Visions of Jon: WCM is for Losers
Ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet?
We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it
- VISIONS OF JOHANNA
The end of the decade is nigh, and the mystics at CMS Watch have been throwing the bones again. They’ve released their very interesting 2010 Technology Predictions. The first of these caught my eye:
CMS Watch: Enterprise Content Management and Document Management will go their separate ways
I don’t agree with the terminology here. In my world, Document Management is one of the pillars of Enterprise Content Management. Enterprise Content Management is not a technology, it’s a business problem. Documents are one of the types of content the Enterprise needs to manage. So they can’t really go their separate ways. The wise Pie responded quickly to this prediction with an alternative:
Pie: Enterprise Content Management and WCM will go their separate ways.
Now this I agree with more than the CMS Watch version. Parts of ECM include Document Management, Records Management, Collaboration, Imaging, Workflow and all that good stuff. It is these pillars that allow a business to manage their content. The end game of all of these technologies is content sitting in a repository that can be easily found and consumed. The includes all the fun with versions, security, compliance and anything else you’d want to do with it. But it does not include setting up web based delivery channel that exposes some of this content. WCM should not be considered part of ECM.
Now Pie also acknowledges that his prediction isn’t going to happen, although it should. My prediction is even less lightly to happen, but here it is anyway:
Jon: Enterprise Content Management is well defined. The term WCM is horseshit, unnecessary and should take a long walk off a short pier.
I can already see the news headlines: LONDON, 2009 – SHOCK HORROR! WCM Geek Demands Death of term WCM. But it’s true. I’m of the camp that wished the term WCM would cease to exist.
The W is meant to stand for Web, which makes people think Web Site. But it also includes Mobile, Kiosks, TV and various other HTML based delivery channels. Many vendors are trying to deliver their WCM content to print channels too. I want any product that ends in “CM” to focus on content creation and management. As Pie said, this content should be accessed via an API or repository standard. A Content Management System should be an extensible application that works pretty well out of the box. The kind of standard these systems care about include data/process standards (for example DITA, BPEL, or Dublin Core) and repository access standards (for example JCR or CMIS).
The other half of the coin is the delivery framework. These are called Web Publishing Tools (WPT) in NPR’s COPE and Presentation Management Systems (PMS) by Peter Monks. Things like Struts, Spring Web, ASP.NET MVC, Ruby on Rails and many many more are all delivery frameworks. So are Portals. They let you manage authentication, URLs, site structure, templates, layouts, page composition, personalisation, aggregation and more. They understand standards like JSON, AJAX libraries, Web Services, SAML, OAuth, OpenID, Open Social, Portlets, Gadgets, WSRP, and so on and so on. They let you call any API to bring in content or functionality from any source.
Of course you can use these technologies to power sites that aren’t “content managed” at all. They should treat CMS driven content components, SoCo powered UGC components, DAM powered media components and anything else that can sit on a web site as equals. Interestingly, it isn’t uncommon to see “Web Content Management Systems” used to power sites that that aren’t really content managed. Take something like Drupal – it’s often simply used as a delivery framework without any content modules. I’ve launched sites running on .NET “WCM” systems that have never intended to have any content changed post launch. In these examples, the WCM product is being used purely as a good delivery framework.
But sadly, my prediction it isn’t going to happen. I’m just going to have to keep thinking of a WCMS as a tightly coupled hybrid of a content management system and a delivery framework. On the plus side, I’ll continue to make money out of poor customers that think a “WCM migration/replacement” doesn’t involve a complete site rewrite as they’re throwing the delivery baby out with the content bath water. Losers.