As more businesses turn to the Web to disseminate information to and interact with customers, suppliers, and employees, managing Web content becomes a priority. Web content is not limited to a company's Internet Web site; it includes content published on extranets and intranets. And, a WCM (Web content management) solution goes beyond managing your Web content using basic document management technology. A simple WCM solution allows a business to author its own content, put content through an approval process, regulate who is permitted to view content, and then place content on the Web - all without the assistance of a Webmaster. "Companies use WCM technology to open up new revenue streams, to provide better customer service, and to improve communications and collaboration within their company and with outside entities," says Jeff Ernst, vice president of marketing for content solutions, divine, inc. (Chicago). Clearly, small- to large-sized companies can benefit from WCM, but how can it help you?
New Markets Lead To Revenue Increase
Businesses are taking advantage of e-commerce opportunities as consumer demand for it grows. According to a study by comScore Networks, consumer online sales from November 1 to December 20, 2002, reached $12.6 billion. This figure is up 29% compared to the same time period in 2001. A growing trust in brands on the Web has consumers looking online during the biggest shopping time of the year, the holiday season. "If an organization makes revenue through their Web content, it will be important for that company to put more thought into a WCM solution," says Rene Schimmer, product marketing manager for Gauss Interprise, Inc. (Irvine, CA).
Take into consideration a retailer's Web site. For this company the way Web content is organized will impact profits. Customers visiting a retailer's site want to see colors, sizes, and variations of products, just like they would in a store. Advanced WCM allows a business to assemble pages at the exact time a customer is requesting that information. For instance, on Abercrombie & Fitch's Web site, an end user visiting the site has the same access to styles and colors as they would in the store. With the click of a mouse, a customer can change the color of a shirt on the site instantly, giving the customer a visual of the actual shirt.
Handle Critical Content Successfully
Vice President of Corporate Marketing at LEGATO Systems, Inc. (Mountain View, CA) Amena Ali says, "If you generate a huge piece of business on the Web, then take a look at your functionality in terms of getting information to the Web and how you manage that information." For instance, with no WCM tool, the process to put content on your Web site is lengthy. Basically, you begin with the creation of a document that goes to a technical person who then manually transforms it into an HTML format. From there the content is transferred to the servers via FTP (file transfer protocol). WCM allows you to skip this process, bypass the Webmaster, and send content directly to the Web without a transformation process. Therefore content can be published to the site in a timely manner.
Another step in the management process is an approval stage. Before the content is published, a WCM solution provides a workflow process. "A step between the authoring of the content and its publication is the approval of content. A WCM solution adds this step so the proper individuals have the opportunity to approve or reject the content to be published," says Schimmer. This step offers a business the confidence that the content being published meets the standards of the company. Particularly in the case of a corporate Web site, when content is published, the brand is at stake. This approval process provides additional screening by the appropriate people to ensure the company is not misrepresented through the Web.
Strengthen Customer Service
Some businesses have time-sensitive materials, so if a site is not updated regularly, the content will lose its value and impact customer service. For example, CNN.com promises to deliver the very latest in news. If end users log on to CNN.com and the headlines are not the most current, CNN may lose its credibility along with many of its viewers. Because WCM eliminates the need for an extensive publishing process, CNN.com can deliver content to the Web in a matter of minutes.
Customer service can be improved when content is personalized and kept up to date. Creating personalized logins and restricting access to information based on the user name are both benefits of personalization. Ernst explains, "If you go to a pharmaceutical company's Web site, the information you are interested in is quite different depending on whether you are a patient, a doctor, a hospital administrator, or an HMO [health maintenance organization]." Logging in as one of the above will either allow or restrict access based on the way the WCM tool identifies you.
Solutions Beyond The Internet
In terms of communication and collaboration, the Web plays a key role. "It's not only about Internet Web sites," says Schimmer. "A company that does business through resellers would need an extranet where resellers can log on and see the latest products and go to the Web site for additional information or to reorder products, for example. [An extranet is part of a company's intranet that is open to specific users outside of the company.] For this, WCM is very important." Schimmer also stresses the importance of WCM for a company's intranet, "Companies have a great potential that's even more important than managing their corporate Web site; to build intranets for their company and its divisions. [An intranet is a private network contained within a company.] Managing an intranet is even more difficult than managing Internet traffic; it's also more crucial to a company." An intranet allows employees to share information and reuse information that is already available typically via LAN. Many companies rely on their intranet to operate business; it is usually here where important content is accessible to employees.
WCM helps you get content under control, whether on your corporate Web site, intranet, or extranet. The need for this application rests on the value you place on your content. The benefits for a business are clear: new revenue opportunities, improved communication within a company, and enhanced customer service. A WCM solution is obviously an investment that has the potential to increase profits and reduce company costs by managing content proactively. WCM is a growing component on an ECM (enterprise content management) platform. That trend seems to continue as more time-critical, pertinent, and brand-specific information is placed on the Web.