Online engagement: An integration play?

Call it engagement, Web experience, customer experience or WCM: it's an exciting time to be in this market, blogs Forrester's Stephen Powers.

I still get a lot of client inquiries on “Web content management.” In fact, the past few months have been the busiest I’ve had since I joined Forrester almost four years ago. Many clients are investing in technology for their online, public-facing initiatives, and we’ve been having some great conversations about what technologies will best fit their needs.

But those technologies include a lot more than just “Web content management.”

In fact, I was recently working with a client on what was purportedly a “WCM” selection project and what struck me was how relatively few requirements actually had to do with traditional content management. Instead, the client wanted to talk about things like content targeting, analytics, multivariate testing, social media, and mobile. That goes way beyond just managing content, doesn’t it?

The best-of-breed WCM vendors have understood this for several years, focusing a good chunk of their development efforts on the actual delivery of content, and how to engage customers, partners, and prospects in the online channel. And the big boys — notably Microsoft and IBM — are getting into the act as well, repositioning and repackaging products and enhancing them with additional modules and adjacent technologies to support engagement.

The vendors in this space aren’t necessarily offering all the pieces of the engagement stack; so integration — at least currently — needs to big a major part of an organization's strategy. No one vendor currently offers all of the many technologies needed in a single suite. And even if they did, most large organizations simply can’t afford to rip out all their technologies to go with the offerings from a single vendor. So integration has become an important fact of life. In fact, one client told me, after a requirements review, “This is really all about integration, isn’t it?” Certainly it’s a big part of it right now, and the quality of those integrations will increasingly be a differentiator for the offerings in this space. Others, though, insist that a suite approach is the way to go in the long term (kind of reminds me of the old ECM arguments).

Definitely keep an eye on the old WCM space. Some may call it engagement, or Web experience, or plain old customer experience. But whatever you call it, it’s an exciting time to be involved in this market. I’ll be speaking more about how organizations are strategizing around engagement technologies during my keynote at our first Content and Collaboration Forum next month.

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