In RSG's evaluation research and vendor categorizations, we often make a distinction between "products" and "platforms." There's actually a continuum here, but the distinction remains important for you the technology buyer.
Products are simpler to install and offer workaday features in a straightforward way, but are usually much less extensible. Platforms require greater funding and developer support, but usually offer richer capabilities, higher functional potential, and greater extensibility.
This short diagram explains more.
(RSG subscribers can access a detailed advisory paper on the topic and why it matters so much today.)
WCM Platforms - Pro and Con
In the Web Content & Experience Management (WCM) marketplace, platforms are sexy and typically demo better — especially to business stakeholders who may not fully appreciate the technical overhead required to make them work in the real world.
The main problem with platforms is that many customers simply don't have the human, organizational, and financial resources needed on an ongoing basis to exploit them properly. Small changes start to take a long time to execute, and people get frustrated. What was supposed to become an empowering platform becomes a lodestone instead. Sound familiar?
So when we counsel an enterprise whose needs or circumstances fall more in the range of a WCM product, my first instinct is to congratulate them. Rather than spending time futzing with technology, they can focus on what really matters: creating effective content and customer experiences.
Digital managers aren't always comfortable with simplicity. It's natural to think, "But wait, in X years we're going to need all this cool stuff!" And so platforms seem more apt. My advice: don't keep trying to skate ahead of the puck. WCM products are much more powerful and capable than they were five years ago, and they continue to improve. If you have simpler needs, just grow with your vendor or open source community.
Some customer segments lend themselves more to products than platforms. We've seen great success here in Higher Education, Public Sector, Non-Profits, and of course, small- to mid-sized businesses. That doesn't mean that every university, government ministry, or charity should use a simpler WCM product — for example, some universities can avail themselves of ample developer resources — but for most of those organizations, most of the time, simpler tools will work better.
As we turn to a new decade, however, larger commerical enterprises can also more effectively deploy simpler WCM tools now, rather than the more bloated developer-heavy platforms you see at the top end of the market.
Sometimes Platforms Are Better
Of course, under certain circumstances you will want to lean more towards the platform end of the WCM spectrum, especially if:
- Content is your business (e.g., you're a media firm)
- You have specific plans around highly customized, content-driven applications
- You work in a multinational or multilingual digital environment
- You have recourse to ample in-house developer resources
Fortunately, you'll encounter many plausible choices on both ends of the WCM marketplace, as well as the ample middle.
Just remember this: most organizations face greater risks overbuying than underbuying WCM technology. For more details, consult RSG's comprehensive vendor evaluation research. If you're already an RSG subscriber and want to discuss this further, just contact us to schedule an advisory call.