I was pulling together some statistics for the December issue of BI Review when I came across a report by Stephen Powers, a senior analyst at Forrester Research on the topic of Web Content Management (WCM).


WCM as you know is the online (HTTP) chapter of the Enterprise Content Management (ECM) movement. WCM comes with all the unstructured content issues of ECM regarding things like workflow, metadata and search, but is also structured for external as well as internal consumption, (and we know how companies like to clean up the front office before clients arrive). Then there’s the added wrinkle of Web 2.0 with all its tools and gadgets, that – following an initial infatuation - has become loved, loathed and misunderstood as any adolescent crush ever was.


Powers described to me the discomfort that corporate decision-makers are having with Web 2.0. “I’ve been to a couple of conferences where people somebody says ‘Web 2.0’ and people laugh. The fact is, every time we put something about Web 2.0 on our site we get huge readership because people are interested. I think it’s partly because people don’t know what the hell it is.” In Powers’ view, WCM is adoption of user-generated content, personalization and targeting functionality and deployment of rich media. His take is that his survey reveals irresistible interest, but as in all surveys, “We see lots of laggards, people whose hands are so full that they have no time to address it seriously.”


To a businessperson, rich media is not unlike having OnStar in your automobile, something you feel you deserve but won’t get around to until you trade in for your next car. For sales and marketing, the stakes are higher. Powers’ study, drawn from Forrester’s Q3 2007 WCM Adoption Survey, finds that more than one-third of companies identify customer experience as the primary WCM investment driver, even if some consumers are internal. But even those camps aren’t sure where some 2.0 elements - podcasts, video, RSS and wikis - are leading. “You have to have a clear and compelling reason, if you’re going to put user-generated material online it had better be a way to drive business or clarify your brand or enhance it,” says Powers. “If not, it will sound silly to have rich media for the sake of having it.”


That’s true for most any discretionary spending these days, but many businesses - including publishing houses like my own company - find that clients and consumers are looking for sizzle in the new media that befits a generation that didn’t grow up with console televisions and vinyl records. My own opinion is that we’re heading to a new generation of the old broadcasting model with continuous and predictable cycles of information, but infinitely more interactive, specialized and “drillable” for nuances of esoteric content in different forms.


But that’s just the front-end experience. Drop all the Web 2.0 talk and you find companies aren’t succeeding at WCM generally, though they haven’t stopped trying. Powers’ survey disclosed a “huge appetite” for WCM investment; 84 percent of respondents plan to increase spending or usage of WCM while just 12 percent are holding budgets at current levels. (For reference, Powers’ survey finds the following top drivers for WCM investment: 37 percent improving customer experience; 32 percent reducing cost; 16 percent improving employee communication; and 14 percent IT consolidation.)


The downside is coming in execution, where “dissatisfaction with current WCM deployments runs rampant,” in Powers’ words. Just 40 percent of respondents to the Forrester survey responded “very satisfied” or even “satisfied” when asked about their current WCM implementations. Thirty-five percent are neutral, and 25 percent are “unsatisfied” or “very unsatisfied.”


While many respondents are considering changing their WCM vendor, just 20 percent primarily blamed technology for their woes; 27 percent blamed bad implementations, 11 percent blamed poor strategy and most of the rest cited poor business alignment, sponsorship or politics for their problems.


Sounds like a classic emerging market and a whole new generation of “failed CRM” stories like we were writing five years ago. “It almost sounds very romantic when people are fighting for the old ways,” Powers told me. “But the answers won’t come from vendors. It will come from users who demand something that is better and easy to work with, kind of like what they already have at home.”


Down the road, we are seeing that WCM will be the environment to provide internal information services that are increasingly and largely shared with customers and partners. Though it seems counterintuitive, the customer experience investment may just help dictate the benefits for internal use of Web 2.0 technologies. Then again, customer preferences are already driving the optimization of internal information quests, so why not? Maybe a clean front office is nice to come into, even if no clients are expected.


More information on this survey is available at www.forrester.com, and we’ll cite some of Forrester’s findings in the December issue of BI Review.

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