In The Rush To Mobile, Where Are The Web Content Management Vendors?

This is a co-authored blog post by Forrester Analysts David Aponovich and Michael Facemire.

Corporations and brands are jumping through hoops (and spending lots of money) to build and support mobile customer experiences. It has us asking: Where are the web content management (WCM) vendors in all of this?

The answer that applies to many: Missing in action.

Here is a group of tech vendors whose R&D and acquisitions have been incredibly focused on enabling digital experiences and helping marketers and brands connect with customers online.

Yet many web content management vendors serving enterprise and midmarket clients still lack a fully baked mobile solution for back-end developers or their marketing counterparts, or even a road map that considers the place for mobile and cross-channel experiences in their content management and future digital experience ecosystems (think: interactive TV, point-of-sale digital, even interactive goggles, or whatever new channels emerge). Clients are jumping in completely, and they’re looking for the best tools, solutions, and services to make a successful leap. They’re looking right at you, vendors.

Here’s what they see: Not every WCM vendor today is adept or positioned to offer deep mobile solutions.

Vendors lacking this power and capacity to support mobile initiatives will face challenges as specific WCM competitors answer this need. And here’s the other rub: non-WCM tools and techniques are gaining momentum and serving as the path of least resistance for companies that need, today, to get mobile with their content, sites, and experiences, preferably without redeveloping from scratch.

The rapid shift to mobile presents WCM vendors the golden opportunity to take on a bigger role (and slice of the license pie). It also presents a potential Achilles heel. After jumping ahead of marketers’ demands by developing new, cool marketing capabilities in WCM solutions (that’s a nice A/B testing tool you’ve got there), these same vendors risk falling behind in the explosive mobile arena.

Last week, our colleague Thomas Husson wrote in a Forrester blog post, “Mobile has the potential to be more disruptive than the Web.” We echo his sentiments. But it’s not just us saying so: companies are rushing to fill this need, and these are not half-hearted attempts but rather strategic projects tied to corporate growth.

Forrester clients ask daily: How much should I depend on my WCM vendor to support my mobile strategy? After all, all my digital content lives there. Or should I look elsewhere for help?

We’ve recently seen some examples that foreshadow a better reality. For example, Adobe is using its acquisition of Scene7 to enable responsive web design of sites that consume media from their CQ5 content management system. Additionally, IBM acquired the Worklight mobile application platform, which similarly will augment its web content management/web experience solution.

Based on recent Forrester client inquiries, here are some key observations worth taking note of:

1.       Confusion and differences exist in the "mobile" world among customers. There’s a difference between “mobile content” and “mobile experiences in a cross-channel world,” but it’s a distinction many roles inside companies don’t realize. (Never mind the perma-confusion over the difference between mobile web and apps and the best application of each approach.) WCM vendors largely are not fully ready to serve either mobile content or mobile experiences. Should they be? Expect more from our research that helps bring clarity to this murky situation. Vendors, what say you?

2.       Fractured approaches for mobile equate to fractured ideas among adopters.

a.       Is it a “content and publishing to mobile device” issue to make visitors/customers happy?

b.      Is it a “front-end development/template” issue?

c.       How does the back-end development or application development platform play into the issue?

Clients are asking all of the above and more. And for good measure, this begs this critical question: For your upcoming mobile transition and growth, where should the center of gravity be located?

3.       Back-end service providers are coming to forefront. Surprise, these companies are nimble, innovative, and meeting enterprise needs, juxtaposed against WCM vendors and capabilities. These providers are attacking the problem from many directions, including API management such as Mashery and Layer7, back-end integration from Talend, along with many others. Additionally some enterprises are working with their agency partners in this area. These solutions tend to be built on technology stacks including Ruby and Java and increasingly on JavaScript-based solutions such as Node.js.

4.       Mobile first. This is a term we’re hearing almost daily, and there’s no reason that this shouldn’t be paramount to WCM vendors. As more enterprises design their content to be consumed by smartphones and tablets as well as desktop browsers, they are looking more to their WCM infrastructure to provide benefits to their mobile developers. These benefits can come by means of content transformation from the back end to the client device or by means of access to the content through an integrated SDK (software development kit). Regardless of the means, the mandate is clear from our clients that content should be available to all devices in a contextually appropriate way.

5.       Advice to WCM vendors: Make a move now. Be a thought leader with eyes on mobile if you expect to achieve and/or maintain market leadership. If you don’t provide a means for content transformation within your solution, don’t prohibit third parties from doing this for you. A number of third-party data transformation solutions are becoming en vogue (PHP, Rails, and NodeJS, etc.). Partner with an agency/systems integrator (SI) that can do this for you, or have a set of best practices around this solution if you do not provide it natively.

The massive, rapid shift to mobile is real, it’s moving fast, and it offers the chance to make leaders out of vendors who respond with effective solutions. To vendors we say: Your customers are asking around. They want answers now, not in six months or a year. The window of opportunity is open, but it won’t be for long. 

Vendors, how are you addressing this challenge today? And to clients: Who or what is best supporting your mobile success today? What are the biggest gaps in your solutions today?


David, I couldn't agree more.

David, I couldn't agree more. WCM (or WEM that includes e-commerce) vendors need to embrace (not invent) evolving standards and provide marketers not just with tools but also support in how to think about delivering content to different devices. It's the latter part that is often missed. A mobile site is not a smaller version of a desktop site since the use cases are usually different. Those use cases (and the priority based on business drivers) will drive the content, overall user experience and whether you start with mobile first. The "web" is just a delivery mechanism for data. What you do with that data and how you present it depends on the device and the context of use. WCM is purely a tool to enable marketers to deliver their ideas on how best to display information for customers. WCM vendors need to think about their products as tools to enable marketers to do their daily jobs.

As CTO of Bridgeline Digital we have not only developed iAPPS to embrace responsive design via built-in simulators and targeted audience segmentation but, equally or more importantly, we supplement that with a dedicated digital strategy team that works hand in hand with marketers to develop a strategy around content/UX and its delivery.

Thanks for the good post!

Speaking of digital strategy...

Thanks, Brett, for the comments. You've inadvertently fired me about about another subject that too few vendors have much passion about: helping clients (read: app developers and their marketing counterparts) learn HOW to be successful with WCM/WEM, and related solutions. Among even large enterprises, the transition to cross-channel communications and marketing (and customer engagement) is a relatively new idea, and it's a big leap from theory to putting it into practice. WCM and other vendors should be a part of the solution, not just selling software but literally providing some sense of strategic direction of what to do with their product (not just what it's "capable" of). Not solely, but part of the solution ....

Watch for a post on this soon. -David

It's just another channel...

Albeit and increasingly important one. We as vendors have been hearing that this year is the year of mobile. It finally arrived last year and increasingly so this year. For those of us vendors who have had strong mobile capabilities for years, we're very happy it's finally here, but some vendors have been slow to respond to add additional capabilities like simulators and such, mobile app frameworks, etc. The real rub though is what I call the last mile problem. WCM vendors have been reluctant to build mobile presentations. That is anethema in the WCM world, you don't build end user presentations. But the world is a changin, and at Sitecore, we've built out a Mobile SDK for mobile apps, and we're starting to work with mobile presentation kits. One thing is clear: We don't need another silo of user experience. The mobile experience must be tied into the rest of the customer interaction flow.

Good Points, check Drupal

One the major initiatives for Drupal 8 is to make it a first-class mobile platform. Dries Buytaert, the founder and lead developer of Drupal, has said that if he were to start creating Drupal today, it would focus on mobile, before any other platform. In the meantime though, my company Appnovation has had a lot of success using Drupal 7, combined with other technologies, to create web assets that work seamlessly across any platform without sacrificing functionality.

InstantMobile is a comprehensive mobile CMS

Mobile content management is definitely challenging. There are however features to match the resolution and speed of smartphones. InstantMobile has some details added into its CMS in terms of user experience, social media tools, online payments and many other stuff. I think a good mobile CMS is already in place.

Mobile CMS

Flow is what we call a "real-time CMS", built from the start for mobile. What's the difference between a "real-time CMS" and a traditional WCM? First, non-technical users of a real-time CMS can build and deploy mobile apps in minutes, just as easily as a traditional CMS launches a new web page. Second, a real-time CMS visualizes content as "streams" of information, the way it presents in most mobile apps. Third, a real-time CMS manages "data in motion", meaning content can be filtered and routed from one stream (or app) to another more contextually specific stream (or app) that may have many other data sources. Fourth, a real-time CMS integrates your information from MANY sources in real-time, including from any number of existing CMS solutions you may have previously deployed, but also from CRMs, public APIs, social or any other silo'd data source--it's a drag-and-drop content mixing board. Fifth, a real-time CMS enables mobile interactivity with form building and ad hoc structure to any piece of content. Sixth, a real-time CMS can execute real-time stream processing tasks, creating workflow, enhancing content, redacting fields, etc.

Really interesting and

Really interesting and informative article and research thanks for sharing david