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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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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