One on one with Gerrit Kolb of CoreMedia

Where has WCM been? Where's it going?

Gerrit Kolb is CEO and president of CoreMedia, where he is responsible for defining and leading strategies for the company's growth and development. With 18 years experience in product development from startups to established companies, we asked Kolb about where web content management has come and where he thinks it's going.

FCM: How has WCM changed over the last couple of years?

GK: Over the last few years, WCM technology has evolved from its primary focus on simply enabling an organization to publish content on a static website to align with the radical change in online consumer behavior. The proliferation of mobile devices has enabled the always-connected consumer and has also transformed where business is being conducted--from one central website to over multiple digital touchpoints. As such, WCM has had to keep pace and empower businesses to create digital platforms for engagement. We have moved from approaching the web as a place to broadcast content to using it as a forum to engage in dialogue with consumers. The rapid adoption of social media has become incredibly powerful in influencing a brand's relationship with its customers and WCM is now expected to have all of these capabilities   

The web is also now a strategic business channel across multiple departments. Previously, management of websites was primarily in the hands of a small group of people. Now, a WCM system must empower business users across all departments to use the web to create and drive non-traditional business strategies and revenue. Marketing in particular has become of paramount importance in an organization--Gartner even predicted that by 2017, the CMO will spend more than the CIO. With flexibility and speed so critical to marketing, WCM has had to evolve to become easier to use for those who are actually responsible for shaping online experiences, so content can be created, published and managed in near real-time.   

FCM: The latest WCM darling is Web Experience Management. How would you define this term?

GK: With consumers in control of the buying process today and differentiation no longer obtained through product features alone, it is critical that companies provide unified and consistent experiences that meet or exceed their customers' demands across all touchpoints. It is into this mix that "Web Experience Management" (WXM) has emerged. We see it as a vision rather than a technology--a vision that requires a broad set of technologies, people and processes that go beyond WCM. While we certainly view WCM as being at the hub of WXM, the broader technology components could include CRM, e-commerce, digital marketing and SEM products and applications, among others.

Forrester has also been outspoken in defining customer experience management, and according to an article you wrote last year on its report, "The Forrester Wave: Web Content Management For Online Customer Experience, Q3 2011," it talks about the different CXM functionalities that customers planned to deploy, which at the time included mobile delivery, video streaming, rich Internet applications and behavior-based targeted content delivery. This underscores just how broad the goal and its solution can be, and that it's really a subjective term based on business needs and objectives. Our friends at Digital Clarity Group have even noted that creating an ideal customer experience should be the goal of any WCM initiative, but that the ideal experience varies from one organization to the next.

FCM: Where do WCM and WXM intersect and how are they different?

GK: When a new term is broadly adopted by the market, technology vendors are quick to "re-label" their products in an effort to take advantage of the groundswell. While some vendors have chosen to put another label on WCM and call it WXM, I feel that they are missing the mark. WCM is a critical component of what companies need to create engaging web experiences for their customers, but it is still a piece of a broader solution which includes not only a range of other technologies, but also optimized processes, talented people and the fostering of a culture of innovation.  

In our experience, vendors are looking at how they can provide as many of these technologies in a single WXM suite and this has led to a recent rise in strategic partnerships and acquisitions. Given that most organizations have huge investments in a wide range of technologies and internal skills, I feel that it is unlikely that there will be a dramatic shift to these suites as they often are incomplete or lack meaningful integration that goes beyond a brochure. A "best-of-breed" approach is likely to be more realistic and pragmatic with ease of integration into a complex ecosystem being paramount. 

Perhaps it's also helpful to think about WXM as the "ERP of the web," where ERP was originally about the optimization of the business process for manufacturing materials into a physical product. Parts and components were made all over the world to assemble something like a vehicle. WXM is the equivalent of how you optimize your online interactions with customers. You manage a complex ecosystem when you manufacture output, and the web has evolved similarly    

FCM: How far are we from a truly customized experience for each visitor to a website?

GK: Let's talk about web properties, not solely websites, as people are accessing the Internet on browsers and different devices and applications. Organizations have moved in this direction, and are defining these channels. Consumers are now being exposed to technologies that are helpful in providing "personalized packages" that reflect their world. One example is Flipboard, where you provide some basic personal information to experience your own customized newspaper or magazine. 

Analytics are going to be a huge driver in helping us mine the mountain of data people are generating to create the necessary knowledge for customizing these experiences. We expect big data tools to evolve in the coming year to provide actionable data, improved business processes and assist in the delivery of customized content. 

People sometimes get carried away around the possibilities for the extent of customization and creating a different experience for each person. But we do have evidence that presenting relevant content to the right user at the right time can dramatically deepen online engagement. Gartner famously calls this "context-aware computing." Overall, the technology is still evolving. There has been a lot of progress around the way in which content is managed, delivered and optimized, but we have more work to do. How to best tap into and use the vast amount of data available to us to customize the online experience will be a key discussion point for the WCM industry for years to come.

FCM: What's the next big trend in WCM?

GK: With mobile phones overtaking PC usage, consumers are increasingly conducting commerce on devices, and organizations must create context-aware applications for these devices. The content creation and augmentation process will need to more seamlessly support multiple channels, roles, devices, platforms and form factors, to name a few. It's not just about the mobile , but also about having a consistent management process across every channel, from mobile to tablet to PC. There are now more demands than ever on architecture, skill sets and tools needed to enable this vision.

While WCM is still evolving to adapt to this post-PC and mobile/social world, the whole concept of how you create and manage content will need to be addressed--and this will impact the people "on the inside"--those folks who create content and will need the tools to manage and publish it across these various channels. WCM systems must move beyond providing a single "one-size-fits-all" interface, but provide multiple interfaces based on a person's role in the content creation and publication processes.