I often get the question “What is an enterprise web content management system (WCMS)?” with the subtle insinuation that I must differentiate a WCMS from an enterprise WCMS. To begin, enterprise is not just a buzzword that we’ve appended to the WCMS acronym to charge more money; it actually has a very powerful and paramount meaning to larger organizations and government entities that handle sensitive data, manage a portfolio of digital properties, and require the highest levels of scalability, availability, security, and redundancy. The appended “enterprise” WCMS makes the procurement process easier for large organizations and government entities that now have a shorter yet more appropriate list of providers to consider.
With over a decade of experience in the WCMS industry I have found there to be a common set of components that comprise an enterprise WCMS. That is, the components that large-scale organizations require a web content management system have before they even consider procurement. These components typically do not come with standard WCMS platforms – there are thousands of WCMS platforms and only a few of them such as Sitecore, Solodev, and CrownPeak, amongst a select few, are enterprise-ready. A true enterprise platform comes with the components covered below out of the box; they are not add-ons at an additional cost. At Solodev, we believe any enterprise WCMS is composed of three core pillars: software, infrastructure, and support, all of which are equally important to one another and will be discussed further in this article.
Enterprise web content management software does not require third party code in the form of plugins or themes. One of the major differentiators of an enterprise WCMS is their ability to empower users to craft custom websites without the constraints and potential risks of unreliable, outdated, or expensive third party plugins or themes. An enterprise WCMS allows you to design your website the way you envisioned it and provides an intuitive workspace for you to write clean, responsible HTML to create a stunning web design. In addition, large organizations cannot afford to rely on plugins built by third party developers they have no relationship with whatsoever. They want to build their own “plugins” using the server side languages they know and enterprise web content management systems provide platforms for developers to build powerful web and mobile applications to compliment their web designs.
Does your WCMS pass the multi-site management test? That is, do all of your websites live off of a single website root or does your WCMS allow you to create and manage multiple websites with their own root directory? Like most WCMS platforms, your multisite management abilities are limited in forcing you to nest all of your websites under the same directory. Does your WCMS allow you to easily add and manage multiple websites? Does your WCMS allow updates to be pushed to all of your websites simultaneously? While most platforms implement their multisite abilities by forcing your additional websites to live off of the root of your main website, enterprise WCMS platforms do not force this architecture on you, providing separate web roots for each website and as a result, making your websites significantly more secure.
Large organizations push out a lot of content. Whether it is news articles, blog posts, white papers, case studies, eBooks, graphics, video content, and more, enterprises are adamant about having an enterprise WCMS that empowers their content authors to focus on what they do best without having to learn a new platform, technology, or programming language. Does your WCMS provide an intuitive workspace for content authors or is your WCMS constantly getting in the way of your content authors?
During one interview with a Fortune 500 executive she claimed it was easier to upload 50 photos to Facebook than it was to upload those same photos to the WCMS her organization was using. With an enterprise WCMS at your finger tips, the opposite would be true and uploading thousands of photos, videos, and other file types should be a breeze. The written word has tremendous value but as multimedia takes an increasingly important role in the content marketing landscape it is essential that organizations adapt and embrace multimedia content.
Enterprises need to know that they can control the workflow that takes place in their WCMS. Essentially, they want to control the flow of content from draft to production ready. In addition, they want to set up custom workflows that execute certain functions under certain conditions. A great example would be user behavior on their website; if a user specifies they are a marketer, they will be sent a different email than a website visitor that specified they are a salesman. Workflows are a way for organizations to customize web experiences in a way that is most suited to their organizational goals. A true enterprise WCMS must have deep workflow capabilities to be truly enterprise-ready.
How granular does your WCMS let you get when it comes to determining which users and user groups have access to which parts of your WCMS – and – what actions can they take in those specified areas? Furthermore, does your WCMS allow you to get so granular that only a certain user has read permissions on a single file on the staging server of your website? If not, your WCMS may have “permissions” but not enterprise permissions and from our research, simply having “permissions” is not enough to be enterprise-ready.
Another essential component of any true enterprise WCMS is versioning. What exactly does that mean? It means that your WCMS keeps an archived record of every change ever made in your WCMS allowing you to see who has done what and when over any specified period of time. Versioning also allows you to revert back to previous versions of content or code. The ability to easily audit your WCMS and website gives your organization complete transparency as to who is doing what in your WCMS and when they are doing it. Without these two abilities at your fingertips, you are not using a true enterprise WCMS.
There’s a pretty easy test to see if you’re using an enterprise WCMS when it comes to infrastructure. Does the WCMS you are using have a fully redundant hosting infrastructure? To elaborate, does your website benefit from redundancy across all fronts including but not limited to your web server, database, file system, and backups? Further, is the infrastructure of your WCMS architected with a multi-region strategy that creates redundancy across the globe using availability zones and a load balancer? Elastic Load Balancing distributes incoming website traffic to different servers across multiple data centers in regions across the world to create redundancy that ensures your website stays live and experiences no downtime. The aforementioned architecture ensures your website will never go down and that is the metric of most importance to any enterprise.
Security heavily weighs on your organization's decision as to how to deploy your WCMS. Does your WCMS live on the Amazon Web Services, Google, or Microsoft Cloud? If your WCMS is built for one of these platforms you likely benefit from datacenters and network architecture built to meet the requirements of the most security-sensitive organizations. Perhaps you have an on-premise deployment or even more, a hybrid deployment. If that is the case, your security is in the hands of your IT department. If you don’t fit into any of the above-mentioned buckets it’s time to reconsider whether you are using the right WCMS for your organization.
A surprising number of WCMS providers do not actually provide direct support to their users. Instead, you are required to use third party implementation partners or agencies that stand in between you and your website. These partners and agencies didn’t build the WCMS you are using and despite their expertise, it comes at a cost, a higher host than going straight to the source. A true enterprise WCMS allows you to call and or submit support tickets to the company that built your WCMS and get support from the engineers that spend their days improving and pushing updates to your WCMS.
The term “enterprise WCMS” comes up a lot and many companies claim to sell enterprise WCMS platforms and tack on the price tag that goes with the word “enterprise” but few of them have the entire enterprise toolkit. Whether you are looking for a new WCMS platform, are frustrated with your current WCMS, or were perhaps content with your WCMS prior to reading this article, I highly recommend reading our whitepaper 7 Critical Factors When Choosing a WCMS.
I'm a tech geek that began CMS Critic in 2008 to help focus on the Content Management Industry. Since that time, the industry has changed and this site has changed with it. Here you'll find my personal musings, rants and raves, reviews and more on all sorts of topics.