Web content management—or WCM (a.k.a. content management system, or CMS)—is not a technology that has been on the CMO’s radar for long, if it is at all. But soon it will be.
CMO.com recently explored the topic during an interview with Stephen Powers, Forrester’s Vice President, Research Director, Application Development & Delivery. Powers, along with David Aponovich, is the author of “The Forrester Wave: Web Content Management For Digital Customer Experience, Q2 2013,” which was released earlier this month. (Note: registration required to download full report.)
Explains Forrester in the report: “Web content management (WCM) software has evolved from a set of primarily technical tools for website management into broad products and suites that support the imaginations (and needs) of digital marketers creating multichannel digital experiences.”
The report is an in-depth look at the major WCM vendors—Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company), Acquia, Ektron, HP Autonomy, IBM, Microsoft, OpenText, Oracle, SDL, and Sitecore—all of which were evaluated based on current offering, strategy, and market presence. For the record, Forrester noted that, out of all the WCM vendors evaluated, “Adobe leads due to breadth of functionality, market momentum, and resources.”
In this discussion, CMO.com explored the importance of WCM technology with Powers, especially focusing on what it means to CMOs and their teams. The conversation follows.
CMO.com: Who is the main audience for the report?
Powers: The Forrester Wave report is written for application development and delivery—the more technical people. However, when I look at the readership, it’s read by many others, too, including customer experience people and interactive marketing people. It’s read by techies and nontechies, alike.
CMO.com: How are the findings of the report—and WCM, in general—pertinent to the CMO and other senior-level marketers?
Powers: It comes down to what does Web content management do. . .and it does a lot more than just manage Web content. The foundation of it allows nontechnical users to not only manage their content, but also deliver it through multiple channels; to create and manage these rich multichannel experiences; and, in some cases, even measure them—or integrate with the technologies that will allow them to be measured. In many ways, WCM has become much more of a marketing enablement tool instead of just plain, old content management. And that’s why you have a wider audience reading this report, and why there is a wider group of stakeholders being involved in vendor selection.
CMO.com: So that’s why CMOs and other senior marketers should be cognizant of WCM these days. How do you see this need for information and need for understanding being pushed up the ladder?
Powers: Well, the CMOs people, his or her team, are using this tool. We talk about the CIO enabling the CMO, right? The CIO should be supporting the CMO, and if the CMO doesn’t get that support, then he or she is going to go elsewhere. These kinds of tools are installed solutions that the CIO and his or her team will typically provide, in a lot of cases. And the functionality that WCM can provide directly impacts the CMO and the marketing team and how they do their jobs. “Hey, can we change the Web site quickly? Can we make this new offer quickly? Can we create this offer to go across Web and mobile and email?” The Web content management system is a part of the technology that will allow the CMO’s team to do those things. And if they can’t do that, if they don’t have the right functionality, their hands are tied.
CMO.com: Is this being pushed from the marketing side, or is it coming through the technology IT side?
Powers: The marketing people are already pushing it. Years ago, when I first started at Forrester, and we had questions about vendor selection, these questions almost exclusively originated with the technology team, with somebody in IT. These days, IT is still involved in that selection process, but that initial push is now coming from the marketing team because they had some specific need—“Hey, we need a Web site redesign. Hey, we need a mobile site.” Or they need some other new customer experience. And this forces them to do to their technology resources and say, “Look, can we do this with our existing technology, and, if not, what are we going to need to put in to make this happen?”
CMO.com: In other words, because most of the WCMs in the report are enterprise-level products, IT needs to be brought in.
Powers: There are always going to be some point solutions that the marketing team is going to go off and source themselves, and that’s fine. Everybody has accepted that that’s par for the course. But with a WCM, there are a lot of benefits to having one that is used by multiple groups because then you can integrate solutions that you may already have in-house. It’s good to have that foundational WCM technology in place that is officially supported and is not a one-off solution. It can be leveraged across different groups within the organization, and you can integrate it with other technologies that will support the digital customer experience.
CMO.com: And who makes this all work together?
Powers: The IT world still needs to connect the pipes, connect the plumbing. But the marketing people still need to tell them what they want—this channel needs to be connected to that channel, or this experience needs to be connected to that experience. . .that kind of thing. The marketing teams are driving it, while the tech teams are doing the actual connection. Of course, the point solutions can serve a very important purpose, and they often work very well, but sooner or later you get to where you’ve pushed it to its limits, and it’s time to look at whether an enterprisewide solution is in order.
CMO.com: So WCM is yet another technology CMOs need to understand at a strategic level that they’ve not paid a whole lot of attention to before.
Powers: Depending on the CMO and the company makeup, I’m not that sure the CMO really needs to understand the technology in depth. They certainly have to be aware of it, and some of their deputies need to understand it better. It certainly depends on the size of the organization. They need to know about what the technology does for them, their team, and their marketing strategy. Marketing organizations, in general, need to be aware of the technologies they are using and how well-suited they are to meeting the orgs needs. CMOs should be involved with whoever is supporting these technologies, but in terms of how they are working now and how they might work for them in the future.
If, for example, they want to have a greater degree of personalization on their Web sites in the next year or so, that’s something that the technical people need to know so they can assess whether the current WCM is going to suit their needs down the line, or if they are going to have to get something else. From that level they need to be in synch with those who are supporting them—it’s a partnership, really. Right now, a marketing organization should have a partnership with those who are supporting the technologies that they use. If they don’t have that partnership, that’s a big problem. So the CMO should be doing what he or she can to enable those partnerships between the marketing team and those who are enabling them technologically.
CMO.com: This speaks to the idea that has been floated lately of the need for some kind of marketing technologist role.
Powers: Yes, exactly. In some of the organizations I’ve spoken with that have that role, they tend to be doing better along these lines than are those that are still in the more traditional organizational setup. In the past year I’ve had more people come up to me and introduce themselves as the head of marketing technology or the marketing technologist than ever before.
CMO.com: Interesting. And are these people coming out of the tech ranks or the marketing ranks?
Powers: Of the ones I’ve spoken to, I’d say they mostly come out of technology, but they are not pure, hard-core techies. They’ve worked in tech, but they’ve sometimes worked in marketing in the past, too, so they have a business background that’s beyond just hard-core technology. It’s really the same, old thing—the people who are successful are those who understand both sides. Another thing that the CMO and his or her team should understand is when point solutions are appropriate and how far you can do with them, versus the need for a larger, more enterprisewide answer.
CMO.com: What do you think CMOs and their teams can get out of your latest WCM report, both tactically and strategically?
Powers: Well, tactically, if they are in a position to review whether the solutions they have are appropriate, or if they think they might have to change or augment them, then the report will certainly help them become familiar with the vendors in this space. It will help them become familiar with what is considered “core” to WCM, and, frankly, they should be taking the lead on that. In the end, when they familiarize themselves with the issues, and they are more on the same page with the technologists who are supporting them, you begin to forge a better partnership.
CMO.com: So being aware of WCM at this point is really something that is industry-neutral?
Powers: I think there are different verticals that are at different stages of maturity. Retail and travel and hospitality tend to be more advanced, while others, such as energy, tend to be less so. But these WCM issues affect all of them, and the report can certainly help them sort it all out.
In the end, WCM is more than just something that enables the running of the Web site—it enables the CMO to manage the Web as well as the digital customer experience.