The Forrester Wave: Web Content Management For Digital Customer Experience, Q2 2013

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An enterprise's digital properties must be more than one-way broadcasts of information: today's customers desire connection, conversation, and interaction. Web content management (WCM) solutions enable enterprises to optimise their digital channels; acquire new customers, capture customer insight, and deliver personalised content that leads to increased conversion rates and brand engagement.

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Key Takeaways 

Plain Web Publishing Isn’t Enough In The Era Of Digital Experience

AD&D pros who source and support WCM systems are seeing a changed industry landscape and expanded use cases. Leading vendors have responded to demands for DX management and marketing capabilities. Better website and content analytics, multichannel delivery, UIs, and personalized experiences allow more direct business participation in DX delivery.

Integration Remains The Cornerstone Of (Most) Successful WCM

Leading vendors in this Wave complement core WCM capabilities by integrating with more specialized third-party DX and marketing enablement products or widely recognized and accepted best-of-breed products that they already own. One exception: Sitecore is intent on providing the entire WCM suite, building many DX components from the ground up.

Adobe Leads Due To Breadth Of Functionality, Market Momentum and Resources

Adobe provides a solid set of tools to enable business users to manage experiences. Adobe has made progress integrating the CQ5 WCM product with its other products, particularly analytics, testing, and optimization. Th e strength of Adobe’s platform and the company’s resources make it the vendor to beat in the DX space.

Why Read This Report

Web content management (WCM) software has evolved from a set of primarily technical tools for website management into broad products and suites that support the imaginations (and needs) of digital marketers creating multichannel digital experiences. In Forrester’s 100-criteria evaluation of WCM vendors, we identified the 10 most significant providers in the category — Adobe, Acquia, Ektron, HP Autonomy, IBM, Microsoft, OpenText, Oracle, SDL, and Sitecore — and evaluated them in three areas: current offering, strategy, and market presence. Application development and delivery (AD&D) professionals and their marketing and business peers can use these findings to understand the new generation of WCM solutions and select the right one to support their digital customer experience requirements.

WCM Is Evolving From Website Publishing To Digital Experience Support

Web content management (WCM) vendors continue to add capabilities to assist marketers with their need to support an expanding, multichannel digital world. The goal? To support the ability to create and manage engaging multichannel experiences for customers, partners, and prospects.1 Ultimately, WCM tools are no longer just about managing web content. Instead, they have evolved to become the cornerstone of an ecosystem of tools that support digital experiences for customers. These digital experience (DX) solutions generally fall into one of three categories that Forrester refers to as “manage, engage, and measure:”

  • Solutions that enable nontechnical personnel to manage experiences. These solutions consist of tools and repositories that marketers and other nontechnical personnel use to create and manage structured and unstructured content for customer experiences. This category includes WCM, digital asset management (DAM), product catalog management, workflow, campaign management, marketing resource management, and desktop authoring tools.
  • Engagement solutions that enable the delivery of interactive multichannel experiences. Vendors often tightly couple WCM and eCommerce solutions with management and delivery capabilities, enabling businesses to create content and deliver experiences in a single package. But other technologies enable experience delivery, including discrete content targeting solutions such as search, personalization, and recommendations engines, tools to enable the development of presentations like integrated development environments, ad-serving systems, and identification and authorization management tools.
  • Measurement solutions that allow businesses to gauge the success of experiences. A/B and multivariate testing enable marketers and business users to test out variations of experiences on certain demographics before rolling them out to a broader audience. Web analytics tools track website visitor behavior. Social analytics tools track how consumers engage with companies by monitoring social interactions. And dashboards present analytical data from which marketers can draw actionable insights.

WCM Isn’t A Suite Story, It’s An Integration Story

WCM does not, and should not, provide all the tools needed to support a “manage, engage, measure” paradigm. While some capabilities, such as versioning, check-in/check-out, and workflow, are native to WCM — and are generally commoditized across the vendor landscape — complementary capabilities already exist in other products that organizations have already invested in. Buyers should be clear on what they’re looking for in a WCM, what they will get from adjacent products, and whether these capabilities may overlap (see Figure 1).

The strategies and tactics that WCM vendors have employed as they’ve entered the DX business run the gamut: designing fresh user interfaces (UIs); creating easier editing tools; focusing on personalization and targeting tools; adding marketing automation capabilities, embedded analytics, and intelligence; and more. But no single vendor’s current portfolio has all of the tools necessary to support DX. Even if the ideal single-vendor platform existed, our clients tell us that they’ve already made too many investments to be able to rip and replace all of their existing tools in favor of a single suite or vendor platform.

Dealing with fewer vendors and fewer products should remain a goal. But WCM buyers should seek solutions that are built on open standards and have prebuilt integrations and partnerships with proven, mature best-of-breed applications for DX and online engagement efforts rather than all-inone suites. Enterprises typically own many of these systems already, so integration should be the ideal; in fact, it’s a crucial differentiator for WCM.4 Forrester’s research finds that integrating WCM with other best-of-breed systems like eCommerce, analytics, marketing automation, and email marketing is a high priority as firms source and build next-gen cross-channel marketing platforms. Companies frequently tell us that they are committed to their previous investments in areas such as analytics, optimization, email campaigns, and eCommerce and want their WCM systems to integrate with, not replace, their existing solutions.

Many Vendors Are Jumping On The Customer Experience Bandwagon

A significant number of vendors, both large and small, offer a set of tools that enable organizations to manage, engage, and measure multichannel digital experiences:

  • DX platform players support companies requiring breadth and depth. Large vendors like Adobe, IBM, and Oracle can appeal to enterprise buyers seeking a deep stack of infrastructure or complementary tool sets from a single vendor. Each has broad offerings that include core WCM plus related infrastructure for building and supporting the marketer’s challenge to manage, engage, and measure DX. Adobe has aggregated several technologies under Adobe Marketing Cloud: Adobe Experience Manager (CQ5 WCM, with dynamic media and delivery via Scene 7 integration), plus Adobe Analytics, Target, Social, and Media Optimizer. IBM offers WCM, portal, eCommerce, and marketing tools and more under its IBM Customer Experience Suite. Oracle WebCenter includes WCM (the former FatWire Software product that it acquired), Portal, and other tools. SDL also aims to play in the DX space, complementing WCM and best-of-breed globalization/localization capabilities with tools for multichannel delivery (it recently bought mobile solutions provider Bemoko), recommendations, and marketing automation. However, SDL’s DX technology portfolio isn’t nearly as extensive as the others mentioned in this category.
  • Legacy WCM vendors look to nurture existing customers and expand their purview. You could call the companies in this category the stalwarts of the WCM world — they’ve been on the scene for years, providing solid WCM capabilities and serving diverse customers. They’re also expanding their capabilities to answer the broader needs of DX management. HP Autonomy (which owns the former Interwoven products) and OpenText (which owns the former Vignette and RedDot systems) each nurtures a large installed base and has a proven track record within large enterprises.
  • Dedicated WCM specialists leverage their product focus and rapid innovation. These companies focus on core WCM plus (in most cases) DX innovation. Ektron and Sitecore, which we evaluated for this report, both fall into this category but have distinct market positions, target customers, and road maps. Other specialist vendors include Bridgeline Digital and Percussion Software, SaaS players CrownPeak and Limelight Networks, and Europe-based vendors such as CoreMedia, EPiServer, e-Spirit, eZ Systems, GX Software, Hippo, Kentico Software, and Telerik (which makes the Sitefinity product).
  • Open source is appealing more to enterprises. Open source solutions abound in the WCM world. Forrester clients will find the base level of functionality of these solutions lower than those of many of the commercial vendors in terms of DX capabilities, but those that are looking for a lower initial investment or need to extensively customize will want to consider it. This report evaluates Acquia, a commercial company delivering support, hosting, and other services for the open source product Drupal. The open source world includes other solutions with commercial backing — such as those from DotNetNuke, eZ Systems, Jahia Solutions, Magnolia International, and OpenCms — and those that are community-based, such as Joomla and Plone.

WCM For Digital Customer Experience Evaluation Overview

After examining past research, user needs assessments, and vendor and expert interviews, we developed a comprehensive set of evaluation criteria. We evaluated vendors against 100 criteria, which we grouped into three high-level buckets:

  • Current offering. To assess product strength, we evaluated each offering against seven groups of criteria: 1) content management; 2) websites and layout; 3) globalization and localization; 4) content targeting; 5) multichannel; 6) social and community controls; 7) publishing and deployment; and 8) measurement.
  • Strategy. We reviewed each vendor’s strategy, evaluating how well each vendor’s planned enhancements will position it to support current and evolving multichannel WCM requirements, and whether or not the vendor has a path to deliver those enhancements given its current technology, internal resources, and partnerships.
  • Market presence. To determine a vendor’s market presence, we evaluated each vendor’s installed base, company financials, professional services, and global presence.

Vendor Selection Criteria

In this Wave™, Forrester evaluated vendors that enable marketing and business teams to use WCM in conjunction with other components of the DX ecosystem to support rich, interactive, multichannel customer experiences. Forrester included 10 vendors in the assessment: Acquia, Adobe, Ektron, HP Autonomy, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, OpenText, SDL, and Sitecore.5 The WCM market remains somewhat fragmented, but these 10 vendors represent the strongest that the market has to offer firms within Forrester’s client base in terms of stability, functionality, and experience providing a primary enterprise WCM product. Specifically, each of these vendors has (see Figure 2):

  • A product that supports an interactive multichannel experience, not just web publishing. Products in this category not only have content management and web publishing capabilities, but also have capabilities — such as content targeting, social tools, and enterprise application integration — that support interactive multichannel experiences.
  • A significant track record as the primary WCM for customer experience in large companies. This category comprises vendor solutions that primarily target organizations with revenues of more than $1 billion per year. WCM vendors in this category focus on enterprise-class organizations, scale to serve large user populations, support highly trafficked websites, and offer multisite and multilingual support.
  • Interest from Forrester clients. Forrester clients repeatedly ask about the evaluated products within the context of inquiry, advisory, and consulting, and/or have them installed as the primary WCM for supporting DX-based websites.
  • A minimum of $35 million in annual revenue. Vendors included in this evaluation have a proven product and generate approximately $35 million or more in annual revenue.

For purposes of this Forrester Wave, the products and solutions that we reviewed were those that were generally available on or before October 10, 2012.

The Results: Adobe Leads, But Other Solid Options Are Available

The evaluation uncovered a market in which (see Figure 3):

  • Adobe leads with breadth and momentum, while Sitecore and SDL pursue DX strategies. All three vendors provide a solid set of tools enabling marketing and eBusiness professionals to manage content, deliver engaging experiences, and measure results. Adobe has the richest, most intuitive UI of the three, as well as the best complementary DX products and the deepest pockets, while SDL continues to excel in the areas of globalization and localization. Sitecore takes more of a suite approach, offering more native components and fewer packaged integrations with best-of-breed products than the others.
  • OpenText, Oracle, and HP Autonomy offer competitive options for their installed bases. OpenText continues to offer a solid WCM product, although it’s most compelling for companies that already own other OpenText products and are looking for a single throat to choke. Longtime WCM player Autonomy, now part of HP, still has a solid feature set, but the number of Forrester clients asking about it has declined over the past several years; two changes of ownership surely haven’t helped. Oracle has a broad set of DX capabilities in its portfolio, but until it achieves significant integration between the components of that portfolio, its WCM product (acquired from FatWire) isn’t compelling beyond Oracle shops, particularly when compared with the work that Adobe and IBM have done on their DX offerings.
  • IBM offers improved WCM and integrates with a broad portfolio of DX products. IBM’s product has significantly improved since our last evaluation 18 months ago. But its real value lies in the current and potential future integrations with best-of-breed IBM products in the areas of eCommerce, analytics, and other marketing enablement tools.6
  • Ektron, Microsoft, and Acquia offer solid WCM, but DX questions remain. Ektron has the most functionality of the Contenders in this report, and an ambitious strategy to integrate with third-party DX components, but we question whether it has the market presence and resources to execute. SharePoint has supported informational websites in the past, but Microsoft has only started to talk about interactive multichannel experiences with SharePoint 2013; the vendor has a lot of ground to make up if it wants to seriously compete in this space. Acquia, which leverages the open source WCM Drupal, has broad functionality, but is weaker in marketing enablement tools and needs to polish its tool set to truly compete in this market.

Most of the vendors in this Wave offer a broad set of functionality, so strategy and market momentum have become important differentiators. When evaluating a vendor, decision-makers should ask themselves: 1) How well does the vendor understand the market? 2) Is it continuing to build an offering that will help us meet our need to manage and measure more complex experiences, and do they offer complementary tools that we will use? 3) Is it building an ecosystem of partners that we can turn to for help? 4) Does it have an updated platform suitable for integration? and 5) Are its customer references a mix or newer and veteran customers, or is it only able to indicate customers that have been using the product for five years or more?

This evaluation of the WCM market is intended to be a starting point only. We encourage clients to view detailed product evaluations and adapt criteria weightings to fit their individual needs through the Forrester Wave Excel-based vendor comparison tool.

Vendor Profiles: Leaders

  • Adobe is sharpening its focus on digital marketers. Adobe has leveraged acquisitions such as Day Software’s CQ WCM platform and Omniture’s analytics to establish a DX management portfolio that appeals to marketers, developers, and implementation partners. Adobe’s platform integrates WCM with its DAM, social communities, analytics, and content targeting and optimization offerings. Adobe’s intuitive interface is a differentiator; the vendor aims to build on that strength via its planned tablet UIs. Adobe has also built strong relationships with implementation partners, another plus for those needing third-party help. Adobe still lacks eCommerce capabilities — a major piece of the DX ecosystem — and will need to continue to rationalize the front and back ends of its DX products to provide a truly integrated platform. But progress has been impressive so far, and Adobe has both the strategy and resources needed for successful execution. Strong Performers
  • SDL continues to differentiate with its globalization and localization story. Maidenhead, UK-based SDL offers a broad set of customer experience functionality, particularly in terms of globalization and localization, due to the integration with its language translation products. SDL’s BluePrinting technology, which enables enterprises to manage sites in multiple languages and/or for multiple brands, continues to stand out from the crowd with its graphical administrative and design interfaces, and its extended content management tools are very strong. We’d like to see integration with third-party eCommerce systems and other DX products outside of its own portfolio. But our bigger concern isn’t functionality — it’s market momentum. Despite its broad, deep functionality, SDL turns up on our clients’ WCM shortlists less frequently than Adobe or Sitecore, and its partnerships with key digital agencies aren’t as robust. Given the breadth and depth of its portfolio, SDL’s momentum isn’t as strong as it should be.
  • Sitecore is betting big on a suite approach. Copenhagen-based Sitecore takes an all-in-one approach to DX management with an offering that includes WCM and tools for analytics, marketing automation, email, mobile, eCommerce, and social. A Sitecore advantage is that it specifically built its tools to be part of the same offering — unlike Adobe, IBM, and Oracle, which have had to integrate acquired technology — so the user experience is consistent and workflows are integrated. The flip side of this is that some pieces of the Sitecore platform, such as analytics, aren’t as mature as those offered by its peers. Sitecore needs more third-party integrations, particularly in analytics and eCommerce. Few of the Sitecore customers we’ve spoken with are using the vendor’s entire offering; instead, they’ve implemented core content management and delivery — making it especially important for anyone considering this product to check customer references. Sitecore doesn’t do client implementations, instead relying on a very solid partner network to serve its customers. Also important: Clients regularly tell us that Sitecore’s software quotes are lower than those of vendors like Adobe and SDL.
  • HP Autonomy takes a search-based approach. Autonomy’s WCM-related software (the former Interwoven TeamSite and LiveSite) is now part of HP, one of the world’s largest software businesses. Autonomy’s marketing-oriented platform for managing web experiences is complemented by a rich media management product and IDOL, powerful search technology that can drive features such as content targeting and personalization. It includes the ability to provide deep customer insights and to learn and adapt on its own based on visitor behavior and other factors — an impressive step toward intelligent and adaptive marketing systems. There’s plenty more to look at: strong usability in creating and executing campaigns and a good site, page, and content authoring tool. However, Autonomy’s market momentum with implementation partners and Forrester clients has flagged, and its strategic road map isn’t as aggressive as those of some other evaluated vendors; multiple changes of ownership surely haven’t helped. Finally, buyers need to keep a close eye on HP’s plans for investment in its digital experience products, and how they fit into HP’s overall strategy.
  • Oracle’s DX portfolio is not yet greater than the sum of its parts. Oracle acquired FatWire shortly after we completed research for our last Wave report on this market in Q3 2011. The FatWire WCM product, renamed WebCenter Sites, is now part of Oracle’s DX portfolio. WebCenter Sites has strong presentation management tools and deep targeting functionality with its personalization module; in addition, Oracle has made good on at least some of FatWire’s plans to update the UIs, which had become quite dated. Oracle now must further integrate the WebCenter Sites product with some of the other compelling offerings in its DX platform: Siebel CRM, Commerce (comprised of ATG Web Commerce and Endeca), and Real-Time Decisions for predictive analytics. For example, Oracle plans to have a common authoring environment and preview for the WebCenter Sites and Web Commerce products. If it can accomplish goals like this — a major question mark given that the FatWire acquisition was nearly two years ago — it could still become a force in the DX space. Note that Oracle did not participate in the research for this report, so Forrester based its findings on past briefings, products demos, and customer reference interviews.
  • OpenText offers DX capabilities within an information management portfolio. ECM vendor OpenText, based in Waterloo, Ontario, understands the content management market very well; not surprisingly, its Web Experience Management product (formerly Vignette) offers strong content management functionality. Since our last evaluation, OpenText hasn’t made much progress integrating with complementary DX technologies from other vendors in areas such as commerce, CRM, and testing and optimization — or developing partnerships with those vendors.7 Also, we’re not enamored with the “enterprise information management” messaging it’s pursuing, given that our clients ask about marketing agility and customer experience more frequently. The product itself is solid, and OpenText offers a few interesting complementary products, such as its campaign management tools and Nstein text mining engine. But at this point, the product is most attractive to companies that have already invested in other OpenText products and are looking to deal with fewer vendors.


  • IBM complements improved WCM with a strong DX ecosystem. IBM’s WCM tool has traditionally lagged those of the other vendors in this evaluation. While its business user enablement functionality still isn’t as strong as that of leading vendors like Adobe, it’s worth a second look given IBM’s visible investment in the WCM product itself and complementary products. In terms of functionality, IBM is closer to par than in previous Waves, having greatly improved the UI and business user enablement in general, particularly in the areas of content authoring, presentation authoring, and personalization. IBM also has compelling complementary offerings that it has begun to integrate with WCM: analytics (from Coremetrics), marketing enablement (from Unica), and commerce (from IBM’s own WebSphere commerce product). It has ambitious plans to modularize its DX platform, such as offering one set of personalization technologies across all of its products. IBM needs to form stronger partnerships with agencies — a key influencer in this market — and must produce better customer references; the ones we spoke with mostly use the content management functionality rather than the extended marketing enablement tools. That said, given the vendor’s progress in the DX space over the past two years and its deep pockets, IBM is worth keeping an eye on.
  • Microsoft lags on DX, but its content integration functionality has potential. Microsoft doesn’t focus its SharePoint product as strongly on DX as some of the other vendors in this Wave do with their offerings. Instead, companies often deploy SharePoint as an intranet support tool. The product’s major weaknesses include multisite localization, multichannel deployments, multilingual support, and (most significantly) analytics and measurement. But SharePoint does offer a potentially robust method of content integration with its ability to use the internal search engine to import any data, strip the formatting, and reskin the content according to user definitions. Another advantage: The product has a large installed base and a relatively large number of developers are available for implementation. Still, until we see more customers using SharePoint for rich customer-facing experiences, it remains a better fit for organizations that need to quickly publish informational websites or basic microsites or need to support a company intranet.
  • Ektron offers solid functionality, but its ability to execute on strategy remains questionable. Nashua, New Hamphire-based Ektron wants to be your WCM, but it also wants to be the glue that integrates various third-party DX components via its Digital Experience Hub. It’s an ambitious strategy — but we have questions on Ektron’s ability to execute, given its market momentum, resources, and focus on medium-size companies. Forrester clients that use Ektron frequently tell us that it’s a solid point solution for departmental or product-specific websites. But we find comparatively few enterprises using Ektron at scale as their primary enterprise WCM. An exec at a large North America-based retailer outlined a more common scenario: Ektron is part of the retailer’s digital infrastructure, serving as a platform for informational and marketing content, but not for more complex uses. It’s also important to note that Ektron is actively rebuilding its partner channel, which took a major hit when the vendor went strong into the services market several years ago, alienating many of its partners.
  • Acquia is beginning to build a DX story using open source Drupal. Drupal, an open source content management system, began as a university project of Dries Buytaert. A large global community of developers has emerged to contribute to the Drupal core, and thousands of community modules give Drupal extended capabilities in DX and other areas. Buytaert’s other creation, Burlington, Massachusetts-based Acquia, is now using Drupal to build a DX business by providing enterprise-scale support, hosting, expert advice, and other services. Acquia also focuses on helping organizations extend and optimize Drupal’s core capabilities by offering marketing and developer tools as part of the Acquia Network and building a digital marketing alliance and marketplace where customers can access marketing tools and solutions from partners. Acquia is weaker in marketing enablement tools than the proprietary commercial solutions evaluated in this report, particularly when it comes to user interfaces. But Acquia could be a viable option for organizations that don’t expect to use all of the functionality that other players in this Wave offer or that plan to customize a DX solution extensively. Acquia also plans to continue to improve its tool set and offer greater DX support. Given its alternative pricing model and some organizations’ poor experiences with proprietary solutions, Acquia could prove to be an interesting player.

Supplemental Material

Online Resource

The online version of Figure 3 is an Excel-based vendor comparison tool that provides detailed product evaluations and customizable rankings.

Data Sources Used In This Forrester Wave

Forrester used a combination of the following data sources to assess the strengths and weaknesses of each solution:

  • Vendor surveys. Forrester surveyed vendors on their capabilities as they relate to the evaluation criteria. Once we analyzed the completed vendor surveys, we conducted vendor calls where necessary to gather details of vendor qualifications.
  • Product demos. We asked vendors to conduct demonstrations of their product’s functionality. We used findings from these product demos to validate details of each vendor’s product capabilities.
  • Customer reference calls. To validate product and vendor qualifications, Forrester also conducted reference calls with three of each vendor’s current customers.

The Forrester Wave Methodology

We conduct primary research to develop a list of vendors that meet our criteria to be evaluated in this market. From that initial pool of vendors, we then narrow our final list. We choose these vendors based on: 1) product fit; 2) customer success; and 3) Forrester client demand. We eliminate vendors that have limited customer references and products that don’t fit the scope of our evaluation.

After examining past research, user need assessments, and vendor and expert interviews, we develop the initial evaluation criteria. To evaluate the vendors and their products against our set of criteria, we gather details of product qualifications through a combination of questionnaires, demos, and discussions with client references. We send evaluations to the vendors for their review, and we adjust the evaluations to provide the most accurate view of vendor offerings and strategies.

We set default weightings to reflect our analysis of the needs of large user companies — and/or other scenarios as outlined in the Forrester Wave document — and then score the vendors based on a clearly defined scale. These default weightings are intended only as a starting point, and we encourage readers to adapt the weightings to fit their individual needs through the Excel-based tool. The final scores generate the graphical depiction of the market based on current offering, strategy, and market presence. Forrester intends to update vendor evaluations regularly as product capabilities and vendor strategies evolve. 

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