What Is An Enterprise Web Content Management System?

The explosion of raw, unstructured data is one of the biggest challenges facing many businesses today. The sheer number of images, emails, documents, audio, video files and web content contributes to this. All of this makes up Big Data which can be used to enhance business performance and ROI. Having an effective information management system is the key to achieving high performance values. However, many challenges arise when managing and converting unstructured data into useful information. Some of these challenges include increasing cost of data management, finding the right information for a specific need and misuse of data so that is doesn’t produce any relevant or useful insights.

To solve these issues, many organisations have turned to EWCM or enterprise web content management. This solution is a suite of technologies used to create, manage and exploit business insights from unstructured and raw content. Enterprise content management encompasses imaging, web content management, document management, desktop content management, records management, integrated search and digital asset management. Let’s find out more about enterprise web content management systems by going through the basics.

Image credit: www.wisegeek.net
Image credit: www.wisegeek.net

What Is Enterprise Content Management?

By definition, enterprise content management or ECM is a formal means of storing and managing an organisation’s documents and other content related to daily processes and operations. ECM encompasses the tools, methods and strategies used all throughout the content lifecycle. Through the years, the Association for Information and Image Management International (AIIM) has defined ECM in many ways:

  • In 2005 – they defined ECM as the technology to capture, store, manage, preserve and deliver content and documents related to organisational processes.
  • In 2006 – they defined ECM as the technology to capture, store, manage, preserve and deliver content and documents related to organisational processes. ECM tools and strategies allow management of unstructured information wherever the information exists.
  • In 2008 – they defined ECM as the strategies, tools and methods used in capturing, managing, storing, preserving and delivering content and documents related to organisational processes. The ECM strategies and tools allow management of unstructured data or information, wherever that information exists.
  • In 2010 – they defined ECM as the strategies, tools and methods used in capturing, managing, storing, preserving and delivering content and documents related to organisational processes. The management of information covers the full scope of an organisation, whether that information is a hard copy document or an electronic file, an email or a database print stream.

Enterprise content management is primarily focused on managing the information life cycle from the first creation all the way through to the archival and disposal of the content of information. Enterprise content management is commonly delivered in three ways:

  1. On-premise software where it is installed on the organisation’s own network.
  2. Software-as-a-Service or SaaS where information is stored on the service provider’s system and accessed via the web. This is also referred to as cloud ECM.
  3. Hybrid solution which is a combination of on premise and SaaS components.

The aim of an enterprise content management system is to make the management of corporate information easier by simplifying storage, security, process routing, version control, and information retention techniques. Many business organisations across various industries are reaping the benefits of ECM. One of the most notable advantages of ECM for businesses is the cost reduction involved in data gathering and in-house processes. It can improve the efficiency of the workforce when creating, maintaining and using data. Other benefits are harder to quantify, however, ECM produces economic advantages for enhanced product development and delivery, enhanced competitive positioning and better knowledge capturing and sharing.

Many businesses have also recognised that having a content management solution enabled them to consolidate their internal methods, procedures and knowledge using one source. Another reason why many businesses now focus on ECM is because they are able to follow regulatory compliance. This holds true specifically for upper management and executives who are personally responsible for the accuracy of critical enterprise information.

Many enterprises that have completed and implemented ECMs have reported positive results on their return on investment.

Image credit: www.rackspace.com
Image credit: www.rackspace.com

The Difference Between Content Management System and Enterprise Content Management

The IT world is full of jargon and people tend to get confused about which term is used for a particular process or solution. We’ve defined ECM and now understand what it does. But what about Content Management Systems, or CMS? Many people interchange the terms ECM and CMS, and although they are related in their goal, their processes differ significantly.

A content management system or CMS is defined as a computer application that handles content creation, editing and publishing. It also allows maintenance and content deletion from a central interface. It provides different procedures useful in managing workflows in a collaborative environment. The different procedures can be automated cascades or manual steps. Content management systems are commonly used to run websites, blogs, news and retail sites. Many businesses and marketing websites take advantage of content management systems in brand recognition or brand awareness.

The main duty of a CMS is to organise, store files and give version-controlled access to data. Some simple systems provide a handful of features while enterprise systems provide more complex and powerful tools and functions. Most CMS include web-based publishing, revision/version control, publishing, format management, indexing, search and retrieval of files or content. It also serves as a digital asset management system which contains documents, phone numbers, movies, pictures or scientific data. It can be used for controlling, revising, and publishing documentation. Two of the most popular content management systems are WordPress and Blogger.

What About Web Content Management Systems?

A web content management system or WCMS is a system that facilitates the creation, management and delivery of information through corporate or enterprise websites, portals, intranets or extranets. It can also be described as a software system that provides tools to assist in site creation, authoring, collaboration and content management. WCMS also includes admin tools to allow users with little or no knowledge of web programming languages to create or manage content with ease. A robust web content management system can provide a solid foundation for collaboration and offer users the ability to manage documents for multiple author editing and participation.

Most WCMS use a database or a content repository to store different types of content or metadata or any other information assets that may be required by the system or the user. A template engine shows the content to website visitors based on the set of templates the system offers. A web content management system allows non-technical users to make changes or edits to a website or a blog site with very little training. The system usually requires a web developer or a systems administrator during set up (to introduce additional features), but the system is primarily designed for non-technical users.

There are three types of web content management systems being used today – online processing, offline processing and hybrids. These 3 types describe the deployment pattern of WCMS in terms of presentation templates that are used in rendering web pages from structured content.

  • Online processing. This type of system applies to on-demand templates. An HTML document may be produced when a user visits the page from a web cache. Most open source WCMSs have the ability to support many add-ons that provide extended capabilities including blogs, wikis, forums, stores, photo galleries or contact management.  The add-ons may be open-source or a paid license model.
  • Offline processing. These types of systems are sometimes called static site generators. It pre-processes all content and then applies the templates before publication to generate the desired web pages. Because pre-processing systems do not need a server to apply the needed templates at request time, it can also exist purely as a design-time only tool.
  • Hybrid systems. These types of systems combine the capabilities and approaches of online and offline systems. Some systems write out executable code as compared to just static HTML, thus the content management system itself will not be required to be deployed on every web server. Other types of hybrid systems operate on either offline or online models.

Capabilities of Web Content Management Systems include:

  1. Automated templates. A user can create standard templates to be automatically applied to any existing or new content. This allows the appearance of all content to be changed from one central depository.
  2. Scalable expansion. This is available in most modern web content management systems. This is the ability to expand a single implementation across multiple domains depending on the settings of the server.
  3. Easy to edit content. Most WCMS software includes WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) editing tools that allow non-technical personnel or users to create, edit and upload content with ease.
  4. Access control. Some modern-day WCMS support user groups. User groups allow you to control how any registered user interacts with the website or blog you’ve made. A page on the site can be restricted to one or more groups depending on your target market. This means any anonymous users or anyone that is not registered is restricted or denied access to the website or page.
  5. Upgraded web standards. Regular updates are always available for many WCMS software. The upgrade includes new feature sets to keep the system up to date with current web standards.
  6. Collaboration. This is one of the most important features of WCMS software. The system serves as a collaboration platform that allows authorised users to retrieve and upload content. The changes can be authorised and tracked for publication, ignored, or older versions can be revised. Other advanced types of collaboration allow authorised users to comment on or modify a page at the same time in a collaboration session.
  7. User delegation. Some content management software allows different user groups to have limited access or privileges on some specific content. This enables a spread of responsibility.
  8. Workflow management. This is the process of making cycles of parallel tasks and sequences that should be accomplished in the content management system.
  9. Multi language. This is the ability to display and edit content in different languages.
  10. Syndication of content. CMS software helps in distributing content by generating Atom and RSS data feeds to other systems.
  11. Content versioning. Versioning is a process where the pages are checked in or out of the web content management system. This allows any authorised content editors to retrieve any previous versions and then continue to work from a selected point. This is useful for content that changes over time and requires a new version or update.

Things To Consider: Selecting The Right EWCMS For Your Business

Managing web content has changed through the years. Marketers and consumers have more control over web content and it’s no secret that the amount of content in an enterprise as well as the tools needed to produce that content have increased significantly. The introduction and popularity of social media, smartphones and mobile content has contributed in doubling the number of properties the average business is now managing.

As businesses become more global thanks to social media, the need for web content management systems supporting multiple languages has also doubled in numbers. Content is no longer published in a static way, it has become more of a conversation. It’s a two-way flow between the company and the users. More and more consumers expect and desire a context-rich web experience that take advantage of location, social media, behaviour, devices being used and other information when fulfilling their requirements. It means that consumers want content to meet their personal preferences and needs.

Image credit: www.axis80.com
Image credit: www.axis80.com

Many technological advancements and feedback from consumers made many WCMS evolve to meet the many consumer requirements. Customer experience management and web engagement management have found their way into WCMS processes which helps to make content more specific to a target audience. Some of the main considerations that an enterprise should think of are the requirements needed from simple web content management to manage user experience. With all of these aspects to think about, selecting the right web content management system may be a bit more complex compared to a few years ago.

Selecting the right system for your enterprise can be decided by your own IT staff or you can get help from an expert consultant. Whatever you choose, there are a number of best practices that can guide you and ensure that when you select a system, it is backed by well-informed, comprehensive information that will result in a solid outcome in the future of your content management. Let’s discuss:

1. Ease Of Use

The new solutions that help in managing a user’s digital experience are more complex as compared to an established web content management system. At the same time, the system should be as user-friendly as possible for all staff including upper management. Years ago, ease of use was measured by how simple it was to take any type of content and transform this content into something new on the web. Every WCMS vendor would put forward their WYSIWYG capabilities and show how simple the processes are for any non-technical user to create and edit, copy and paste content for the business website.

Having a good customer web experience means that the software and tools will enable the business to better manage visitors and engage them with the content as well. For sales, this means more visitors will convert into leads and prospects. Whatever the goal, the processes should be similar in reaching the goal of the enterprise. A solid EWCMS should support the enterprise users:

  • When they test content on multiple channels like social, mobile or desktops for conversion and relevance.
  • When they create and present different and relevant content for different customer paths like blogs, websites or social media pages to test engagement.
  • When they create and manage multiple channels like integration with social media accounts, blogs or websites with different languages and without the need for additional technical changes or development.
  • When they create multiple versions of content that will be uploaded to different channels.
  • When they create and monitor personas when they interact with their audience. By doing this the business will be able to optimise their engagement patterns.
  • When they monitor their audience so they can understand how they interact with the content they have presented.

The EWCMS should support a fine tuned definition and manipulation of each persona to help marketers understand the system down the road.

2. Adaptability

Every few years, technological shifts happen in the IT world. The recent big shift was the emergence and popularity of smart devices. From smart phones to tablets, connectivity preferences have changed drastically. Now people use their smart devices as the primary tool for connecting to the Internet. Desktops and laptops have taken a back seat and are mostly used at the office. Businesses and marketing strategies have also changed, adapting to the constant technological shifts. This is also true for web content management systems.

The integration of back-office systems and content platforms needs to be tighter because the pressure from sales and marketing will be going up. Thus, it will be likely that any out-of-the-box WCMS will fit instantly in your business environment and will meet your requirements. Software systems should be fine-tuned and integrated properly to meet the demands of the users and the business. For the whole system to work, it should be customised and built with the required integration points to the existing infrastructure and applications. Furthermore, your IT team should understand the selected system and customise it according to the needs of the users. You also have to ensure that the tools will evolve with the business and the team behind the system will make it run like clockwork.

You may need to answer these questions to guide you in choosing a relevant WCMS:

  • What will be your upfront investment and what are the costs required to manage and customise the system to meet your needs?
  • How efficient is the support level of the service provider and what is included in the way of customisation?
  • How often are updates and patches available?
  • Is there any legal indemnification and liability with regards to the enterprise and the service provider?

The key to understanding the total cost of the solution is to look beyond the initial licensing price and focus more on the flexibility and adaptability the solution can bring to your business. A free solution will be limited and you will have to pay whenever you want to change or do some customisation, while a solution with a commercial license will be more effective, especially when it comes to support and the ability to customise according to your needs. Adaptability should be an inherent feature of the system.

Image credit: smallhomeoffices.com
Image credit: smallhomeoffices.com

3. Prepare Your List

With so many vendors to choose from, you should make a list of the possible providers. Whether or not you seek the help of a consultancy firm in making the list, what really makes a difference to your choice is actually taking the time to create a business case and a project definition. This will make you really understand the process that you want to implement. Identifying the important points will help you filter the very long list into a more manageable shortlist. In time you may cut it down to four or five choices.

Make sure to give special attention to the strengths and weaknesses when you start grading your preferred solutions. Also, it will also help if you think of scenarios and test cases that will ensure the prospective providers will be able to handle these issues. Beyond the projected functions of a EWCMS, there are some software requirements you need to be aware of:

  • Support Services. One of the most important of all the criteria. The content management system should be built to be adaptable to change according to your needs. As a business, you should have the ability to lay in adjustments to all service-level supports over time and as your needs change.
  • Support coverage and service partners. There should be available support where the company is located. Support offices and partner coverage should be available wherever the business is located. This also includes implementation partners and other support professionals that can help you with any issues with the system.
  • Strengths. Know if there’s any type of industry where the solution is stronger than others.
  • Compatibility of technology. What kind of technology will the business and the IT team be comfortable with over time? This should be dealt with in order to know the skills of the team and their compatibility to the infrastructure.
  • License flexibility. What functions and options are included in the product license? Are there any cloud or installed versions of the solution? Plus, how does the product licensing compliment the technical support and customer services?

4. The World Wide Web Is No Longer Measured In Pages

Today, it doesn’t matter how many pages your website has. What matters today is relevant and useful content. Content is king! CaaS or Content-as-a-Service is one good way of delivering relevant and useful content to multiple channels. Some companies are using CaaS to deliver part of their website or their mobile channel. Make sure that the system utilises some level of service-oriented architectures to deliver content on demand to your audience, partners, customers, employees or anyone that needs to consume content. By doing this, you will promote collaboration among your workforce, upper management and customers. It will also provide feedback and intelligence that you can use to improve your products and services. Make sure the system has the ability to give a dynamic experience for your customers in real-time.

Content Migration

Migrating content to another environment is a little complex and it’s not just a matter of using the export/import functionality of the two systems. Many older content management systems do not provide the right functions to export content in a presentation format, while others with strict separation of layout content make content exporting easier.

When you’re facing a migration project, there are two choices that you need to make – you can either do it manually or automated. The method will depend on the complexity of the involved environments that are to be migrated. You can determine the complexity of the migration project if you know the following information:

  • The number of sites to be consolidated or migrated.
  • The number of assets and pages to be migrated.
  • The structure of the content and the number of content types.
  • How complex the transformations are.
  • The availability of import and export mechanisms of the data source and the target systems.

1. Manual Content Migration

As a general rule, when migrating content with less than 1000 pages and a comparable number of binaries, manual migration is the preferred choice. This can be performed by your own IT team with or without 3rd party assistance. Just by using copy/paste actions, the content is copied across the target system while you manually clean and update the operations. This is also a good time to review your content inventory and check your existing account. Benefits of manual content migration include easy control over the migrated content and a low cost when migrating small sites. Disadvantages include a large impact on and effort needed by the editorial staff, including the many hours it takes to duplicate content management.

2. Automated Content Migration

For an automated content migration, special scripts and tools are required to facilitate content migration from the source to the target system. If the migrating tool is created in-house, it be a trivial task since it will not have that much impact on the migrating team. But if the migration tool is deemed complex, the process of migration can be outsourced to any specialised team or organisation with experience in automated content migration. Another option is to purchase content migration software. This specialised software should be handled by getting a 3rd party expert specialist or you can train your own personnel to complete the task.

Image credit: www.ameexusa.com
Image credit: www.ameexusa.com

Depending on the automated content migration complexity, resource availability and the proper tooling, it is often not possible to migrate 100% of your content. Many experts state that a 95%-99% migration is feasible. The benefits of an automated content migration include a shorter freeze time, small impact on the editorial staff, less prone to error if it is tested properly and it’s really the only option when you’re handling large-scale content migration. Disadvantages include the extra cost due to 3rd party services, development capacity, licensing of the migration software and the required development phase before the actual migration can begin.

An agile approach will surely fit an automated content migration. The tools can be created in ‘sprints’ with a test migration and small demonstration at the end of each sprint. Once the migrated content has reached maximum output, the migration will still require a manual test on the pre-production environment where some final tuning will be done before going live. You also have to remember that all the content you’re trying to migrate will need to match the destination CMS configuration, thus close communication is needed between the development team and the migration specialists. This will ensure the output will perfectly fit the destination CMS.

Unstructured data will continue to grow exponentially and the need to manage data for business advancements and regulatory compliance becomes more pressing daily. EWCMS projects can deliver impressive results and ensure higher ROI. Migrating takes time and effort, but it will all be worth it when you get your EWCMS up and running.


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