Monday, August 28, 2006

WCM - The web content, process, integration, services, management system

Any large company that bases their business on the web, represents their products or makes recommendations to their readers is likely to have a need to produce and publish a huge amount of content. This information needs to be changed regularly, while being approved before use. Especially for financial institutions, it is essential that the information that is presented on the website is up to date, accurate and auditable.

Core to the Vignette ECM suite is the V7 web content management product. As I'm finally in a position to actually spend some time with the technology side of the product I'm starting to understand the breadth of its capabilities, for web content management (WCM) and beyond. This blog tries to be vendor agnostic (you'll see as many links to Open Text as you will Vignette), so without naming names I'd like to start discussing why enterprise-grade web content management is important to large organizations.

Enterprise WCM systems enable organizations to manage the creation to publishing lifecycle of digital assets, including some or all of the following:

  • recognize new content and manage it in place
  • capture new content into the repository
  • integrate content from multiple systems
  • manage content business processes with full workflow
  • render content to standard styles for display
  • management of any type of digital asset separately from presentation
  • delivery to the Web, mobile device, print and more

As a bit of a dummy in the WCM space I was initially tempted to try and understand the concepts through the available and accessible open source products like Joomla. I had played with this software a little in the past, making use of its reasonably usable console to manage a website, author some content articles, template layouts and add in some modules like RSS syndication. It is Joomla's range of add-on modules, the relative ease with which you can deploy a decent looking web site and publish content without coding that seems to really appeal. I'm purely a dabbler in this, but I know that the technology is powerful enough to produce some impressive web sites, which guys like Chris (an ex-product manager at Vignette and someone I really respect) and Brett (a good friend) base their technology businesses on.

For large enterprises the challenges are different from just delivering an attractive and functional website. Huge amounts of content are produced and published by users across the organization, and this needs to be delivered to the web efficiently, without requiring a bunch of HTML coders to translate everything that is originally authored by a business user or other content contributor. User friendly tools are required to enable users to not only author new articles but also reuse content that may routinely come from 3rd-parties, business systems and other repositories. Not needing to rework content enables it to be more rapidly published, while enabling it to be reused across the range of web properties a large organization may have. Enterprise WCM should provide integration alongside user friendly authoring tools to enable this.

Most organizations like the need to get items out to their website fast, but they need to be able to enforce its review and approval. Enterprise WCM provides highly capable workflow to tie the integrated content sources to authoring, approval and publishing processes. This provides enforceability, something that the bloggers of the world dislike. Like it or loathe it, corporations with content that represents their business, products, policies or anything else that readers may act on, feel that they need to demonstrate controlled publishing to mitigate the risk of litigation. Getting things right and maintaining content quality is not likely to go away for most companies, reinforcing the need for strong content management processes.

Enterprise web content management pulls together a range of technology to solve the key business problems of rapidly, controllably and scalably publishing huge amounts of information to corporate websites. WCM is fundamental to a full ECM vision since the website is the obvious public face of the company, while extranet sites are the point of contact with your business partners and customers. Challenges lie in how to effectively incorporate this super-sized WCM application into the broader ECM model, ensuring consistent management of content for the web, extranet, intranet, business units, finance group, auditors and more.

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