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Managing Web content: ECM or pure-play WCM?

By most definitions, Web content management (WCM) is a subset of enterprise content management (ECM), which in turn also includes document management, digital asset management (DAM) and records management (RM). Yet in many ways, WCM remains distinct from other ECM components in how it functions in the enterprise.

WCM provides the ability to author content, manage and store it, and then publish the content to a Web site. Typically, a variety of workflow and automation options are available, greatly expediting the process of reviewing and posting the content. In addition, WCM software allows personalization of content at the individual or group level and localization to deliver content in multiple languages and adapt it to different cultures.

In terms of software solutions, WCM can be part of an ECM suite, or it can be a standalone product. Which option is better for a given organization depends on its business proposition, existing infrastructure and plans for the future.

"If your company's current needs are mainly around WCM, and other needs such as document management and invoicing are being met by existing applications," says Melissa Webster, program director for content technologies and digital media at IDC, "then a standalone product might be the best solution. On the other hand, if your company also needs to capture images for the finance department, or submit new drug applications and manage complex documents, then an ECM suite approach would work best."

WCM in an ECM suite

Five years ago, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBSMA) outgrew the WCM system it had developed in-house, and chose TeamSite from Interwoven (interwoven.com) to manage its Web content. At the time, Web site functionality in general was moving decisively beyond static content, supporting a broader range of customer-oriented services and e-business applications.

An important factor in changing to TeamSite was the potential to offer self-service options such as online enrollment and claims review, as well as more extensive informational content. BCBSMA wanted to enhance the online experience of its 2.9 million members and 17,000 providers. The new site showed a rapid increase in customer acceptance and use. However, the full capabilities of Interwoven's suite were not being exploited at the time.

When the company decided to expand its use of OpenDeploy (an Interwoven product that automates the distribution of content, application code and configuration information), it purchased a license for WorkSite, Interwoven's collaboration tool.

"The new licensing agreement saved us money, but also gave us access to other products that we knew we needed," says Mark Farone, director of Web enterprise services at BCBSMA. "Since then we have integrated WorkSite into several intranet sites, including one that contains a lot of medical policy documents." Farone describes that transition as a big win for the company. Unmanaged content that was formerly in a shared file is now managed effectively, with search functionality and security mechanisms that users can understand and work with directly.

Using an ECM suite to manage its Web content has allowed BCBSMA to add functionality incrementally to its system. "Organic growth has been our model," says Farone, "and the tie-in between the Interwoven products will give us the most benefit long term." BCBSMA plans to further integrate WorkSite and TeamSite to automate the publishing process between the collaboration platform and WCM. It is also considering use of the Interwoven RM product to manage key documents in its legal department.

ECM vendors point to the synergy that can emerge from use of a broader platform. "A comprehensive process might include collaborating on a document internally," says Eben Miller, director of marketing at Interwoven, "enforcing security guidelines, tracking modifications, triggering a publishing process and then pushing it out simultaneously to one or more Web sites, as an e-mail or into a call center." A records management component also can be incorporated into the workflow.

In addition, ECM suites can ensure consistency and efficient reuse of content across multiple channels, which ultimately lead to an enhanced customer experience.

"If you are manufacturing a medical device," says Miller, "you want to ensure that your customers and partners get the same operating manuals from the document repository as from the Web site."

Some organizations also use Interwoven's TeamSite to integrate and publish information from various repositories, pulling digital assets from one place, product information from another and customer data out of a customer relationship management (CRM) system, for example. Because each document or asset exists only in one physical location, no problems arise with respect to using the agreed upon version.

Pure-play WCMs

Despite the benefits of an integrated ECM suite, products that are focused primarily on WCM also have their advantages. "Vendors have begun to focus on user-friendly authoring and on ease of implementation and administration," says Lou Latham, principal analyst at Gartner. "Five years ago, developers were the primary individuals interacting with the system. Now, business users, not IT departments, are making the purchases, and they want a system they can use directly."


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