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Decision Support: Critical Need Is A Bright Spot In Market

Businesses look to Web content-management systems to gain a competitive edge.
Concern about achieving competitive advantage through Web-based initiatives is driving customer demand for Web content-management systems. Companies increasingly see Web content as integrally linked with E-business initiatives, such as E-marketing, E-commerce, and collaborative commerce; they're striving to implement dynamic, personalized Web sites that support strategic business initiatives. Increasingly, this means that close attention needs to be paid to the IT platform and infrastructure aspects of the product as well as strategic partnerships. Business and IT will need to work together very closely to choose solutions to meet the diversity of these business needs.

Giga Group VP Connie Moore notes that although some companies are buying Web content-management systems for internal information dissemination and knowledge management, the primary focus for acquisitions is on business-to-business and business-to-consumer efforts. Companies are also realizing that custom-built Web content-management systems are more expensive to maintain and enhance than commercial, off-the-shelf systems, particularly as the amount of Web content grows and more content-centric applications are implemented, and they're replacing home-grown systems with Web content-management ones that offer more functionality at a lower price.

At Giga Group, we see a number of key trends for Web content management during the next six to 12 months:

  • The market will continue to consolidate. New entrants will find it difficult to gain mindshare and market share, especially as buyers seek well-established vendors in order to address concerns about vendor viability. There's an increased level of interest in Web content management among major IT companies such as IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, signaling even greater consolidation as large infrastructure players move in. As the market consolidates, existing vendors' market share and financial stability will be critically important.

  • Ease of use will take on new meaning as a growing number of business users are needed to contribute content, react to changing priorities, and keep the site fresh. Closely related is the need for robust workflow that's simple to use.

  • Ongoing concerns about the cost of software licenses and professional services will benefit midrange vendors that sell in the $50,000 to $200,000 range. High-end vendors will be forced to lower prices or discount more heavily to win business; however, buyer concerns about vendor viability will work in favor of some high-end vendors--Interwoven is one example.

  • Companies will continue to seek tightly integrated, loosely coupled solutions for collaborative Web-content authoring and personalization, which will benefit Web content-management vendors that are teamed with Java 2 Enterprise Edition application servers and personalization engines, rather than offering an end-to-end, proprietary solution. This is because companies are (and should be) concerned about being locked into a specific vendor, particularly if the vendor has a proprietary solution.

  • Convergence with other types of closely related software will remain high on some Web content-management vendors' agendas, although no vendor will pursue all these directions simultaneously. Other markets closely linked with Web content management include application servers, personalization engines, portals, catalog management, software-configuration management, document management, digital-asset management, globalization systems, and aggregation and syndication software. Web content-management vendors must develop effective strategies for dealing with converging markets, whether those strategies be relationships with equipment makers, acquisitions, partnerships, or mergers. Vendors unable to address the many converging markets because of financial and resource constraints will be at risk.

  • A small but growing number of large companies will begin to focus on globalization and localization issues for large-scale Web content-management deployments. Until recently, this has been a check-off item for companies buying systems, but increasingly this will be a real requirement.

  • In contrast, support for wireless devices will remain a mere check-off item during the next six to 12 months, as companies realize mobility will become an important requirement in the future but aren't yet ready to embark on wireless Web content-management projects.

    Overall, the market for Web content management is a bright spot in the IT spending landscape from the vendors' perspective. This is because Web content is critically important to companies' marketing and E-business initiatives, is becoming more closely interlinked with Web applications, and has a growing role in knowledge management. This story line will tell the tale during the next year as compa-nies continue to invest in Web content-management software.

    Robert K. Weiler is chairman, president, and CEO of Giga Information Group, a global technology advisory firm. Reach him at [email protected]. Giga VP Connie Moore contributed to this column.