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Assessing your WCM maturity

This article appears in the issue January 2010, [Volume 19, Issue 1]
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Web content management (WCM) is dead. Controversial? Well, let’s qualify that statement a little: WCM 1.0 is dead. WCM has been around since the late 1990s, with a focus on basics like content design, separation of content from presentation, basic metadata, workflows and publishing mechanisms. WCM 1.0 was all about moving content from point A to point B, and most enterprises have finally mastered that. But WCM 2.0 is about so much more, namely empowering marketers and business analysts to better engage customers by leveraging content assets in structured campaigns, building brand awareness and identity, and testing marketing strategies.

WCM should be part of a suite of tools that interactive marketers and e-business professionals can use to achieve specific business goals, rather than just to move content from place to place. In a recent Forrester survey, 63 percent of WCM decision-makers listed improving Web site customer experiences and 12 percent cited increasing sales conversion rates as reasons for increasing WCM usage.

Many WCM systems now include such native functionality as globalization and localization management, analytics, A/B and multivariate testing, and social computing. In addition, many WCM vendors recognize that they can’t be a one-stop shop—due to their customers’ dependence on already installed third-party technologies. So they offer ways to integrate with other technologies that support an interactive strategy, including rich media management and enterprise marketing suites.

Ultimately, WCM has evolved from a siloed system to being part of critical plumbing that serves customer engagement. But many companies express confusion over what extended functionality to pursue first. Business leaders don’t always provide a clear priority list to follow, so it’s essential for IT pros to understand their overall WCM maturity stage. Forrester Research has developed a new model that will help classify an organization’s level of WCM maturity into one of four stages. That evaluation can be used to drive conversations to clarify short- and long-term WCM priorities.

First level: basic

At this stage, IT departments manage publishing to Web sites, posting flat HTML pages manually or through WCM implementations. IT also drives priorities at this stage and focuses on the basics, like content services (e.g., check-in, check-out, permissions, security) and publishing static, text-driven pages. Web sites supported at this stage tend to be basic ones devoted to company brochure-ware or simple customer communications.


Second level: tactical

As organizations move to the tactical Web content management stage, IT departments continue to manage WCM implementations, but lines of business assume sponsorship, and the focus shifts to meeting line-of-business needs by providing mechanisms to manage and reuse Web content. Multiple WCM systems exist, serving discrete business purposes. Features at this stage enable more formalized content processes (basic workflows, metadata, audit trails, separation of content from presentation) and some content reuse. Also, WCM begins to expand beyond managing text-based assets to include images and graphics.

Third level: enterprise

At this stage, WCM strategies have executive-level sponsorship, with lines of business taking over Web site management and IT providing administrative support. More mature toolsets enable business operations to manage site structure, taxonomy and basic presentation templates. IT personnel take on a more administrative role, such as setting up and maintaining multisite definitions, though they still help with overall presentation frameworks, implementing more complex presentations. Companies also begin to formally manage more types of rich media—including audio and video—and possibly integrate with digital asset management systems. Content contributors leverage inline editing functionality, allowing them to make basic changes within the context of the Web presentation.

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