The Ideal CMS -- Circa 2004
By Tony Byrne at 2003-12-12 00:00:00 |
At CMS Watch our quest for the perfect Web CMS continues. This remains something of a quixotic venture, because choosing a web content management product forces buyers to face real trade-offs. This is almost inevitable in an environment where enterprises have extremely divergent -- and sometimes conflicting -- business reasons for implementing a content management system. Achieving greater automation will almost always reduce content re-use opportunities, and vice-versa. The more flexible technical platforms usually take the longest to implement and have fewer editorial features "out of the box."
Naturally, then, vendors make choices about where to focus their products, often driven by the requirements of their major clients (or industry focus). A vendor may market its product (or "suite") as a universal tool, but most CMS packages are beginning to fall into identifiable niches.
So herewith is the 2nd Annual "Ideal CMS," based on package versions in production as of November, 2003. (History buffs may wish to check out last year's list.)What Features from Which Product?
In the sections below, we use the CMS lifecycle taken from The CMSWatch Report to identify which package we would want to employ for each individual step. Note that we only judge products on features available "of the box" in a core product, ignoring optional product modules. Moreover, there are no concrete specifications here -- always a risky place to start when selecting technologies.
Also, you'll see a mingling of products across a variety of price points and target markets. To even things out a bit, we tried to judge competencies relative to competition from within the same tier of packages. In any case, some lower-cost products simply do certain things better than their enterprise-level competitors. For a complete list of the products under review, check out our CMS Products page.
OK, let's take a look at the products that, somehow magically grafted together, would form an ideal CMS. This year, our list also singles out products that we believe are seriously "lagging" the field within a certain functional area.Content Production Phase
In this phase, content is managed from conception to going live, what I call "from thought to click." There are nine key features to examine here.
- Role/User Management. Kudos to: MediaSurface.
Honorable mention: Ingeniux, Vignette, Zope.
- Authoring & Transformation. Kudos to: Tridion.
Honorable mentions: Day, RedDot, CrownPeak, Ektron.
Lagging: Gauss, Documentum.
- Aggregation. Kudos to: Vignette.
Honorable mention: Day.
Lagging: Microsoft, Broadvision.
- Library Services. Kudos to: Interwoven.
Honorable mentions: Microsoft, CrownPeak.
Lagging: Vignette, FileNet, Merant, Ingeniux.
- Metadata/Taxonomy Management.
Honorable mentions: FatWire, Stellent.
The vendor community as a whole is actually really hurting here.
- Templating. Kudos to: Day.
Honorable mention: Stellent, PaperThin, OpenCMS.
Lagging: Documentum, Percussion, Interwoven.
- Workflow. Kudos to: Documentum.
Honorable mention: Stellent.
Lagging: Microsoft, Tridion.
- Localization. Kudos to: RedDot.
Honorable mentions: Tridion, Documentum, FileNet, Day.
- Promotion Path. Kudos to: Gauss.
Honorable mentions: Percussion, FileNet.
Lagging: Stellent, Ektron.
In this phase, content is delivered to end-users. Although this phase could be measured in the microseconds it takes your server to spool off and send an HTML stream to the requestor, there are still significant content management issues to address. Of course, it's important to ask yourself whether your CMS should be undertaking content delivery, as opposed to an application server, portal, or good old webserver.
- Page Assembly & Renditioning. Kudos to: Bricolage.
Honorable mention: Microsoft, Percussion, Midgard.
- Index & Site Search. Kudos to: Atomz.
Honorable mentions: Clickability, Zope.
But do you really want your CMS to provide your search facilities?
- Personalization. Kudos to: Broadvision.
Honorable mention: FatWire.
- Caching & Replication. Kudos to: FatWire.
Honorable mention: MediaSurface.
- Syndication. Kudos to: Ingeniux.
Honorable mentions: Ektron, Vignette.
- Output to Alternate Formats. Kudos to: Documentum.
Honorable mentions: Tridion, Ingeniux, Apache Lenya.
Of course, there is more to a complete Web content management system than lifecycle feature sets. So the list below shows additional intangible attributes I would draw from specific products or companies.
- Active User Group. Kudos to: Interwoven.
Honorable mentions: Documentum, Microsoft.
- User-friendly Interface. Kudos to: CrownPeak.
Honorable mentions: Tridion, Interwoven.
Lagging: Zope, Gauss.
- Accessibility/508 Compliance. Kudos to: PaperThin.
Honorable mention: Merant.
- CMS Activity Reporting. Kudos to: CrownPeak.
Honorable mention: Percussion
- Good Value: Kudos to: Ektron.
Honorable mentions: Zope, Fatwire, PaperThin, CrownPeak.
- Experienced Professional Services Organization. Kudos
Honorable mention: Stellent.
- Strong Reseller or Integrator Channel. Kudos to: Paperthin.
Honorable mention: Microsoft
- Knowledgeable Sales Staff: Kudos to: Zope.
Honorable mentions: FileNET, Documentum, Clickability.
So, like last year, assembling an ideal Web content management package would require integrating components or attributes from no less than 16 different companies. Note in particular the preponderance of enterprise-tier solutions among the leaders and laggards; there is a lot of turbulence at that level right now. To the extent the enterprise players have become especially good at some things, so have their products become rather dreadful at meeting certain other requirements.
If you are seeking out a CMS package, however, you shouldn't read too much into these lists. Don't discount a package because we find it lagging in a particular functional area. Nor should you act based solely on our laurels. We don't rank products, give out awards, or chart magic quadrants. We just want you to get smarter and more informed about all this.
This is because content management remains highly situational. Your content is unique, and your management requirements will vary. A deeper exploration of the attributes and products above can be found in The CMSWatch Report -- and you can find a lot of other independent product information online, too. Do your homework and test out different solutions before you select a package.