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7 Web Content Management Trends for 2017

As 2017 approaches, watch for these seven trends in the ever evolving web content management space. PHOTO: DariuszSankowski

For the 20 years I’ve been following web content management (WCM) and experience management technology, the only constant has been change.

This certainly holds true for 2017, when you can expect some new approaches and in some cases some industry re-alignment. Let’s look at seven key trends.

1. From CaaS to EaaS

Headless CMS tools were all the rage in 2016, especially among enterprise architects looking for maximum front-end flexibility.

But marketers have begun to wonder if — after fighting for a decade to get more control over customer experience in their digital tools — they aren’t getting more removed from front-end environments served by a separate back-end content management system (CMS).

In some cases, those fears are justified; in other cases, overblown.

The key in 2017 will be to provide digital marketers the ability to generate more than just straight-up content streams or Content-as-a-Service (CaaS).

Intelligent WCM architectures will also be able to supply Experience-as-a-Service (EaaS), components assembled and rendered in a CMS but delivered through separate applications.

To be sure, this is not as easy as it sounds.

Savvy customers will address challenges around security, performance, preview and context clashing before signing on. But we’re headed that way, so now is the time to get savvy about it.

2. Marketplace Shifts Towards Complexity

This trend has been going on for some time, but is accelerating now and will really pick up the pace in 2017.

As digital increasingly becomes the arena of professional experts, WCM vendors are amping up the features and options in their tools and as a result, they are expanding in complexity. This is an important story for customers, best told in a video.

Bottom line: keep your content close, but your developers even closer.

3. Cloud Goes PaaS

Cloud has hit the WCM space decisively over the past eighteen months. It’s fair to estimate most organizations implementing new CMS technology now look to place their platform somewhere in the cloud.

However, since these tools remain complex (read: heavily customized) environments, they lend themselves less to multi-tenant, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and more towards single-tenant cloud solutions.

Next year will see nearly ubiquitous managed Platform-as-a-Service offerings from vendors seeking to own the customer relationship and obtain greater recurring revenue streams.

Fortunately, nearly all of them are eschewing their own datacenters of yesteryear and aligning around the likes of Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services.

Customers, however, must still decide if want their software vendor as their hosting platform, especially if they already have existing relationships with Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers.

Look for major channel partners to release their own PaaS environments in 2017 as well. Choice is good!

4. More WCM Vendors Offer Marketing Data Warehousing

People always argue over the scope of WCM.

One key question: Should your WCM platform also serve as the core aggregation space for all your marketing data? Some WCM vendors like Sitecore seem to think so and several others appear on the verge of copying this approach.

You can understand why. With all of your customer, transaction, email/social and other data in one place, you can make more sophisticated personalization decisions on your site and also generate more omnichannel analytics. In other words, it demos well.

In reality, most enterprises (especially larger ones) will want to keep their data and content/engagement tiers distinct and separate for maximum flexibility — particularly when it comes to plugging in new tools.

You have many choices now about where to seat your marketing data warehouse(s). Your WCM layer probably shouldn’t be high on that list, but that won’t stop vendors from trying.

5. Backlash Against Advanced Personalization

It has long been a truism in the WCM market that the technology on offer is way ahead of customers’ ability to fully exploit it.

Nowhere is this truer than with personalization services. Sure, more enterprises are succeeding at basic, profile-based segmentation, starting with big buckets and then measuring progress to draw the right lessons.

Vendors will show you slick rules engines and new adaptive algorithms for getting to the next level: anonymous and behavioral personalization.

But there’s a dirty little secret. Very few enterprises actually use those capabilities. Advanced personalization requires sophisticated content strategies, much more involved testing regimes, very close attention to performance and analytics team with broad resources. Few customers can boast all of them. 2017 will see more back-to-basics here.

6. Microsoft Edges Back

With the advent of SharePoint 2016 (which saw no significant WCM improvements), Microsoft appears to have at least tacitly admitted that you shouldn’t use that platform for public-facing web content and experience management, though it still has some die-hard adherents. The same goes for Office 365.

But while you weren’t looking, Microsoft has quietly but surely expanded the scope of its historically CRM-focused Dynamics system to become a more omnibus digital marketing platform. It now touts Dynamics’ nascent asset management, landing page and personalization capabilities. Could WCM be next?

7. New Emphasis on Shareable Micro Experiences

Let’s come full circle to the first predication above around experience as a service. In 2017 marketers are going to focus less on creating pages and more on shareable micro experiences, rendered components that can be distributed across a wide range of environments, including email, transactional applications, mobile web apps and kiosks.

At the same time, marketers will look for more flexible environments for sourcing and propagating these experiences. This will present two challenges for WCM vendors:

  1. Opening up their platforms for non-enterprise contributors
  2. Providing omnichannel preview capabilities

Omnichannel preview is a hard problem to solve, though some brighter WCM vendors are working on it. I predict the former challenge will drive some WCM players to acquire nascent content marketing platforms.

In any case, 2017 shapes up to be a fascinating year in the WCM industry.

Tony Byrne is the founder and CEO of Olney, Md.-based Real Story Group (RSG), a company he founded as CMS Watch in 2001. To retain its role as an independent analyst firm, Real Story Group works solely for solutions buyers and never for vendors.


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