Web Content Management: Still No Silver Bullet

When the World Wide Web hit the scene some eight years ago, many business leaders thought it interesting but didn’t really know what to make of it, or what to do with it. By 2000, that had all changed and companies were lining up to get in on the Web site game.

The result was many companies purchased Web content management (WCM) systems without realizing what it was they were actually buying or for what purpose. And the result of that? Expensive, underutilized, “silver-bullet” solutions that really don’t do what they were sold to do. At least that was the finding of a March 2003 report by JupiterResearch (which is owned by JupiterMedia, the parent company of this Web site).

Fast forward to today and the situation really hasn’t changed much. Many companies are still grappling with how to get the most out of their earlier purchases. That’s the bad news (especially if you’re one of them). The good news is the vendors have woken up.

Partly due to poorly performing installations and customer dissatisfaction, and partly due to the general downturn that has put the kibosh on IT spending these last few years, WCM vendors are now offering systems that, if implemented correctly, will do what earlier installs couldn’t — increase productivity while lowering the burden on IT, says Eric Peterson, Site Operations and Technology analyst with Jupiter Research.

“Some of the big-ticket vendors have openly come out and said we haven’t been responsive enough to our customers. We acted like 800-pound gorillas,” says Peterson, “…and we’ve definitely heard from them that that was a mistake.”

Wiser Buyers

What’s changed isn’t necessarily the technology, although that is improving with new features like in-site editing offered by Atomz, a feature which enables editors to change content on the Web site and have that reflected in the databases instead of vice-versa, Peterson says. Rather, he says, it is how systems are sold and what questions are being asked by potential buyers.

During the Wild West days of the late ’90s and early 2000s, few people really knew what the Web was all about — they just knew they needed a “dynamic” Web site, and “dynamic” WCM systems sounded like it fit the bill, said Ann Rockley, founder of the Rockley Group and author of Managing Enterprise Content: A Unified Content Strategy.

Where many failed was in conducting due diligence. Few did enough homework to realize WCM is just the starting point of keeping a Web site fresh, or “dynamic.” And even fewer looked at the difficulties of integrating current workflows, approval processes, legacy achieves, intranets and extranets, etc. into a Web site — the very things people thought they were spending budget dollars to get.