Why Is WCM Such a Fragmented Marketplace?

  • 10-Jan-2017

At RSG we cover more than three-dozen Web Content & Experience Management (WCM) vendors, although around the world you can find hundreds, if not thousands more. Amid constant predictions of "industry consolidation" why do we see so many Web CMS vendors? I can think of at least six reasons.

1. Customer Needs Run the Gamut

When it comes to generating the right digital experiences, customer needs vary from quite simple to devilishly complicated. RSG's 2017 Web Content & Experience Management Logo Landscape shows how the major WCM vendors fall into five groupings across this complexity spectrum:

- Upper Range Platforms

- Legacy Platforms

- Mid-Range Platforms

- Mid-Range Products

- Simpler Products

2017 Web Content & Experience Management Logo Landscape
You can register to download a high-res copy.

Different strokes for different folks. Vendors in the past that have tried to sell alternative WCM products for multiple tiers have failed, largely because there are too few synergies across the technology, sales, and delivery models.

2. No Roll-ups

One way that certain tech marketplaces can consolidate is via "roll-ups," where vendors acquire competing platforms create a kind of oligopoly. This has been tried to varying degrees in the WCM space (mostly recently with Episerver acquiring Ektron), and it never works. The technologies never blend together right, and the level of effort for a customer to switch platforms always proves so high that a smart enterprise just goes back to shopping on the street for a new vendor.

3. Few Barriers to Entry

It's not hard to build the bare bones of a Web CMS tool. The enduring prevalence of consultingware and media companies trying to license their bespoke platforms shows that ambitions to crack this difficult market never abate.

Of course, building true software and a winning distribution model takes years, and few nascent start-ups graduate to the premier leagues in this space. Nevertheless, we continue to add two or three WCM vendors to RSG's report each year.

4. It's Not Game of Thrones

It's fun to speculate what this marketplace would like if it were Game of Thrones.

GoT guide to WCM vendors.  Click to Enlarge

Some WCM offerings do die, but in the real world they're not killing each other with Westerosi abandon. Rather, aging WCM tools tend to linger on, growing sicker each year but rarely dying. See for example, TeamSite, or MS SharePoint.

5. The Biggest Vendors Have Failed

Speaking of OpenText and Microsoft, one of the most intriguing WCM story lines over the past decade has been the decline — almost exit — of the largest software vendors from this marketplace. I can sort of see why: WCM is technically demanding and not especially lucrative. As a practical matter, you the customer don't really lose out with the lack of a serious IBM, EMC/Dell, or Oracle CMS play. If anything the vacuum they've left has created space for much more agile (if not always terribly mature) competitors.

This short video describes some of the dynamics at work at work here.

6. Innovation Matters

One of the perks of covering WCM is that you persistently get to watch innovation unfold. Of course at RSG we remain skeptics about vendor claims — if we don't critique them thoroughly, who will? — and you should carefully benchmark your own operational effectiveness before pursuing more advanced WCM technology.

For a longer discussion of some of the innovation coming in 2017, consult this CMS Wire article. The larger point here is that innovation has tended to favor agile, focused vendors who take fresh approaches. When innovation matters, vendors proliferate.

Your Choices

You have lots of WCM technology choices, and choice is good. There's always a temptation to just yield to the vagaries of a particular solution, but a smart enterprise will be intentional about the tools they select to support digital business.

At the end of the day, which choices are best for you? You can find the right answers in RSG's hard-hitting evaluation research, or see how a decision-support tool like RealQuadrant can quickly get you the right short lists for your unique needs.