There has been quite a bit of discussion online over the past few weeks on the “Future of Web Content Management”, whether or not WCM is broken and where it is headed. Last week’s Gilbane Boston conference helped keep the dialog going with a number of interesting sessions and conversations on the exhibition floor. What stuck in my mind, however, is not so much about what the future will be – as much as who is going to lead it?
To an attendee, it was clear from both the vendors on the exhibition floor and the presenters at the sessions that there has been a changing of the guard in the Web Content Management vendor community. Open Source Software (OSS) made a blockbuster showing with domestic and international vendors both sponsoring and leading panels in numbers far greater than years past. Additionally, vendors previously known for their position in the “challenger” or “visionary” quadrants were in pole position and leading the discussion on important topics such as customer engagement and social publishing.
Noticeably absent from the conversation, and not just from this particular show, are the vendors from the infamous upper-right corner. The Social Media pulse (e.g. twitter feeds and blogs by vendor thought leaders and product marketing departments) from these legacy vendors in content management has been faint or undetectable for months. For many of these vendors, much of this is undoubtedly a function of being acquired by a larger organization with a much different focus. We’ve all seen this movie before where a market-leading WCM product is acquired to be part of another vendor’s elusive technology stack dream. Subsequently, all R&D essentially comes to a halt while it is absorbed into a different product strategy and potentially overlaps with other existing technologies.
While this may not be the case with every recently acquired company, the independents, niche-players and Open Source vendors left standing have wasted no time stepping into the void left by the former industry heavy-weights. There are a number of interesting themes I’ve heard from these New Leaders in their conversations around where Web Content Management is headed:
- Product innovation will be driven by customer needs and actual product usage: Sure, it seems simple enough, but hard to actually do when you have an 18-month product lifecycle to contend with. Open Source vendors tout that having a relationship between their developers and their users creates a feedback loop that allows them to respond quicker to needs in the marketplace
- WCM needs to be more flexible and a lot less complex: The flexibility and simplification needs to come from not just functionality, but from licensing as well. With many products, the amount of complexity in authoring interfaces, available features and their pricing models is completely overwhelming. Some of this can be addressed by re-focusing on User Experience and moving away from interaction models and user interfaces designed “by engineers, for engineers”
- Focus on truly globalized content: being able to switch the prompts in the authoring interface is no longer enough for the team that runs the digital channel in a global organization. Complex international workflows, multi-lingual content relationships and distinguishing between machine and cultural translations are all top-of-mind issues with fragmented solutions.
Overall, Gilbane provided a good forum for vendors and participants to bring many of these online dialogs together while seeing where supporting products fit in. We’ve definitely come a long way from talking about overcoming the “webmaster bottleneck” and seeing dazzling demos of publishing a press release at a specified time.