Understanding Content Management Platform Terminology

Understanding Content Management Platform Terminology

August 31, 2020 0 Comments
Understanding Content Management Platform Terminology

CMS, WCM, ECM, DXP—what does it all mean? Better yet, how will these content management terms help your business? We’ll try to make sense of it for you.

May I Buy Another Vowel, Please?

Content management has been around for three decades, which has given us software and marketing people plenty of time to develop confusing terminology (CMS, WCM, ECM, DXP, and so on). Add to the mix a multitude of specialized products that manage content (DAM, PIM, MRM, CRM, and so on) and you have a letter puzzle that could make Pat Sajak walk off the set of “Wheel of Fortune.”

Choosing the right content management platform, with its with seemingly endless technical decisions, is daunting enough without the confusing terminology. Add to that, the various deployment options (on-premises, PaaS, IaaS, SaaS, hybrid), flavors of development options (headless/decoupled), and deciding whether or how to integrate with your current marketing technology, and you may be considering a new career as well.

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So, What Are the Definitions?

My goal here is to help you understand the language used to describe some of the most common content management platforms, rendering them down to their essential elements. These descriptions will not satisfy everyone, but based on my experience and what I have gleaned from experts over the years, these definitions pull together the most universally accepted characteristics of four of the most common platforms you will encounter. My hope is that once you have a general grasp of these definitions, you will be armed to ask better questions about how the specific capabilities of each might provide solutions to the business pain you have been feeling.

  • Content management system (CMS)—CMS is used to create, store, manage and present content on a website and other digital channels. Tools for curation and management of this content by non-technical users are made available, as are integration options to other business systems. These integrations may include email, commerce, customer relationship management, digital asset management and others. Sometimes these capabilities or integrations are offered through modules the CMS provider offers. Typically, analytic tools are included or made available to measure the effectiveness of the content presentation. A CMS is considered most effective for use with structured content but will sometimes manage video and audio files as well.
  • Enterprise content management system (ECM)—This term refers to all to the business processes, software tools and strategies used by an organization to create, store, distribute, discover, archive, manage and analyze all of its content (structured and unstructured), generally with the goal of delivering it to their customers in an organized manner. In addition to document curation, collaboration on document creation is emphasized. Capture and scanning capabilities may be incorporated into an ECM system as well. It has been said that an ECM brings structure to what is inherently unstructured content. That is a clear (if simplified) way to differentiate its purpose from those of these other platforms.
  • Web content management system (WCM)—A WCM is designed specifically for management of webpage content, and, depending on how a company views enterprise content management, there can seemingly be quite a bit of capability overlap when ECM and WCM are compared side by side. Some analysts have written that client demand has shifted from WCM to the broader scope of digital experience platforms, which may be true, but WCM is by no means dead. It may, in fact, be the right-sized solution for some organizations with very straightforward needs.
  • Digital experience platform (DXP)—According to marketing research company Forrester, “You can use digital experience platforms to create coherent customer experiences, enable digital operations agility and velocity on modern infrastructure, and fuel insights-led optimization and automation.” Architecture for the construction of the business digital infrastructure may be included in the definition as well. Of all the platform options I am describing here, a DXP is the most flexible and easily integrated into martech and back office applications. A DXP offers connected customer experiences while gathering actionable customer insights and should also provide all the capabilities and features you would expect from a CMS.

There will be overlap of capabilities with each of these; for instance, every DXP will have a CMS component, and all four will have some means to tag and search content. Most DXP solutions will leverage (or plan to soon leverage) machine learning and artificial intelligence, but so might a CMS. Also, as you explore specific platforms, you’ll learn each vendor will describe their solution with slightly different terminology to differentiate from the competition.

You Have (Insert Amount of Money). What Would You Like to Do Now?

You can easily overbuy based on a promise of value you won’t realize. Ask need-based questions tied to the capabilities your vendor is promising.

Do you need the collaboration and document curation offered with an ECM?

Do you need the flexibility offered by a DXP?

If you ask probing questions, do your homework ahead of time, and seek good advice, you’ll learn to drill down to the essential capabilities that are needed for your business.

What About DAM, PIM, MRM, CRM, and So On?

Products for digital asset management (DAM), product information management (PIM), and marketing resource management (MRM) also manage content, but usually not as the main plumbing within the martech stack.

Now, depending on what your core business may be, they may be super-important adding essential metadata and user access to your content. Integration through connectors, APIs, or plugins will soon become part of your discussions.

Look at This Studio, Filled With Glamorous Prizes, Just Waiting to Be Won!

You are still long way from the end of your digital experience journey, but there is a world of benefits to you, your users and your customers. Prizes, if you will, as you begin to unlock this puzzle.

Hopefully this helps you unlock some of the terminology you will encounter in your discussions.

Learn about Progress Sitefinity

J.D. Little Progress Sitefinity CMS

J.D. Little

J.D. Little is a Senior CMS Market Strategist, a creative communicator, an educator and an advocate for change. Beginning his career in traditional media technology, he has been helping business leaders navigate the waves of disruptive innovation for more than 25 years.

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