Fire, Ready, Aim! How Not to Choose a New Web Content Management Solution

It’s been a busy few weeks since we published “The Forrester Wave: Web Content Management for Digital Customer Experience, Q2 2013,” in which we assess the technical capabilities and strategic direction of 10 WCM solutions.

A question I hear frequently from Forrester clients:  “Which WCM is the best for our organization?” My nearly universal response: “Tell me your priorities.”

Rarely is there one “best WCM” that meets all of a firm’s objectives for web content management and digital experience, so let’s dispel that myth right now. Instead, it’s a trade-off where your specific requirements should influence your investigation, direct you to a shortlist, and help you make an informed choice.

The WCM Wave Report (and the accompanying Excel with detailed product capabilities) is a powerful tool to help enterprise buyers compare solutions. It’s helpful only if you have some idea of the problems you’re trying to solve and the strategic opportunities you need to focus on.

Priorities matter. Or, more accurately, your priorities matter. Your priorities are different than those of the company across the street. It’s a big and confusing market, too. Although we cover 10 WCM solutions in the Wave, there are many additional viable solutions.

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Steak over Sizzle: Getting the Most Out of the Web Content Management Wave

Since we published “The Forrester Wave: Web Content Management for Digital Customer Experience, Q2 2013,” we’ve been talking about our findings with our clients, who frequently ask, “How does WCM Wave research apply to me, and how can I properly evaluate the products in the market based on our needs?” 

The answer (without irony): “It depends.” Requirements vary and will affect your path to a solution. Reaching a solid decision can be challenging. 

So to help our clients get the most benefit from Forrester’s 2013 WCM Wave, here’s some additional guidance based on what works and how you can get the most out of our WCM Wave report.

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Forrester Wave: Digital Experience, The New King Of Web Content Management

Not long ago, digital marketers lived by the rule “Content is king!”

Today, what matters is what you do with that content and your digital channels. In 2013, digital experience (DX) is king, so it’s imperative that you deliver interactions that are personal, contextual, and multichannel. We’re talking websites, mobile, social, email, and kiosks — with Google Glass and more coming soon.

Firms need the right technology in place so IT and marketing pros can deliver on this big vision if they intend to differentiate via digital.  But let’s be frank: This is a complex challenge, and many companies are a long way from solving it.

There’s good news if you’re trying to crack this nut, however. Our newly published report, “The Forrester Wave™: Web Content Management For Digital Customer Experience, Q2 2013,” shows that the current crop of web content management solutions is laser-focused on supporting the DX mandate.

Our report provides IT, business, and marketing pros a deep look at 10 providers of web content management (WCM) solutions — Adobe Systems, Acquia, Ektron, HP Autonomy, IBM, Microsoft, OpenText, Oracle, SDL, and Sitecore. We analyzed solutions across 100 criteria, reviewed extensive product demos, and spoke with dozens of WCM vendor customers. We heard the good, the bad, and the ugly of WCM use in the field. And, for the first time, Forrester’s WCM Wave looks at an open source platform (Drupal), through the lens of Acquia, a for-profit company that supports Drupal.

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Demands of a cross-channel world

This blog post originally appeared on destinationCRM

Enterprise technology buyers are moving rapidly to adopt strategies and software to support digital experience (DX) initiatives. And with good reason: Forrester research shows that one of the last remaining areas for differentiation is the ability to provide compelling, engaging user experiences through digital channels. Your customers demand it, and your competition is probably already there (or well on their way).

The road to get there is replete with challenges covering the gamut of people, processes,  and technology. For technology buyers seeking to adopt DX tools and technologies, it’s a vast but immature market.

Application development and delivery pros, often on the front lines, face a proliferation of legacy and new technology to manage, engage, and measure customer experiences through digital channels—we’re talking Web sites, mobile channels, and many other digital touchpoints.

Here’s a truism: These professionals frequently encounter systems that don’t live up to their promises. They may be too old or inflexible to support rapidly changing requirements. Tech vendors add to the confusion. Some deliver all-encompassing DX suites, which have varying degrees of successful integration. Others provide pointed solutions that may deliver one part of the DX equation well, but rely on integration with third-party systems to provide a full solution.

The challenge for DX professionals is to determine how best to assess, choose, integrate, and apply the right software solutions to meet strategic DX imperatives. Easier said than done, right?

Look at Seven Main Technology Categories

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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.

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SWISS Provides Content In Context To Enhance In-Flight Experience

Whenever I fly, I’m an inveterate gawker — geographically speaking.  

Getting a window seat on a cloudless day is like getting a ticket to a great performance. At 35,000 feet you’re witness to a world playing out in miniature — cities and villages, mountains and deserts, even the occasional crop circle.

The mind wanders: What exactly am I looking at? I see the interstate highway built to bypass that little farm town in Kansas, or is it Oklahoma? I know I’m flying from Point A to B, but what I really want to know is: what’s down there? (And, how much longer will it take to get to my destination?)

Last week I flew Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) to Boston from Zurich returning from a client workshop. The experience was a vivid lesson in how an airline (core mission: get me home safely) is using content, creatively and in context, to provide a relevant and engaging customer experience in flight.

SWISS’s secret? The seat-back video screens don’t just play on-demand movies and TV shows (itself a big plus on an 8.5-hour flight). They deliver real-time mapping showing what we’re flying over; arrows mark the flight path like a “heads-up display” in some autos, along with content and photos of tourist hot spots on the ground.

At the same time, it shows the speed the plane is traveling, the altitude, and the distance and time remaining in the flight.

This isn’t brand-new technology. However, the marriage of technology, data and interface into a meaningful user experience by SWISS pushes this into bonus territory for me.

Here’s what I like about it:

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WCM And Digital Experience Projects: Like Snowflakes, Each A Little Different

In a recent post, I shot down the myth that you can predict the ratio between web content management license cost and implementation services. (You can read the post here, but the summary is: There is no standard ratio. Like snowflakes, every WCM implementation and digital experience project has its own unique … personality, and cost. It’s not only about the technology.)

But for any application development professional who sources and implements these systems and strategies, you (or your friends in marketing) will inevitably get put on the spot by the person holding the wallet. Their question, “What’s this going to cost us, all-in?” is hard to answer. And no exec wants to hear, “I don’t know.”

We can provide a recipe for turning this question in a productive discussion that lets budget holders understand the Great Unknowns that accompany digital projects.   

Costs can balloon for many reasons on a WCM or DX project. Below are just a few reasons in the form of questions. Use them early on in the project/process to educate key stakeholders on the true costs of WCM- or digital-related work – the levers that get pushed and pulled, affecting cost, timeline, and outcomes. It may be your best defense when the money people start asking questions.

  • Who’s leading your WCM- or digital experience-related services? Will you spend internal IT staff time or money on external agency partners getting something built?
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Eight Areas You’ll Invest In For Great Digital Customer Experiences

There isn’t a sole, singular step companies and brands must follow to deliver engaging digital customer experiences. Website, mobile, social? Video streaming, content targeting, effective email campaigns, smarter analytics? Yes, please. And more of it.

Your challenge is finding the right mix (and prioritizing what makes sense) to make digital experience initiatives successful.

So let’s stipulate that in order differentiate with digital, you’ve got to consider what will get you there and establish priorities for your next budget cycle or next wave of strategic investment.

Although your priorities may vary, it’s instructive to see what other companies are investing in for better digital experiences.           

You can get a clear view of this in recently available Forrester Research survey data. Earlier this year, Forrester surveyed 170 web content management professionals in a variety of industries asking for responses on what they have deployed, or plan to deploy in the next 12 months, to support online experiences.

Mobile content delivery, video streaming, email tools, and content targeting are high on the list of capabilities or near-term focus to serve digital experience requirements, according to respondents.

It’s important to note that even though we targeted our survey at WCM professionals, this does not mean they intend to source these capabilities from their existing WCM vendor. Many web content management software providers have done great work to retool their solutions to include many of the piece-parts that go into supporting digital experiences.

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NPR’s ‘Car Talk,’ Auto Parts, And The Price Of Your Web Content Management Project

What’s the correct ratio of web content management software license price to implementation cost?

Clients frequently ask us some variation of the ratio question. As they try to do more with digital, they realize this stuff gets complex and costly pretty quickly.

The answer to their ratio question is: It depends. I can’t endorse a standard ratio of software to services because I don’t believe one exists. For very modest projects, might you expect to spend two dollars on services for every one dollar in software? It’s possible. But I’ve seen it more commonly grow to five-, six-, or ten-fold (occasionally more), as projects like these have long tentacles that reach beyond just software. The cost of software? That’s table stakes. WCM vendors may whisper sweet nothings in your ear about how easy it is to implement; I say ask someone who’s done it before with that product – and get them to be specific about ‘what’ was done as part of their project. 

The more urgent question is whether you can keep your eye on the prize, focusing perceptions at your organization on the value of the total solution you’re trying to create. Although WCM technology may occupy the spotlight and serve as an integral part of the total solution, there’s usually a lot more to consider. The scope and cost estimate of your initiative may make executives’ eyebrows pop up. But what really should make their eyes pop is fairly assessing the opportunity cost of not tackling the initiative in a way that reflects the importance of the digital channel to your business.

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What Are Companies And Brands Investing In To Deliver Great Digital Experiences?

The intense work by companies and brands to deliver stellar digital experiences (DXes) has been exciting to witness. This isn’t just incremental change for most organizations; it’s transformational. (Think: Outside In, a new book by two Forrester colleagues.)

But these things don’t just happen. It’s not magic. It takes significant planning and commitment across silos: Execs establish a mandate. Digital strategists and marketing pros set direction. User experience and design pros translate the vision. The same goes for marketers and content strategists.

Application developers, meanwhile, must choose and implement the right tools and technology to support DX initiatives. It isn’t easy figuring out what to prioritize (hello, internal politics), where to source solutions (suite vs. best-of-breed?), and how to roll out new capabilities to eager users.

In my research focus area, web content management (WCM), solution vendors have tried to fill the gaps and deliver DX features by building on their own platform or partnering with third-party providers.

Where are organizations investing to support digital customer experiences? Forrester asked 170 WCM leaders earlier this year and their answers, charted below, provide a snapshot of their current status and foreshadow near-term DX investments.

Mobile delivery, video streaming, email tools, and content targeting are high on the list of capabilities or near-term focus to serve digital experience requirements, according to respondents.

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