Out there in analyst land, where words are like lollipop trees and ideas are multicolored fairy unicorns, there is a sort of-well, to call it a controversy would be too racy—let's say, a discussion, over whether the correct term is "Web content management," (WCM) or "Web experience management," (WEM). Clearly, as is usually the case, this debate over terms has more to do with marketing than reality. I recently encountered a vendor who tried to claim "Web experience management" was a business application's proper noun, and thus should be capitalized. Not so fast, bucko. Takes a lot more than a few months in buzzwordville to earn capital letters in my style guide.
But it did make me think about it. For about 10 seconds. It is plain to me: "Web content management" is how you get it in. "Web experience management" is what happens when they get it out.
The disciplines, processes and practices that govern Web content management are precise and defined by rules and business processes. There are authoring tools and content management systems that have been designed to make, say, a headline a HEADLINE, a caption a caption and a link a... well, you get it. Web content management is, done right, a carefully thought-out systematic way for organizations to agree how stuff gets put on the website, whether for internal or external consumption.
And that's an important note, too, because the other guiding principle behind Web content management has to do with the governance, permissions and clearance that bubble under the surface. What can the guy in the product design department post in a knowledgebase about a "known problem" with the latest software release? What channels are responsible for approving customer-facing content? Does marketing have to clear every damn thing, or can't I just help these people???
I do not know the answers to those questions. The manners in which companies connect with their customers and partners are as varied as they are themselves. Some organizations are extremely compact when it comes to outward-facing matter on their websites. Their rules are tight, permissions are strictly enforced and a chain-of-command must be strictly followed. Some organizations feel that a quick response from a staffer makes for better customer service, and demand less restraint.
Adding even more complication (as though we need it) are the many "self-created" Web publishing opportunities that come from SharePoint or Dropbox and all those other kooky workarounds that your employees have found to avoid following your rules.
My friend Mike Vertal writes in this white paper about the perils: "To effectively implement WEM, enterprises must start with their business strategy and goals, which should drive their messaging and engagement strategy, which in turn should drive their content strategy," he says. "In other words, the strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities that businesses face should be considered first and foremost. Too often organizations fail to do this by jumping straight into a technology selection without due consideration of the business drivers." Damn straight.
Adding tinder to this fire, of course, is social networking. As customers' sentiment rambles away from your business site and off the reservation to random social discussion sites and wherever Angie tells them to go, you are going to have a heck of a time getting them back into the corral, I can tell you that.
I love the quote in Mike Hennessy's article: "Customers now expect a superior experience online, not just a good one." He adds: "Customers have grown tired of your old online help tools. Customer satisfaction with today's most common Web self-service features is abysmal and getting worse. In 2011, only 51% of consumers who used online help sections or FAQs for self-service were satisfied, down from 56% in 2009."
This concept of customer expectation has been haunting me for a while. There is a great video on YouTube of the great comic Louis CK on Conan O'Brien's show, where he says, "Everything's amazing, but nobody's happy." If you haven't seen it, Google it. He says he was on one of the first airplanes that offered WiFi in-flight. Then, halfway through the flight, the WiFi went down. And the guy next to him said, "This is BS." Louis says, "Here's a guy who feels entitled to something he only knew existed, like, 10 minutes ago."
Get used to it folks.