CXM: WCM done content forwards not page backwards

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Guest post by Ian Truscott

I have stolen the title of this article from my colleague David Adams, who when describing to clients how they need to view their content management strategies in the context of a multi-channel customer experience, responds with "think content forwards, not page backwards". It's a simple phrase, but one that neatly sums up the way organizations need to approach their content management strategy and technology.

Content management is at the very core of customer experience. Some question whether the acronyms for digital engagement (CXM/WEM) are replacing WCM, and if marketers are trying to dress up their products to be something they are not, or to create a niche that isn't there. The truth is that consumers all expect consistent multi-channel experiences, and that remains as content driven as it always has been. 

In this digital era customer experience spans a number of technology and business practice silos, but nothing has fundamentally changed--digital experiences are content driven as well. The difference is that despite innovation in the industry that suggests otherwise, content management systems have for the most part been used to publish webpages that cater to PC-based customer experiences. 

Of course, an author's natural instinct is to think page and then work backwards to content from there. But--if you are serious about the new digital customer experience being dynamic, multi-channel and relevant--what is the page? 

When people say multi-channel, it's easy to think of this as simply optimizing a webpage for a mobile device, but if we think about how consumers interact with a brand, product or service, multi-channel becomes a short-hand for destination, like Facebook, Google Plus, corporate blogs or community websites. 

This is the critical difference between personalization that we used to talk about 10 years ago and CXM. Personalization was optimizing pages in a controlled destination: the website. CXM on the other hand, requires thinking about relevancy across multiple controlled and uncontrolled channels. 

Regardless of this slight new twist, content management is still at the core of customer experience. Relevance creates an explosion of content--to be relevant requires variants such as taking an article and creating the technical version, and the French version, and the iPad version, and the 140 character Tweet that will bring the consumers to the content. 

It goes without saying that these variants are not pages; they are separated from their presentation channel and managed as components that can be easily consumed across channels. 

All this new content needs authors besides the four folks who work in marketing and communications. A critical buying decision could rest on a blog post by the engineer that tuned the product, the fact that the installation manual is useful globally, or the buzz that it's getting on Twitter. We need to democratize the creation of content and the authors will need tools that are easy to use. 

Once the keys to content are handed outside the circle of marketing trust, authors will need guidelines and governance like the IBM Social Computing Guidelines that stretches to 2814 words, something that needs to be operationalized.

Since the source of this new content may not be in our CMS, we need to integrate other sources of content--systems where reusable content already resides in which people feel comfortable. A great example is Microsoft SharePoint, which reached a level of ubiquity across global organizations.

As a reader of FierceContentManagement, does the separation of content from presentation, surge in new content, integration, authors, process and governance, sound familiar to you? As content management professionals, CXM means this is our time. We just need organizations to think content forwards, not page backwards. 

Ian Truscott is an experienced and passionate advocate of customer engagement, web experience, content management, digital marketing and social media, having spent over a decade working in the web content management software industry. Formerly an analyst with the Gilbane Group, Ian is now VP Products for SDL Tridion and serves as a Director for the Content Management Professionals Association.