Darren Guarnaccia’s Blog

My thoughts on Sitecore, WCM and doing business on the web

Whither goes WCM?

Posted by dguarnaccia on March 22, 2009

Where are we all going?  I ask myself that a lot.   And the “we” I’m referring to is the WCM industry in general.  I’ve been saying for years now that it’s not about editing content anymore.  It’s pretty clear to me that everyone has figured out how to build a pretty usable interface. Heck, even the oldest of vendors have finally gotten on that bandwagon.  Nope, that’s just blocking and tackling. So what’s next?  Where do we go as a market?  If you ask me, as a category, we’re in jeopordy of following the word processor marketplace if we’re not careful. I mean really, how many more features can Microsoft put into Word?  And still, that application does not really help me be more effective in my work.  It doesn’t make it easier to get buisness done.

It’s still pretty much a tool.  A screwdriver, a hammer, a wrench.

So what’s next for us?  Some would say personalization, or put a fancy name on it like “experience management”.  I’ve been there before, when that wave started to take off, and even helped launch one of the first products that drove that message into the WCM market.  But again, that’s just another tool at best, or perhaps just a fancy attachment for my screwdriver.  No, that is not the answer either.

So lets take a page out of Home Depot’s playbook.  Home Depot wanted to sell more tools, building supplies, etc. What did they do?  They started teaching people how to acheive their goals. Helped them demystify home improvement projects.  In essense, they helped people understand how the  tools Home Depot sold can achieve the goals they had for themselves. And an interesting thing happened, the sold more stuff of course, but on top of that, they spawned demand for things even they didn’t realized they needed to sell.  Due to this new approach, they drove demand for all sorts of products that enhanced home living.  And they sold a lot more stuff.

So what can we learn from all of this?  Most of the Enterprise WCM companies already solution sell. But the real question is, are our products really as far along that solution path as they should be.  Sure, many of my competitors our there have huge armies of Professional services that can make their products do anything. The proverbial ball of clay. But is that good enough?  

I say it is not good enough.  Our products need to evolve to the place where they are built to enable companies to execute their web strategies faster.  In fact, I think over time, WCM technology should be configurable to embrace those web strategies…Out Of the Box.  Pretty words, I know, but I think that is where we all need to go.  That is the course we are charting for ourselves as a WCM vendor.  Enough of the toolset mentality. We will not become a glorified word processor for the web.  We all need to evolve to allow our customers to start treating their websites as the business applications that they are.

So, like any good business applications, our websites should have ROI’s associated with them.  I was chatting with one of my colleagues the other day and the concept of a “Taxonomy of ROI” for websites came up. It was one of those things that just came out while I was on a roll. Maybe I was playing buzzword bingo, who knows..but it’s a great idea none-the-less.  The concept is simple. I’d like to build up a taxonomy or hierarchy of the types of ROI you can get from your website.  These are the measurement points where you can demonstrate business impact as a direct result of an organizations website. I’m going to give this a shot so here goes:

Public Facing

Revenue generation

Increase lead flow

Increase conversion rate / increase look to book ratio

Lower cost of sales via shorter sales cycle time

Increase lead quality (improved opportunity conversion)

Increase in average transation value

Increases Customer Lifetime Value via increase customer satisfaction and incremental sales

Increases sales due to improvement in competitive advantage as a result of superior web user experiece

Cost Reduction

Reduce call center traffic

Reduce customer service requests

Reduced operations cost due to customer self service (e-statements, e-billpay, etc)

Lower operations costs through lower servicing /statup costs  from reduced customer turnover


Reduce Risk

Comply with regulatory statutes reduces fines and penalties


Employee Facing

Revenue generation

Faster product development / launch cycle time

Improved products via collaboration and online customer interaction (community)

Cost Reduction

Reduction in redundant work due to better information management and collaboration

Faster response times due to better information access allows employees to service more customers

Reduce employee attrition and turnover

Shorten new employee startup time and time to productivity (TTP)

Reduce new employee drag on coworkers by improving self service and better information access

Reduce Risk

Hower risk from legal discovery via better retention management and disposition

Lower risk of mistakes employees using out of date or incorrect information or policies

 This is a work in progess, and I’d love your feedback, so post your comments and let me know where you think I’m wrong, missing something, or areas we should expound.  As the saying goes, the journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step…

9 Responses to “Whither goes WCM?”

  1. Amanda S said

    Great post. I might add the community/collaboration aspect to the “Public Facing” as well – might increase risk but a positive impact on revenue and reducing costs? Another interesting angle: the parallel evolution of website architecture itself (to which WCM tools will adjust). Not sure how it might translate into an ROI measurement but would likely have an impact on the types of ROI that are possible. Some great points to ponder.

    • Thanks Amanda, good point about Collaboration. Let’s think about the hard ROI points here. Collaboration can help overcome customer fear/lack of trust and induce them to transact or enter into a purchase cycle. I guess that still gets covered in increase customer conversion, or increased lead flows. Or am I missing something? Is there another tangible outcome we can can here?

      Collaboration can also help organizations build better products, which I tried to capture on the employee facing side with revenue generaiton.

      I’m really trying to focus on the types of tangible outcomes a CFO would buy if you were trying to justify an expediture in an organization. If you were trying to cost justify the purchase of a new business application such as a CRM system, what are the measure points you’d state your web site is going to improve.

      The real aha here is that customers need to really think about their websites as business applications themselves, and start to justify their investments is exactly the same way.

  2. Jon Marks said

    I think this is very interesting. Love this bit:

    “That is the course we are charting for ourselves as a WCM vendor. Enough of the toolset mentality. We will not become a glorified word processor for the web.”

    Do you consider something like WordPress at the other Blog Platforms glorified word processors? Or are they WCM vendors too?

    I’ve been thinking similar things myself. Posted an entry a couple of day on my blog ago about something similar.

    • I’d put blogging platforms in the same category as WCM tools today. They are tools. Sure, they don’t have quite the same capabilities, but at the end of the day, the help a person acheive a tactical goal or need, and publish content. WCM perhaps goes a bit farther than that, with the ability to manage richer site structures and personalized experiences, but it’s still largely a toolset.

      Lets think about it this way, in a perfect world, WCM’s behaved like CRM systems, and you could “configure” any web strategy out of the box, how would that change things? Or if your interactive agency presented your CEO with a new digital strategy, and the marketing team could execute the entire thing in a matter of hours, what would be able to do online? It’s a bit of a pipedream right now, but I think that’s the star we should be charting our courses to…

      The world doesn’t need more cute features, we all need better business results online. WCM’s will need to start enabling that as an inherent part of their capabilities.

  3. Molly said

    I just got back from the IA Summit in Memphis and my brain has been buzzing with new CMS ideas. There were some especially interesting talks about the semantic web that I thought might be worth running past you.

    From an ROI-perspective there’s a definite advantage to creating content that is machine readable, re-purposeable/re-mixable (outside of your own site) and available forever. Tim Berners-Lee recently gave a talk at TED about the concept of linked data – there are some very broad societal and business advantages to embracing a consistent standard for making data available… like, for example, using data mashups to find a cure for Alzheimers…

    The BBC discussed (at the IA Summit) their specific approach to the semantic web. As a result, they have created a much better means of bridging and managing their massive inventory of content and opened up their data to new interpretations (and greater visibility.)

    I’m not entirely sure how a product like Sitecore fits into this but I suspect it could be, in the future, the tool that enables open sharing of content and easily identifies relationships… I think CMS may also need to be considered in the future, as Amanada says… as more of a two-way means of storing content – not just internally produced content but user-generated/collaborative content as well. From an ROI perspective, this may mean that the organization can rely more on the content produced outside of the organization for value rather than investing significantly in content production internally.

    I’d love to hear your take on this.

    • Great commens Molly. I do think that the semantic web will make information more accessible and more findable. Machine readable helps too, once we can expressly dictate relationships between content and information. But, lets not fall into the trap that this new technology will deliver ROI. Lets talk about the why and the how of it improving ROI.

      I can see how we can better express how our content relates to other content out on the internet, and make a sites content more findable. This would be especially powerful in the newer forms of Content Marketing that seem to be taking place. So, on one hand, better findability has similar ROI characteristics to Search Engine Optimization in terms of inbound leads. What would be also powerful is the fact that better semantic relationships can you understand what a person is truely looking for, and would allow a website to serve that visitor with better informaiton if we could get access to the full dataset that brought them to the Site.

      A supper simplistic example of this was a site I visited the other day, that I had found from Google. When I clicked on the search result, and arrived at the page, the Site automatically presented me with the page I asked for, as well as 5 other search results from the site’s search engine itself, just in case the page I arrived at was not exactly what I needed. This was a power example in my mind to trying to anticipate the customers needs, and delivering value to the site visitor. Now, imagine if you will, that site having the full understand of the semantic relationships that brought that user to the site. What if that Site could deliver a set of content and services based on that users semantic trail. Now that user is getting what they need more precisely, and the site has a change to drive the user to one of it’s intended outcomes. This very well can lead increase conversion rates, more qualified leads, etc.

      This is how I’m trying to think about ROI nowadays. If we think of a website as a business application, how can we improve the ROI of the application itself. So what do you think? How can the new semantic web improve ROI for someone’s website?

  4. […] Comments (RSS) « Whither goes WCM? […]

  5. […] of us.  I started to try to answer that question in a previous blog post a while back called Whither goes WCM. When you step back and ask yourself that question for your organization, it starts to clarify what […]

  6. […] of us.  I started to try to answer that question in a previous blog post a while back called Whither goes WCM. When you step back and ask yourself that question for your organization, it starts to clarify what […]

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