In Focus: Midsize Firms Drive Web Content Management Growth

The biggest benefit of Joslin Diabetes Center's recent adoption of WCM has been eliminating delays in getting new content and updates online.
Some 80 million Web sites are now out there, by one estimate, twice the number that existed just three years ago. That's one reason why sales of Web content management (WCM) systems--and the ranks of WCM vendors--have kept growing.

In contrast, sales of big, multipurpose enterprise content management (ECM) systems are comparatively flat. And no wonder, given that the leading ECM vendors are so focused on selling systems to the Global 2000. After all, there are only 2,000 companies that fit that description. Meanwhile, there are 167,000 midsize businesses (with 100 to 1,000 employees) in the United States alone, according to AIIM International, and for many of them, Web sites are a squeaky wheel in need of management technology.

Joslin Diabetes Center is typical of midsize organizations that have only recently adopted WCM. Joslin's site offers educational materials and research for medical professionals and diabetes patients, and it attracts 170,000 to 190,000 visitors each month--a respectable figure, but hardly the kind of site that demands "industrial" infrastructure.

Until two years ago, the site had only about 500 pages of largely static content, and the biggest challenge was simply keeping up with day-to-day content changes. New pages and each and every update had to be coded in HTML by hand, so the site suffered the typical Webmaster bottleneck that eventually leads to one conclusion: "Our CIO recognized that we needed to purchase a content management system," says Application Analyst Jeff Cleary, who was spending far too much time handling updates and too little time developing new site features and functionality.

The CIO's edict, in late 2004, led to a three-month search. Joslin considered a Documentum system, but concluded it was "way out of our range and the scale that we needed," Cleary says. The company also considered a custom system from a local consulting company but didn't see it as a long-term solution. Joslin narrowed its list to systems from Red Dot, Ektron and Microsoft, and after hands-on tests, it selected Red Dot's CMS system in February 2005.

"Our users found Red Dot easy to use, and we liked it from an administrative perspective because it had features such as multilingual support that knew we would use," Cleary says.

As is typical in a new WCM deployment, Joslin decided to completely redesign its site as part of the project. After all, if you're going to go to the trouble of developing templates, why not improve on looks and ease of navigation? The combined redesign and WCM deployment took four months, with the new site launching on schedule in July 2005.

For Joslin, as for many other organizations adopting WCM, the biggest benefit has been eliminating delays in getting new content and updates online. "It used to take me up to two days to get to requests to post or update content, but our 15 content contributors can now add and update content without technical assistance, so it takes as little as five to 10 minutes," Cleary explains.

Cleary now focuses his time on development projects. As an example, Joslin as made use of Red Dot's multilingual support to launch a specialized diabetes site for Asian Americans published in English, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese. And Cleary is currently working on a professional education section for the main site that will include an online course-authoring application through which Joslin instructors will be able to develop PowerPoint- and Flash-based course materials for Web-based training.

Joslin implemented Red Dot CMS version 6.0, but Cleary says the organization will definitely upgrade to the 7.0 upgrade announced in June, in part to make use of a new navigation management system designed to let users and administrators reorganize and manage site structure and quickly build new sections. "As a Web site grows, it's good to be able to give users a way to see where all the pages have been added so they organize things a bit better," Cleary explains. The 7.0 upgrade also added a site archiving feature, which Cleary says might help Joslin demonstrate ongoing compliance with HIPAA regulations by maintaining a continuous record of what was posted on the site.

Although Joslin is not currently using Red Dot's LiveServer content delivery system (which was just upgraded to include IBM content integration technology that taps into third-party repositories), Cleary says, "we're hoping to upgrade to it to make use of the personalization engine. Visitors to our site include medical professionals, patients and business partners that work with us online, so we could customize the content we deliver based on their needs."