CMS, WCM and DXP—What is the Difference?

CMS, WCM and DXP—What is the Difference?

Posted on November 19, 2019 0 Comments

CMS, WCM, DXP... today's marketers are swimming through a sea of head-scratching acronyms and jargon. This blog aims to cut through the confusion and help you determine what's best for your organization.

The Paradox of Choice

In 2005, Barry Schwartz gave one of the most popular TED Talks ever. Watching it today, 15 years after the talk was initially recorded, the dated references will make you either grimace or smile.

(Guarantee you'll laugh out loud at his story about buying jeans—stonewashed, really?) 

But, dated references aside, the talk does bring up a good point about the paradox of choice. Quite often, we are presented with way too many choices, and that option overload just further complicates the decision-making process.

Choosing a solution for content management often feels like one of those perilous decisions that Schwartz discusses, where having more options actually paralyzes us instead of making things easier. Picking the right path forward for your next project should not be a major ordeal, yet it often is because of all the nuances and confusing acronyms and jargon.

This blog is designed to take the guesswork out of choosing a CMS … or choosing a WCM … or was it a DXP, according to that one analyst report you read?

So let’s get practical and take this one step at a time.

What is a CMS?

Advisory firm Gartner tells us: “Content management systems comprise a set of templates, procedures and standard format software that enables marketers and their proxies (e.g., webmasters) to produce and manage text, graphics, pictures, audio and video for use in Web landing pages, blogs, document repositories, campaigns or any marketing activity requiring single or multimedia content.”  

A CMS instantly puts content creators in control, enabling them to easily upload images and documents as well as amend, modify and edit information to websites without coding knowledge. Many CMSes offer basic functionalities, but still provide a certain degree of independence from IT. Coming in many shapes, forms and flavors, even simple CMSes could be the perfect fit for organizations that do not have great aspirations, but still require some sort of web presence.

Some common disadvantages of using such simplistic content management systems include the lack of multisite and multilingual support or the limited level of extensibility they provide.

Creating additional websites often necessitates adding multiple isolated implementations, and keeping them all up to date can become a headache later on down the road. Such technical debt may lead to inconsistent branding, hectic schedules for marketers and a pile of backlog projects and support tickets for IT. Extending such systems, adding new features and keeping them up to date and secured can easily become a burden.

But don’t be put off by some of the limitations of these basic CMSes. Upgrading to a higher tier may give you access to previously unavailable capabilities. Such features can turn a basic CMS that would normally only be used for proof-of-concept or short-life campaign websites into a powerful platform that can handle most of your web content management needs, take your messaging farther and propel your digital experiences to a whole new level.

Summary: Most users will find basic content management systems restricting, as they can become hard to secure, manage and extend on top of the limited capabilities they may offer. Unlike many offerings and custom-built systems, even the basic edition of Sitefinity is perfectly suitable for many content initiatives beyond just managing simple websites

Web Content Management (WCM) Is a Process

Gartner defines web content management (WCM) as the “process of controlling content consumed over one or more digital channels through the use of specific management solutions based on a core repository. These solutions may be procured as commercial products, open-source tools, cloud services or hosted services. The functionality of WCM solutions goes beyond means of simply publishing webpages” 

Think of WCM as a CMS on steroids without the negative potential side effects. WCM platforms give users the ability to manage single web properties, while also going a step further to make multisite and multilingual content management accessible and straightforward. Web content management systems also give marketers the ability to deliver content to multiple channels.

WCM systems offer a higher degree of extensibility and customization and help cut time to market thanks to the added support for custom content types and design templates. Many WCM platforms support personalization, plug-ins and integrations, approval workflows and offer built-in SEO, social sharing and content governance tools.

Web content management platforms are best suited for organizations that recognize the need to provide personalized digital experiences to their customers and partners, improve brand consistency and deliver multilingual content and ecommerce on desktop and mobile. Utilizing headless CMS capabilities, for example, enables organization to deliver omnichannel content to a myriad of devices and touchpoints.


ABB Accomplishes Rapid Redesign of 111 Websites with Sitefinity

ABB is a global leader in power and automation technologies. ABB's solutions enable utility, industry and transport and infrastructure customers to improve performance while lowering environmental impact. With 8,500 technologists and an annual $1.5 billion research and development budget, innovation is at the forefront of what ABB does every day.

Full Case Study


 Summary: WCM systems deliver all the capabilities needed to create, manage and deliver personalized content at scale to organizations that are on the path to digital maturity.

Digital Experience Platforms

Gartner defines a digital experience platform (DXP) as “an integrated set of technologies, based on a common platform, that provides a broad range of audiences with consistent, secure and personalized access to information and applications across many digital touchpoints. Organizations use DXPs to build, deploy and continually improve websites, portals, mobile and other digital experiences. DXPs manage the presentation layer based on the role, security privileges and preferences of an individual. They combine and coordinate applications, including content management, search and navigation, personalization, integration and aggregation, collaboration, workflow, analytics, mobile and multichannel support.” In recent parlance, Gartner recommends a modernized, "composable DXP strategy" with enhanced focus on services and packaged business capabilities (PBCs).

There is more to Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs) than simply being an evolutionary step over web content management. DXP solutions are designed to maximize ROI in a world where digital commerce, marketing automation and multichannel content management alone are no longer competitive advantages. DXPs power these and other innovative experiences. This G2 Grid Report identifies leaders in the industry. 

The growing trend for more devices, touchpoints and sensors puts enormous pressure on organizations to provide uninterrupted access to the same content, the same context, the same data sources, and the same business logic to their users without creating additional silos or operational overhead. 

Certainly for many organizations, content management will continue to be the cornerstone of their digital experience, but mastering internal processes, managing data and interconnecting multiple systems may be the key ingredients in growing revenue and reducing cost.

Embracing the complexity and challenges associated with delivering multichannel content, resolving data fragmentation challenges and achieving operational scale and efficiency through business process management (BPM) or business rules management systems (BRMS) could be the winning strategy to disrupting the competition.

And while there is no one-size-fits-all platform, organizations can build their own DXP, as unique as their business requirements are. 

Lakeland Health created a better, more engaging digital journey for patients with Sitefinity. Watch this webinar to see how they leveraged Sitefinity to:

  • Deliver rich omnichannel digital experiences that improve engagement
  • Eliminate dependence on IT to tackle quick, everyday content management tasks
  • Improve operational efficiency and workflow processes to minimize duplication of effort

Watch now

Summary: Digital experience platforms deliver multifaceted experiences that span far beyond personalized content and discrete channels.

Now that you have made it this far, why not choose your next step:

Alexander Shumarski

Alexander Shumarski

Alexander Shumarski is a Sitefinity Product Marketing Manager at Progress. He has spent the past 10+ years managing large-scale website initiatives and has deep-dived into online media and e-commerce industries. An adventurer at heart and a power CMS user, he has embarked on a journey to empower marketers to tell compelling stories without reliance on IT.


Comments are disabled in preview mode.

Sitefinity Training and Certification Now Available.

Let our experts teach you how to use Sitefinity's best-in-class features to deliver compelling digital experiences.

Learn More
Latest Stories
in Your Inbox

Subscribe to get all the news, info and tutorials you need to build better business apps and sites

Loading animation