Control out of chaos
RFP Essentials | Web content management systems can help you corral an overabundance of pages
Federal agencies have done an excellent job of setting up Web
sites. Managing them, however, is another matter. The Bureau of
Land Management, for example, went live with its first Web page in
1997 and a few years later had tens of thousands. The problem was
that the bureau has 12 state offices and more than 180 field
offices, each of which could put up its own site.
"In the past, the bureau never had an enterprisewide
policy on use of the Web, so we had 30,000 to 40,000 randomly coded
Web pages,' said Peter Ertman, BLM's chief information
officer at the Communications and External Affairs Directorate.
'Each state had its own content; its own look and
Even worse, the content was all manually posted. Authors first
had to find someone to translate the text into HTML. Then they had
to convince someone at the data center in Denver to load the
content onto the Web server. Once there, no system existed to audit
the age of the content and ensure it was current.
'People would put up a page and never touch it for five
years, so people on the political side said we were giving outdated
messages to the public,' Ertman said. 'We needed an
automated tool to help us manage this content.'
This led them into searching for a Web content management (WCM)
system.ECM vs. WCM
The first step toward the best content
management solution for your organization is to determine the scope
of the system you need. Do you just need a way to manage Web
content or a broader enterprise content management solution?
Web content management systems and enterprise content management
(ECM) systems have more in common than just their similar
Both make it easier to generate content, get it approved and
make it available to others. But there is a significant difference
in emphasis. 'Traditional ECM systems focus on document and
records management; they are operational systems focused on
document processing,' said Tony Byrne, founder of CMS Watch,
an analyst firm that covers both ECM and WCM products. 'WCM
systems are communications platforms focused on document
Some software vendors offer product suites designed to address
the complete range of content management. In most cases, however,
it is best to select separate products to meet the specific needs
of internal and Web content.
'There is some convergence of these products occurring,
but requirements will continue to exist in many organizations for
more focused and robust Web content, document, records and digital
asset management products that the single application solutions
will have a difficult time meeting,' said Malcolm Teasdale,
director of content management solutions at Eye Street
Major software vendors, including IBM,
Microsoft, Oracle, Adobe Systems and EMC, all offer WCM products,
but the market is still highly fragmented. There has been some
consolidation recently ' Oracle bought Stellent, and
Hummingbird bought RedDot before OpenText acquired it ' but
there are still dozens of companies, large and small, offering WCM
'Web content management is a very lively space,'
said Lou Latham, principal analyst at Gartner Group's
high-performance workplace unit. 'I have 25 vendors on a list
who all have revenues under $10 million.'
One benefit of this has been a dramatic drop in prices.
Organizations no longer have to budget in the millions to get a
good WCM package.
'Every two or three years, we have seen the low end of the
market cut in half ' half a million to a quarter million to
$100,000 to $50,000,' Latham said. 'We are even seeing
products in the high four figures now.'
There are even some open-source packages available, such as
Alfresco (wiki.alfresco.com). Those very low-end packages may not
meet all needs, but they are keeping the larger vendors'
prices in check.
'There is a flurry of small vendors that provide 80
percent of the functionality for much less than half the
price,' Latham said. 'They are very agile [and] can
offer a very low price because of their low overhead, and are
giving the leaders a challenge.'
The market can be broken down several ways. One is to look at
the largeplatform vendors such as EMC, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle
vs. the stand-alone WCM vendors.
If an agency is heavily invested in one of the large platforms,
the simplest option may be to buy that vendor's complementary
CMS Watch categorizes firms in the stand-alone market into six
tiers. Four of them are for commercial software packages of
different price ranges. The other tiers are for opensource software
and companies selling software as a service.
Latham said hosted WCM software has grown to about 15 percent of
the total WCM market.
'This signals that the initial fears on the part of users
and buyers has subsided to an extent,' he said. 'This
is an acceptable approach for those with extremely low budgets,
such as nonprofits, or for government agencies that have decent
operating budgets but limited access to capital.'
There are also some vendors that have targeted specific market
segments. Documentum, for example, is focused on pharmaceuticals,
and FileNet focuses on financial services. Others target areas such
as human resources training materials.
'Interwoven and Vignette both have good government
practices, but most of their demand is in the commercial
sector,' said Kyle McNabb, principal analyst at Forrester.
'There is a whole range of vendors ' FatWire, Tridian,
Ektron and others ' that are focused on the public sector and
take into consideration requirements such as Section 508
Selecting a Tool
Implementing a WCM takes more than loading a piece of software.
It requires a close examination of the agency's business
processes, business needs and how to integrate the WCM with
existing ECM or other enterprise software.
Woody Carlisle, lead at Ironworks Consulting's ECM
practice, cautions against too much customization. 'Even if
you select the right tool, there is always going to be some
configuration and customization with anything you put in,' he
said. 'But if you try to keep that to a minimum, it will help
you with upgrade paths and keep it easier to maintain a solution
and prevent lock-in.'
To address its Web site problems, BLM issued a request for
proposals for a Web content management system at the start of
A tactical proposal evaluation committee scored the half-dozen
responses, selecting Day Software's Communique 4.1 as the
best value. With it, the bureau's 450 authors can generate
content for the site without knowing a single HTML command or
having to place a call to staff.
By late summer, half of BLM's content had been moved over
to Communique, with the rest scheduled for migration by the end of
In addition to standardizing design, establishing an approval
process and speeding the posting of new content, it has also
improved security and cut down on information technology costs
because pages are no longer manually coded.
'We've eliminated having to scan every page that
gets published for security problems because the WCM system
generates the same HTML every single time,' Ertman said.
'We've saved one or two full-time employees and, at
$100,000 per full-time employee, it doesn't take very long
before you realize you are going to have a very good return on
As BLM's experience shows, not all Web sites or all
content needs to be brought into a WCM at the same time.
Nevertheless, you should design the taxonomy right from the
beginning so it will support other Web sites or areas of content
down the road. You will also have to convince the current content
authors and owners that it will be better if they give up some of
'In order to reap that benefit, the business owners/users
must be ready and committed to provide that content,' said
Charles Kantaporn, senior manager of e-business at GTSI.
'This is especially a challenge when content ownership is
distributed among a large number of owners, but at the same time,
that's where the value of a good WCM with well-designed
workflow really comes in.'
The other main challenge is in developing and implementing the
required business processes.
The General Services Administration's Office of Citizen
Services and Communications implemented Vignette 7.2 software in
2004 to manage content on its USA.gov and GobiernoUSA. gov sites.
It took an outside contractor about a year to develop and document
the requirements before the site went live. The main challenge was
not the software but the processes.
'Changing from a manually coded system to an automated
content management system requires a re-evaluation and reordering
of your business processes,' said John Murphy, director at
USA.gov Technologies. 'This includes a re-evaluation of the
skill sets available in your organization and requires a great deal
of attention to matters of organizational and cultural change to
help ensure a successful implementation.'
GSA recognized during the process that content managers had to
become total owners of the content through its entire information
life cycle. This required a paradigm shift within the agency, but
the payback was there in terms of greater efficiency and faster
'Content management systems are very effective
tools,' Murphy said.