Getting beyond the Magic Quadrant for WCM

Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management 2010 is out, accompanied by vendors' public crowing and private tears, depending on their placement. You can get a copy of the MQ from Sitecore, who just obtained a ticket on the magic elevator.

First, a tip of the hat

On the whole, traditional analyst coverage of Web CMS technologies has gotten much better than ten years ago when I started analyzing the market, and this MQ continues a positive trend. Gone are bizarre predictions of WCM getting folded into larger ECM platforms, replaced by a greater focus on the needs of web teams and their customers.

And now what you really need to know...

The MQ tries to fit some complex choices into two-dimensional diagram. Many (including my colleague Alan) have critiqued the overall format. For now, let's just say that if you're serious about the technology you're going to select, you need to dig deeper.

Specifically, you'll want to:

  • Carefully assess a broader set of key players, including open source projects, many of which are quite ready for prime time. Our Web CMS evaluations evaluate 45 solutions head to head.
  • Look closely at important weaknesses (not just cautions), with less emphasis on marketing acumen and other investor concerns, in favor of digging into real implementation weaknesses, like serious architectural problems, support shortcomings, and post-acquisition dislocations.
  • Structure your selection process as a multi-dimensional challenge, where the goal is not to ordain Leaders or eschew Laggards in a generic way, but to find the right fit for your needs. There's a right time and place for nearly all the 45 vendors we cover, if you consider varying architectures, costs, developer vs. contributor ease, geographic footprint, vendor intangibles, community support, integrator savvy, and a variety of other factors.

The biggest trap for you

The biggest potential trap for you with this MQ is Gartner's continued over-weighting of "name" vendors. It is only a slight overstatement to say that the bigger the software vendor, the weaker their WCM tool. It's been that way for more than a decade. This does not mean that only small vendors and open source projects can create great Web CMS packages. Larger vendors just seem to lack the agility and interest to keep up. It's not a big market, and their attention lies elsewhere.

This has real consequences for you if you select a tool based on putative staying power or supposed platform consistency of an IBM, Open Text, Oracle, Microsoft, or Autonomy. For some bitter history here, you have only to look at the train-wrecks that were implementations of EMC's now deprecated WCM products. Customers bought EMC's web content management tools for a variety of reasons: perceived platform consistency, the free licenses thrown into document management mega-deals, and last but not least: favorable analyst reviews. Many of these implementations became failures of epic proportions, sometimes with career-stifling consequences for project leaders (but alas, rarely any blowback for the people who recommended the tool). This is serious stuff, folks.

The way our approach differs from Gartner's really surfaces in the divergent conclusions we reach about Autonomy-Interwoven's TeamSite toolset. Autonomy wins most top-right status with Gartner. We don't rank vendors that way, but you can see from our Autonomy review (excerpted in a free sample you can get here), that when we put TeamSite through a more multi-dimensional evaluation, they come out among the less desirable vendors in several meaningful categories.

What's a buyer to do?

How can different analyst firms come to radically different conclusions about vendors in an established marketplace? The main difference lies in our methodologies and target audiences. For a well-rounded view of your technology choices, seek multiple assessments.


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Gil Côté, Partner, Cancentric Solutions Inc.
iStudio Canada Inc.

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