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Analysis: Filenet Upgrades Its Web Content Management Suite

FileNet will introduce a Web Site Manager module for personalization and

Invigorating its pursuit of Web content management (WCM) implementations, FileNet announced January 30 that it will introduce a Web Site Manager module for personalization and multisite management. Set for a late March release, the module is aimed at enterprises replacing aging WCM systems, with Vignette customers as a prime target. But can FileNet break into a market in which it has had little presence?

The Web Site Manager module, which is actually a customized OEM version of Day Software's Communique 4.0, addresses two important needs often required in large-scale WCM environments. The first is personalizing content delivery on the fly in response to visitor's expressed preferences — everything from what they search to customer registration information and transaction histories. Content can also be customized based on what can be deduced, from the origin of their domain name to the country site they're visiting to their navigation while on the site. Large-scale Web environments are also typically multisite environments, so the Web Site Manager module supports administration and maintenance of sites that may share content, navigation and look and feel, but vary by region, country, language, product line and brand.

Banks offering home equity loans online are one example of companies requiring both personalization and multisite management, says Tom Deutsch, FileNet's senior product marketing manager. "Terms and conditions for such loans vary by state, and there also tend to be multiple channels, whether retail, brokerage or wholesale," he says. "Web Site Manager can handle the look, feel, branding and site management as one unit, but specify business drivers and lending requirements on a site-by-site basis."

Vignette is well known for its content personalization and delivery capabilities, but other WCM vendors, including Interwoven and EMC/Documentum, have traditionally left personalization up to application servers. FileNet says its Web Site Manager can do a better job of customizing site navigation and content delivery on the fly.

"The problem with leaving personalization and interaction to app servers and portals is that at best it forces content managers to learn another system to manage and at worst they can't touch it all and must instead schedule any changes or modifications through developers," says Tony Byrne, founder of CMSWatch.com. "There is a trend among CMS vendors to provide these services for content managers as well. Of course, this means having a footprint in the delivery environment, which is not ideal for all cases. Interwoven and Hummingbird/RedDot (and soon Documentum) have made their site interaction modules optional so customers can deploy them selectively."

FileNet, too, has made the Web Site Manager an optional element of an updated WCM 3.0 Suite that also includes the FileNet Document Publisher and FileNet Site Publisher. The former is designed to publish document-centric content to intranets, portals and external-facing cites, while the latter provides templating and WYSIWYG editing along the lines of a conventional WCM product, though without the delivery and multisite management capabilities of the Site Manager module.

Among top enterprise content management (ECM) vendors, FileNet has one of the smallest penetrations of the WCM market. In contrast, Vignette and Interwoven were both founded as WCM vendors, Stellent and EMC/Documentum have pursued the market aggressively and Hummingbird recently acquired its way into the market by purchasing RedDot. FileNet, too, got into WCM through acquisition, but EGrail, the company it bought in 2002, was a small player, and FileNet did little to expand on that company's beachhead. IBM has partnered with both Vignette and Interwoven over the years, and it has a basic WCM system in the Lotus family built on Aptrix, a product acquired in late 2003. Open Text, too, has acquired WCM systems, notably Gauss, but like FileNet and IBM, it's not known for its aggressive pursuit of that market.

FileNet can't point to a track record (or even beta customers) with interactive and large-scale multisite Web environments running its software, but in sourcing its product from Day, the company has at least tapped a solid WCM product rather than reinventing the wheel internally and coming up short. "What FileNet is getting with the Day product is more than just an interactive site manager," Byrne says. "Communique is a comparatively impressive Web content management tool of the ilk FileNet just didn't seem to be able to build itself."