's difficult to get a full picture of all the features and capabilities of the myriad content management systems in the market today. For this reason, Website Magazine has profiled five software vendors that are actively making their mark in the commercial and open-source CMS space. We've also tapped some of the brightest minds in the industry for their commentary on how certain solutions are more appropriate than others for information publishers, merchants and service providers. Access it now on the Web at https://wsm.co/CMSshowcase.
Make no mistake, it's not the openness or the reputation of the vendor, nor is it the price that matters most to those making decisions about their CMS. It's also not about how easy it is to use (although that can be the reason you abandon one platform for another).
So, what is the main factor in deciding which CMS is best? The features, of course. Let's look at a few of the main features in focus today by those providing content management systems and those looking to capitalize on this important software segment.
Content management systems today require more than just excellence in helping us develop content, they also need to be built from the ground up for the variety of devices upon which users will consume content. The most sophisticated systems on the market are built with and feature responsive design elements where content can be accessed on any device without sacrificing usability.
Some content management systems such as ITX manage to take the mobile demands of users even more seriously. The CMS platform actually pushes content to branded applications for its users, accelerating the availability of content into the market. This proves particularly attractive to information publishers, who are continually looking for opportunities outside of their ad-supported websites.
Adobe's recently enhanced Digital Publishing Suite, which works seamlessly with the company's Web Experience Management offering (Adobe acquired Day Software in 2012), is another solution providing similar functionality that is worthy of a more formal review.
How websites render on various device types and the Web design that results are important, but increasingly the platforms with the longest and deepest list of third-party integrations and add-on functionality are those generating the most attention from Web workers and CMS buyers.
CRM, analytics, email, social, ERP functionality, personalization and combinations of many disparate systems, seen increasingly in integrations with marketing automation and Web experience management offerings, is the latest and perhaps most important trend in the content management space. CMS vendors that go beyond the norm and provide extended functionality outside of managing content are garnering the most attention from Web businesses.
While looking good (mobile-friendly) and doing stuff (integrations) often generates the most buzz, it is often the support and services provided by CMS solutions that matter most.
CMS providers that don't feature their support and services teams shouldn't generate much respect from buyers. Those that do likely take it as seriously as they do their relationship with your enterprise.
Web software and CMS provider DotNetNuke, for example, recently announced new partnerships with leading Microsoft Gold Certified Partners who specialize in Web development and design, which will enable users of the platform to access tools and support from both Microsoft and DotNetNuke to design, build and deploy commercial-grade websites quickly.
One of the reasons you'll find an ongoing discussion of content management systems at WebsiteMagazine.com is because developments in the category are of immense importance. Staying abreast of news regarding recent integrations and developments between CMS providers and third-party applications won't necessarily position you immediately to succeed on the Web, but it will give you a solid understanding of what your competitors are up to.
In a market as competitive as the 'Net, that's just smart.