Web Marketing: Making sense of WCM, WEM, and ECM

I’ve spent a lot of time recently researching for a new Web Content Management System to replace the HTML-based static website for Anue Systems. In my extensive research, I learned something rather concerning: this is a diverse, fragmented, and most of all, confusing market!

Luckily, I was able to read enough and pick Julie Hunt‘s brain enough to feel like I finally have a clear grasp of the differences. Since there was no “quick start” guide that was concise and written in language for marketers, I decided to take it upon myself to share some of the key findings to date.

Some of this may seem elementary to you if you are a research analyst type, but this is written for marketing practitioners. The people who often must select just such a product for their (or their clients’) real web marketing needs.

Here is my view of the market:

  1. Enterprise Content Management (ECM) – This is a complex workflow-focused software suite that assists with the various internal processes related to generating and managing large volumes of content. The key components seem to be similar across vendors, including Web Content Management, Document Management, Business Process Management, Asset Management, Records Management, and assorted other similar disciplines. This was clearly too much for our 60-person company.
  2. Web Content Management System (Web CMS or WCM) – This is a much simpler application, which typically provides WYSIWYG, windows-like content manipulation. It also often offers the ability to manage SEO, navigation, uploads/images, and most of the typical functions. I use an open source CMS for this blog, WordPress, which offers all of these features as either part of the standard install or via plug-in.
  3. Web Engagement / Experience Management (WEM) – I included both versions of the “E” in this acronym, because I’ve seen each used to define what WEM is. WEM goes beyond just management of content, all the way to user experience management. In normal deployments, this would either have a recommendation engine included to cross sell to other topics on the website or a full-site personalization capabilities. Also referred to Web Optimization, these systems use advanced analytics of user behavior to react and serve up content that is most likely to enhance the user’s experience of your company.
  4. Recommendation / Personalization Engine - There are a handful of vendors who now offer this as a plug-in via existing APIs. It is a nice way to add this capability on top of your traditional CMS if you do not want to move to a more expensive WEM solution.

These are not the gamut of offerings, because I saw other offerings that did some or all of these activities, plus marketing automation or email marketing in many cases. Those which do not offer this capability often partner with email marketing providers to provide a joint offering of services.

If you want to learn more about these technologies, I’ve found CMS Wire to be helpful, albeit a bit incomplete. Hopefully they beef up the content in the near future, because the big analyst firms simply don’t cover this part of the market well.

What are you using to manage your website? Is it working? What are the support challenges and hidden costs? I’d love to hear your thoughts; it will help more than you may know!